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

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Fun Horsey Weekend

Image from the Eastern Ontario Naturalhorsemanship Club Meet Up Group
Wow, the last three days have been full of horsey fun! I have not had this much horse-related activity in a long time.
It started Friday when I attended my first play date with the Eastern Ontario Natural Horsemanship Club The event was held at Drogheda Manor in Lunenburg, Ontario. I didn't haul any of my horses to the play date but did get to meet about a dozen people in the group and play with one of the host's horses. It was so refreshing to be in a Parelli-friendly barn with like-minded people who speak the same language, the language of the horse.
On Saturday, Rick and I drove to Rigaud, Quebec for another Eastern Ontario Natural Horsemanship Club event, a hoof and nutrition seminar at Punkin' Patch Farms hosted by the Rigaud Play Group. Sylvia Kornherr came and spoke about nutrition, natural trimming, and hoof health. There were about eight people at this event (all different from the previous day's play date).
And last but not least, today I had some play time with the horses (after the barn and garden chores). I played with Lola in the play ground and worked on standing still at the mounted block. She will come up okay but wants to step off. So, we just worked on stand still, I'd lay over her back, and then ask for a flex. We did this several times. She is really funny and would almost crowd me but out her head up for me to hold and scratch (reminds me of my Great Dane, Morgan). I didn't ride her (or the other two) becuase the ground is satirated and I'd hate any of us to be injured by a slip and/or fall. We also went for a visit to the horse trailer. Rather than we direct-line and just ask her to load, I stopped at the tack compartment and put on the 22 foot line. Then I walked to the back of the trailer to unlock it but let the line out and left her. She walked to me on her own. She started looking in the trailer and so, I got in a very relaxed, neutral position and just waited. I did nothing for a few minutes. Then, I stepped up on the back of the trailer and asked her in, She loaded right away and I gave her a peppermint candy as a treat. She was calm and happy in the trailer. We played yo-yo game in the trailer and eventually in and out of the trailer. No opposition reflex this time, just good fun. I think that I've broken through the leadership barrier with her and we are working more as partners (I've noticed this in the barn and our interactions there too). This is all good news. I also played with Fosse and Whiskey and took each to the trailer. They both loaded like seasoned horses. Fosse practically jumped in and I was not on the back-end of the trailer either (wow has he come a long way).
This week, we are heading to another lecture on Wednesday night in Monkland, Ontario. The topic is feeding and competing in the horse industry and features the following speakers: 1. Katy Gemmell, Purina Equine Nutrition Consultant, 2. Dr. Ingrid Bill, Maxville Veterinary Clinic and 3. Leslei Andrychuk and John Kersley, Competing in the horse Industry. John was once ranked as high a 7 among Canadian Grand Prix Jumping Competitors. He is still a well respected competitor and coach at that level as is Leslei.

I am so pleased to have joined this new group. I feel free to just have fun and learn more! No drama, no frustration with people, just good, plain horse fun.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Must Read Book List

Here are some book titles on the must read list. Please send me more titles and I'll continue to add to it. I know that I've missed some good ones! A link is in the selected links section to help you find this post easily in the future.

Discovering Natural Horsemanship Discovering Natural Horsemanship— A Beginner's Odyssey chronicles one man's obsession to get better with horses in a gentle way. Author Tom Moates' life and work were on a horseless path until serendipity brought Niji, a sorrel gelding, into his life. Nothing has been the same since. http://www.eclectic-horseman.com/mercantile/product_info.php?products_id=341

Farming with Horses by Steve Bowers Full color glossy new book written by Steve Bowers for MBI Publishing. 160 pages, over 200 color photos and illustations by professional photographer and computer generated graphics expert Marlen Steward. This book makes a nice companion to our "Harnessing, Hitching, and Driving the Draft and Driving Horse" video set because it covers many of the same topics in written and photo format. (He consulted with Pat Parelli on driving naturally.) http://www.bowersfarm.com/book.html

Great Lies We Live By -- by Stephanie Burns, PhD Great Lies We Live By is the story of the hidden lessons we learned in school, and how those lessons may be affecting the choices we make now as adults. Great Lies is read widely by parents, teachers, students and business men and women. It is a book for anyone who wants an honest shot at re-evaluating the experiences and lessons from the days in the classroom, and who wish to develop new strategies for learning and managing information. http://www.stephanieburns.com/products/greatlies.asp

Move Closer Stay Longer A must have book! Don't let fear keep you from getting what you want, doing what you want, & going where you want to go. by Stephanie Burns, PhD http://www.stephanieburns.com/products/movecloser.asp

Natural Horse-Man-Ship: Six Keys to a Natural Horse-Human Relationship Written by Pat Parelli and published by Western Horseman, this book shows you the Six Keys to a natural horse-human relationship: attitude, knowledge, tools, techniques, time and imagination. http://www.parelli.com/product.faces?productId=20

Natural Horsemanship Explained: From Heart to Hands by Robert M. Miller (Author), Patrick Handley (Introduction) Dr. Miller’s book will be a useful addition to the library of anyone who is a horse lover, professional or student, working to improve their skills at reading behavior, communicating, riding or simply enjoying horses.--Sharon J. Spier, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM http://www.amazon.com/Natural-Horsemanship-Explained-Heart-Hands/dp/159921234X/ref=pd_sim_b_title_15

On Horsemanship written c. 350 BC by Xenophon On Horsemanship written c. 350 BC by Xenophon is one of the earliest extant treatises on horsemanship in the Western world (the oldest is the one written by Kikkuli of the Indo-Aryan Mitanni Kingdom). In it, Xenophon details the selection, care, and training of horses for the use both in the military and for general use. One of the most important qualities in a horse, Xenophon writes, is that it have a fleshy (or "double") back. This presumably is due to the fact that Xenophon wrote this treatise before the invention of the saddle. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_Horsemanship_(Xenophon)

Raise Your Hand if You Love Horses So, who exactly is Pat Parelli and what drives the man who's become known as the world's foremost proponent of natural horsemanship? Indeed most people don't realize that he and his wife, Linda, coined this descriptive term used in headlines worldwide. "Natural Horsemanship" is Pat Parelli. http://www.parelli.com/product.faces?productId=19

The Horse Crucified and Risen / Book - “The Horse Crucified and Risen” (Horse Encyclopaedia) by Alexander Nevzorov Now you have a great possibility to buy an anusual book “The Horse Crucified and Risen” (“Horse Encyclopaedia”) created by Alexander Nevzorov. The book opens to a reader secrets of education of a horse without any violence, without any bits and punishment. Moreover, this book includes unlimited hard analysis such a phenomenons as equestrian sport, history of cavalry, history of means of enforcement. http://www.hauteecole.ru/en/horse_encyclopaedia.php?sid=24&id=342

The Natural Horse Care Book by Pat Coleby Proper horse care begins with good nutrition practices. Chances are, if a horse needs medical attention, the causes can be traced to poor feeding practices, nutrient-deficient feed, bad farming and, ultimately, imbalanced, demineralized soil. Pat Coleby shares decades of experience working with a variety of horses. She explains how conventional farming and husbandry practices compromise livestock health, resulting in problems that standard veterinary techniques can’t properly address. Natural Horse Care addresses a broad spectrum of comprehensive health care, detailing dozens of horse ailments, discussing their origins, and offering proven, natural treatments. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0911311653

The Revolution in Horsemanship: And What It Means to Mankind by Robert Miller, Rick Lamb, Hugh Downs There has been a change in how we treat our horses: We no longer "break" them to harness or saddle; we "gentle" them, so they become our partners, their natural grace and athleticism restored and enhanced through humane and thoughtful methods. http://www.amazon.com/Revolution-Horsemanship-What-Means-Mankind/dp/159228387X/ref=pd_sim_b_title_17

True Horsemanship Through Feel, Second Edition (Paperback) by Bill Dorrance (Author), Leslie Desmond (Author) “If you take away everything that Bill is known for—his roping, the rawhide work, his horsemanship, all of it—what you find you have underneath is a really fine human being.” http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1599210568/ref=reg_hu-wl_item-added

True Unity: Willing Communication Between Horse and Human by Tom Dorrance (Author), Milly Hunt Porter (Editor) If you aspire to excellence in your horsemanship, this is a must read. If you are looking for a "how-to" book, this is not it. This is a deeply philosophical book in that it provides a broad, conceptual framework in which to think about and interact with your horse. You cannot speed read or skim this book. In order to "get" Mr. Dorrance's message, you must read it slowly and meditate upon what he is saying. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1884995098/ref=wl_it_dp?ie=UTF8&coliid=I178VUYWTR4JDO&colid=2VY6O8AS7KDCZ

Monday, November 23, 2009

Another Step Forward and Not Looking Back

Yesterday, I made the difficult decision to disband the North Country Parelli Play Group (NCPPG) for good this time, no turning back, just moving forward to future endeavors - truly, this is a positive step. I've thought about it for some time and Pat Parelli's famous quote, "Don't walk the extra mile for someone walking in the opposite direction." was resonating in my brain for some time. I believe I've done the right thing and believe that the Universe has been speaking to me, it sent me Lola, and now, it is telling me that it is time to focus on my journey and to move forward. I've tried to make the NCPPG work but we are all just busy and have different focuses, different goals, and are not necessarily going in the same direction (which is okay). If you recall, I wrote about some of this in my post, Living in the Lonely Barn with Normals Lurking All Around. I may have mentioned in a previous post that I joined the Eastern Ontario Natural Horsemanship Club This is a well-established group with whom I hope to find a good fit. The expenses of hauling my horse over the border to Canada are considerable but, if all goes as I hope, it will be well worth it.
Anyhow, here is the message I sent to the group yesterday to explain it all and I can only hope that they all understand (I've not heard a word from anyone). Until next time...

Good Evening North Country Parelli Play Group Members,

I am writing to you all this evening with a heavy heart. (I know this does not sound good, right?) I have been having several conversations with Rick and have done a great deal of reflecting over the past several months about the play group and its future. As you know, we were in this same position last year and I was asked to continue to try to keep it going and I agreed to. Unfortunately, regardless of my efforts, nothing has really changed, our membership numbers are down, attendance at educational meetings has been spotty at best, play dates and meetings have been cancelled due to no one being able to attend, participation in online discussion extremely limited, responses for events is minimal, and the time investment fairly great on my end (not that I regret any of it). It seems that we've tried to get this thing off the ground with several changes but it has ultimately fallen flat. I believe that we all are simply extremely busy and are doing our own thing, when we can. It is very hard to get people all together and unfortunately, the NCPPG is no exception. I realize that if the focus were expanded, there may have been a different result but my goal was a Parelli play group, nothing more.

Friendships we have made are wonderful and I wish to continue them so please don't become strangers. I am not going anywhere. I certainly won't mind getting together as friends,with any of you, but the coordination as an "official group" will no longer take place. I apologize for us being where we are but I've done everything I can think of to be successful but to no avail. Therefore, I plan to disband the group for good, no turning back, no more attempts, no future startups. I have to call this the official end of the NCPPG.

I plan to focus my attention on my career, on developing the farm, on my family, and of course, on my horsemanship. I've joined a Parelli play group in Canada that is well established, full of members, and full of opportunities. This is a group where I can just be a member and play with my horses, advance my skills, and move forward. I have three events I am attending in the coming weeks with them and am very excited (two lecture series (one in Monkland, ON and the other in Rigaud, QC and a hands-on play date in Lunenburg, ON.) I won't be hauling this time of year but, will be hauling over the border in the Spring. Fortunately, the group members have many extra horses and I'll be able to get experience with them at the winter events. I still plan to haul to Carol Robert's place when the weather is disagreeable to be outside without a cover well.

I hope that you all keep in touch and understand this difficult decision. I love Parelli Natural Horsemanship (it is integrated into every aspect of my life), I love the idea of studying PNH together, I just don't see the NCPPG working in this capacity as was the vision and mission of the group.

I won't shut the website down right away, in case you need to save links, files, contacts, etc. I do apologize for springing this on you all, but, it seems like the right thing to do and the timing seems right. If you ever need anything, don't hesitate to call me! If you want to watch a video, call! I do plan to see you all, please don't think I am abandoning our relationships, I truly am not.

I am still placing the Parelli order so if you need something, we can coordinate our efforts. Just let me know as soon as you can please.

With regards to the December 10th event, we only have one sign-up and so it is going to be cancelled. I am thinking of having a party later in the season (maybe New Years?) and will be in touch if we do something.

Naturally yours,

Friday, November 20, 2009

Weekly Task Challenge: Mounting Practice

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 challenge is to practice mounting. Now this means from both sides, bareback, with the saddle, from a fence, from a mounting block, and from the stirrup if you can. Be careful for yourself and your horse! Click here for some rider fitness links if you'd like to work on your physical fitness for mounting. **Be aware that some studies suggest stirrup mounting is not good for your horse. Click here to read a study on the subject.

Bonus Task: If you are great at mounting, then practice your emergency dismount at all gaits and from both sides!

*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.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

2 hours of horse time tonight!

Considering how busy I’ve been lately, I cannot believe that I can say that I actually had two hours of horse time in tonight! I came home early from work as I was not feeling well after lunch. So, I took some time to relax on the couch, took a power nap, but through all of it, my brain was nagging me to go outside and play with the horses. My intention was to ride but, I also knew that this kind of thinking was very direct-line. And so, I adjusted my thoughts and went out with the only agenda that matters, to play with the horses and have some fun.

I decided to play with Lola first and took her to the round pen. It was about 3:30pm and the sun was going down. The sky and sun look very strange this time of year, it is like it is going down before it ever comes up. I took off her halter and let her loose in the pen while I retrieved my things from the trailer (this is also my tack room). I brought out the folding steps (mounting block), 22 foot line, English endurance saddle, carrot stick with savvy string attached, my helmet, and Parelli bridle (the one with the Jeremiah Watt snaffle bit).

We started by playing at liberty first with porcupine game (using several different places on her body), close and far-range driving game, circling (close and far-range), and stick to me. She was really responsive and playful. Then, I haltered her and played with her on the 22 foot line practicing driving, sideways, squeeze, circling, and s-pattern. She was also very responsive to these tasks and we were having fun and connecting. She let out a few squeals, bucks, and was really animated. I started playing with her and the saddle, allowing her to check it out, sniffing. I then placed the saddle on her only much to my chagrin, the girth that was on the saddle was the one I used with Whiskey and Fosse's and there was no way it was going to fit her. It was way too small. I should have thought about this ahead of time...oops! So, scratch that plan. I left her in the round pen and went back to the trailer to retrieve the bareback pad instead. Although the smaller girth that I use with the Arabs was on that too, the latigos are so long that it would work without question. So, I saddled her with the bareback pad, playing games in between and cinching at least 3 times. Throughout all of the cinching, she would flex and look at what I was doing. I just happened to have treats in my pocket and so I would offer her one now and then, she seemed to appreciate it. I then bridled her and she was fine with it. I asked her to lower her head and bend a bit toward me, no problem. We then went to the mounting block and I was having trouble getting her to line up. So, we worked on moving the hindquarters from the opposite side. She picked it up very quickly which was very satisfying. I wiggled the bareback pad and her, laid over her, worked on flexing from both sides. I also practiced jumping up and down on the mounting block, like jumping jacks, (sounds weird but a good way to test her willingness to deal with commotion and me jumping over her from the side using a bareback pad and then swinging my leg over versus just putting my leg over—I am not explaining this well—sorry). Unfortunately, my round pen area is not exactly ready for prime time as the sand is not all settled and a bit deep in areas. As we were working on things, the mounting block (which is a folding 2-step stool) was sinking in the sand. When I decided to actually mount, I was simply too short--lol! Well, the sun was almost gone and I really wanted to get in some trailer loading time. Therefore, since we don't have our lights up yet, since I had the mounting block issue, and didn't have a good, quick solution, I sacrificed riding time, took off her tack (when I took off her bridle, she dropped the bit quietly and carefully—very nice), put it back in the trailer, and proceeded with Lola to the horse trailer wearing her halter, 22 foot line, and my carrot stick with savvy string in hand. One thought I have is that tacking up and not riding must simply blow a horse's mind because their expectation was riding. So does the horse say, "how interesting?" LOL. I think that it was really a good thing overall and on many levels. It was a great relationship builder, all of the ground and tack play. What fun!

The one thing you are probably thinking is, "Why try loading her now, when it is getting dark, especially because of our previous trailer loading issues?”Remember, loading her when we bought her in Vermont was an issue too (her previous owner was trying to load her then. She [the previous owner] reports that in the past she was okay with loading. Maybe part of this issue is that she was hauled to many different barns over the summer and basically relocated several times? And, the other part of the puzzle, testing my leadership, of course (and testing hers in Vermont). Who knows...she is a horse with her own mind! LOL) Okay, so why load in the dusk/dark? Well, my response is, why not!

Okay, so now to the trailer. HMMM, well, I was breathing, was saying to myself, "How interesting" and testing Lola, our relationship, and my skills. I was not nervous, I was not emotional, I was a student working with her horse, playing, trying, and learning. Lola was quite the bugger! She was doing much of what I'd reported before: rearing, bucking, squealing, backing, and being defiant. She was truly testing me! Having the 22 foot line was really wonderful because I could do more approach and retreat, had more line when she was acting up, and I believe this all gave us better communication and much needed space (for thinking and safety). It all reminds me a great deal like a teenager fighting with her mother! LOL (Not that I have kids but I was a teenager who always tested her mother's leadership...still do in fact.) Lola also kept trying to go around each side of the trailer and the one side is around the door. I remembered Pat Parelli whacking the string on the top of the trailer in one of his videos for such a behavior and so I tried it...it worked great, how cool! When she would stop and line-up in front of the trailer, I'd leave her alone and give her a treat and play friendly game. After this was done many times, I increased my expectations and decided I'd leave her alone if she put her nose or neck in or on the trailer, once this was established and done multiple times, the next level of the ask was to put her front feet in the trailer. She eventually loaded two front feet and I left her alone. Then, I asked for all four feet and she loaded.

Now remember, it is dark now and the only light is the light shining in the slats of the trailer from the barn which is approximately 200 feet and the back of the trailer is not facing the barn! It is a clear night so perhaps there was some starlight or moonlight too. Lola stood still in the trailer and I gave her a few treats, stood next to her and rubbed her all over. She was sweaty but calm. I asked her to back out but leave her front feet in the trailer and she did. She waited for me to ask for something else. I asked her to come forward and put her rear feet back in and she did. I then did more friendly game and a few cookies were fed to her. Then, I asked her to completely unload backwards from the trailer using porcupine. I thought for a few moments about what to do next. My thoughts were, “Do I call it a day or do I risk asking her to load and if she doesn't, it may mean another hour of trailer loading fun, in the dark?” Well, I took the gamble, counting on the fact that I believed that she and I had a break-through and asked her to load in the trailer again. It took her about a minute to think about it, she did not start running around or anything, just stood very still, thinking and then walked back on. I rubbed her for a few minutes and gave her the last of the cookies. I asked her to back out just as before, and called it a night. I cannot explain why I could still see fairly well except that perhaps my eyes were adjusted. It was about 5:30pm at this point, 30 degrees, and dark.

I walked her back to the barn and let her go. I really wanted to play with the boys too but I needed to get back in the house. (I am planning to ask Rick to get some lights up soon...in addition to all of our motion lights). I fed the horses their grain and asked Lola, at liberty, to back away from her grain. She did calmly, waited for my signal to re- approach her dish...score! Another positive step in our relationship, yeah! Finally, when she was done, she tried to approach and run Whiskey off of his feed. I was standing there guarding him and signaled for her to retreat. Rather than ignore me like she has in the past, she moved off and went to get some water and hay instead, another good sign.

A thought that occurred to me when in the trailer tonight was that should I really want to ride a horse that won't load in the trailer. It is a perplexing question and does not apply just to Lola. (She has had a good start, don't get me wrong but, I am really thinking about the connection and disconnection between leadership on the ground and in the saddle.) The trailer task is a huge test in our relationship and it is a true assessment for leadership and herd hierarchy. So, we have a lot of work to do. (She is really intelligent; this is not going to take long.) I am very pleased with tonight's play time and believe Lola had fun too. I really look forward to our future!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Just say, "how interesting" and breathe.

We all woke up around 7am and began getting ready to take Lola on our first trip to the local indoor arena I told you all about. Meadow Breeze Farm's owner is kind enough to allow me to rent the use of their facility on Sunday mornings for a nominal fee. It is a 70'x140' pole barn style arena and I have private access to it. This farm is all of 10 minutes away and so, it should prove to be a great opportunity for us.

Anyhow, Rick decided he'd take us over for our first visit. We loaded the truck with the video camera and notes regarding assessments. While Rick hauled the trailer to the barn, I fed the horses and fetched Lola. I played with her briefly and asked her to load in the trailer. She was not coooperating at all. After about 30 minutes of rearing, bucking, backing. etc. etc. (you get the picture), she finally loaded, I waited to make sure she was truly ready to stay in the trailer and once I believed it was true, I put the divider in place, closed the door, gave her a treat (from the outside) and tied her using the Blocker Tie Ring (from the outside). I'd have to say that this was not a good start and I also admit I should have played with her and the trailer more before this trip. Unfortunately it was not a possibility because the trailer has been full of stuff until yesterday morning and then, it poured rain all day.

When we arrived at the barn, we left Lola on the trailer and met the barn owner. We had a nice chat with her for at least 15 minutes. Lola was patiently standing in the trailer. Finally, I unloaded her (asking for back using yo-yo from the side) and she calmly came out of the trailer. I took her in into the arena and she was nervous. Then, she heard a loud "moo" from a cow in the barn and she was scared! I decided to take her halter off and give her time to walk around the arena and calm a bit. I took this time to go to the trailer and got my 22 foot line, carrot stick, and savvy string.

After aboout 10 minutes of exploration, I haltered her and walked over to the mounting block to retrieve my 22 foot line, stick, and string. Rick was there and I laughed with him because I didn't have a plan. We decided that it was good enough that we took the trip over and anything else we did was no big deal. This is just the beginning of a regular routine and Lola will have many experiences. We decided to leave the video camera and other things in the truck for this time. Rick went back to the truck after taking a couple of photos (the ones you see here). I started playing with her a bit on the ground and the owner stopped by to talk some more. After several minutes, I decided to play with Lola and talk at the same time otherwise I didn't think we'd ever get started. We worked on friendly game and extreme friendly game, sideways, circling (which was better than ever), transitions online (she did fabulous), and used the wall, a jump, barrels, and some cones as obstacles. I lead her by her leg, did the maneauver where you put the 22 foot lead line around the horses body and ask them to turn around by following the feel (I don't know what this is called). Anyhow, she was really good and we had fun. I decided to call it a day at this point (the owner had left by now too).

I lead Lola out of the barn and to the trailer and asked her to load. She was even worse than at home. I tried everything and she was extremely bracey, disrespectful, rearing, not moving her hindquarters over, etc. At one point, I hate to admit it but I leaned inside the trailer and about cried. I asked myself why I even bother, that this is all too much, too frustrating, too difficult, that I could not understand why we are struggling like this, yadda, yadda, yadda. I think that I was feeling residual from the St. Jude's experience perhaps and was not being a good horsewoman by allowing things to frustrate me. There is no reason that I can think of as to why we are struggling with the trailer except that our relationship is still new and she still does not totally respect me as the leader. I can say that she is a bit defiant and still testing me, I guess this is to be expected and okay. After my moment of weakness, I took a breath, thought ok, how interesting, what is going on, and continued to ask her to load. I even used the rope around her leg to place her feet up in the trailer (like Linda does using a pedestal, and it worked as far as having her touch her feet in the traile! I had treats, was using the Parelli trailer loading techniques I've used for years, etc. Anyhow, eventually she walked on, got into position, stood calmly, and so I put up the divider, gave her a treat and tied her like before.

When we got home, I unloaded her just as before and she was calm and happy. She ate grass and then I played with her a bit more, took her to the barn, and released her into the paddock with Fosse and Whiskey. They were all happy to be together again.

So, this was our morning and Rick and I are exhausted (I think Lola is too). I am emotionally, physically, and mentally drained. Rick said he is tired because it was difficult and exhausting for him to watch the ordeal. I truly appreciate him being there with me through it all. He is a great supportive husband.

Next Sunday, we do it all again. I need to work on my technique. I will breathe and say, "how interesting" no matter what. I know that we are on a good path, I just need to be patient, respectful, and move forward. I plan to play with Lola all week with the trailer and hopefully we won't have such an ordeal with loading next time.

I also decided that it was about time I charted her so here it is! Well, off to take a nap, I am wiped out.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Eight Principles...Horses Do Teach People

I am always amazed how animals teach us all sorts of things about them and about ourselves. Lola and I are really starting to bond and she is starting to trust me and my leadership. This post is a little glimpse into our new world.

In Virginia, my horses lived on the mountain and at feeding time (for grain and supplements) they would each run down and go to their respective trees (always the same ones). They were haltered and tied using a Parelli halter & lead line, and a Blocker Tie Ring (aka Aussie Tie Ring). They were taught to flex to be haltered, stand quietly & politely, backed a few steps via porcupine game (and initially yo-yo for support), and then move forward when given an allow cue to eat. This was instilled in them as a way to not only assert leadership but, to make feeding time calm and safe environment for everyone. Now, Fosse and Whiskey, at feeding time don't need to be tied as our situation here is different and frankly, there know what their responsibility is. They go to their respective feeding stations and stand quietly (Fosse does fuss a bit verbally at me), anyhow, they wait for their meals at liberty and at any time, I can ask very softly for a back and they always do it. Even just as recent as last night, Whiskey saw me coming and offered a few steps back before he was fed. It is all so very nice.

Now we get to dear, sweet, new to the herd, Lola who is fairly defensive at feeding time. And so, I initially was trying to ask for a back at liberty at feeding time as a way to once again assert leadership, set her up for success with the assertion of a simple expectation. Her response was to try to push through me or to turn around and go chase someone else out of their dish and run away, she has also thrown her head in the air to escape me and my request. I've tried to wrestle with her and use blocks but overall would not call any of that successful. And then, it hit me, I didn't teach her what I wanted in the first place, I just made an assumption that she'd know or figure it out- wrong! I was being completely unfair. I had taught the others online first (remember online is for teaching and liberty is the test for the truth). And therefore, I was truly violating a trust and our relationship. I had never properly communicated to her my desire for her to calm down, back, stand, etc. And so, a few days ago, I started our feeding session by haltering Lola. I asked for a flex and got it, I could not tie her as there is no way to tie in our current barn (not safely anyway) and so, I draped the line over the panel that held her dish. I went to get her meal and when I returned, I used the lead with a little yo-yo and combined with a porcupine to the chest. I started with phase one and realized very quickly that it took barely any energy to get what I wanted. It was light and right. There was no fighting, no wrestling no head tossing, no opposition reflex at all, none of it. I was talking to Lola using the language of the horse and she was understanding me. I have been working on this and although we are not quite ready for liberty, we are getting there. This exercise is definitely improving and it is helping her mood at feeding time too.

Lola has taught me time and time again (as have my other horses) that if I take the time it takes, use the right tools, and communicate, the results are what is desired and everyone is happy. I need to remember to not rush things, no not make assumptions, and that this is a life-long learning process. This entire experience is saturated with the "Eight Principles." And so, I wish to take a moment to remind you of them:

Eight Principles

  1. Horsemanship is natural.

  2. Don’t make or teach assumptions.

  3. Communication is two or more individuals sharing and understanding an idea.

  4. Horses and humans have mutual responsibilities.

  5. The attitude of justice is effective.

  6. Body language is the universal language.

  7. Horses teach humans and humans teach horses.

  8. Principles, purpose, and time are the tools of teaching

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Weekly Task Challenge: Back-Up!

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

As you know, being able to back your horse is a very important skill. It takes patience, persistence, and savvy. This week's task is to practice backing your horse. First practice backing on the ground, through gates, barrels, cones, between you and the fence, and other obstacles, from close -up and far away, then (if possible) work on backing while in the saddle/bareback, in the round pen, arena, field, on the trail, and anywhere else you can think of! Be sure to try this task using all of the 7 games and techniques you have learned from Pat and Linda Parelli. Remember, obstacles, hills, and other challenges wil help increase your skills, your horses's confidence, and make you both a success--be creative!

*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, November 08, 2009

My horses make my world go round...

“The Legend” by Kim McElroy
In the dark of night
a magic awakens
the veil is lifted
and for a short time
horse spirits walk the earth…
They call to our hearts
in the language of dreams
If you listen closely
you will hear them
If you wait patiently
you will feel them
Then, in wonderment and joy
you will remember
And until you meet again
the stars will shine
with new meaning…

Between the bad weather, heavy work load at the University, several nights with lost sleep and many visits to the veterinarian's office because of the dogs, and the multitude of projects going on here (Rick has stuff in the horse trailer until one job is complete), I have been unable to haul Lola to the local indoor as planned, have been exhausted, and have been at a loss for having any sustained play time with the horses let alone any riding. I did recently join the Eastern Ontario Natural Horsemanship Club and am committed to a few events in Canada this month. I am very excited to have made contact with some new Parelli friends.

Nonetheless, life changes and today the weather took a nice turn for the better (it was nice yesterday too but I was too busy with other work to get out). Anyhow, I enjoyed the beautiful weather and the horses today and feel a renewed sense of calm, a happiness that is hard to describe to a non-horse person, my horses simply make my world go round.

I let Morgan go for a much needed run and headed to the barn. I cleaned out the barn with Lola by my side, Fosse and Whiskey in the front paddock near us. None of them were concerned about the 4-wheeler and trailer being moved about, they didn't care that Rick was operating a Bobcat and moving rock nearby, everyone was just relaxed and enjoying the quiet time together. Lola was curious and checking things out between munches of hay, and it was simply a calm and beautiful morning. Once the chores were done, I was tired and hungry. I decided to head back to the house for a bit and played with the dogs, watched TV, had a snack, and thought about heading back outside (or taking a nap). Clare happened to call me on the phone and told me about a trail ride she was heading to. I believe she helped give me a little spark to get back out there. I wanted to ride a little but was concerned about Rick working in the vicinity. After a brief conversation with him, and the assessment that the horses did not seem bothered, I decided to play and ride. All of the horses were in the front paddock where I have a few barrels, some log jumps, trees, basically a natural playground. The footing was wet in spots, dry in others, choppy too, so I decided that any riding would be just at the walk for safety sake. (Slow and right beats fast and wrong you know.)
Fosse had been really anxious to play with me, he would whinny at me over and over and so, as the first horse to show up, I was excited to play with him. He is a wonderful partner, we have a fabulous relationship, the leadership hierarchy is clear, we communicate well, and have fun together no matter what we are doing. I tacked him up with the natural hackamore and bareback pad. We played on the ground for a bit playing with the log jumps, using the figure-8 and s-patterns, the basic 7 games, and some fruity candy canes for treats. Whiskey and Lola joined us and at some points, they were obstacles too! It was a time of decompression, it was lovely to have them breathing on me when I fed them their treats, it was calming to just be out there with my fuzzy friends. I decided Fosse was rideable and so, I stood on the huge log and used it as a mounting block. I swung my leg over and just sat there, took a few deep breaths, asked for lateral flexion and got it, we were ready to move forward. Fosse and I worked on ride the rail, direct and indirect rein, disengagement if the hindquarters, figure-8, walking over log jumps, backing, carrot stick riding, and more. He was totally in-sync with me and we had a blast! Lola and Whiskey followed is everywhere and a few times I used the carrot stick (with string attached) to move them off a bit. Other times, we welcomed them in our space and everyone got head scratches. When I dismounted, we played a bit more, walked to the barn, I took his tack off, and gave him a few alfalfa cubes for treats. I think we were both grinning ear-to-ear.

Next, Lola was tacked up. I placed the hackamore on her and that was fine. She initially seemed very worried when I showed her the bareback pad. She backed up and was bracey. Now remember, besides our daily contact and brief play moments, any real, lengthy, sustained play time has only occurred maybe 3-4 times. So, this was an opportunity for us. I did not release on the brace but once she moved one step, I released. I then allowed her to check out the pad and placed it on her. I barely cinched it and we left the barn, Fosse and Whiskey in tow (I took 5 cinchings overall and over time). Lola has been coming along quickly during our time together and so, each time I see some sign of progress. We played the 7 games online, figure-8, walk over logs, etc. She was much better this time, no brace on circling, no problem with the figure-8 either. I then did simulated riding exercises with her which went well. I eventually stood on the huge log and asked her to come by my side. This is a new position for us, me towering over her, she took it well. I laid over her back and rubbed her a few times, and once, she walked off with me laying on her (we did this a few times). Finally, I sat on her and we moved at a walk forward (our first ride). I had decided to ride her one-reined as a safety precaution. We meandered our way around the barrels, the tree, and finally to the barn. She stopped. I asked for lateral flexion but she became quite bracey and then started to feel as if we might have an issue (was she going to buck or something else? Not sure. I decided that we might have a leadership/communication issue. Therefore, I dismounted and practiced flexion for a few minutes on the ground. Then, I did riding simulations back to the log. I stood on it, laid over her several times, then played more games, and once I felt we were on the same page, I discontinued. She seemed happy and I know I was. A very productive session. Fosse and Whiskey were hanging around during all of this. I am not sure she's ever been in this kind of situation with a rider on board so a new experience for her.

Lastly, Whiskey was hanging around and having fun through these sessions. It was his turn to be tacked up and when he realized it, he dropped the carrot stick that he was chewing on and walked to the barn. Rather than pursue him, I decided to let him be and determined that he was engaged during the other play time and that as fine with me.

So, I suppose nothing too exciting for most but for me, this was a great time, a much needed head break, a time to breathe, and enjoy my passion, my horses.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Weekly Task Challenge: Trailer Loading Assessment and Practice

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

This week IS all about the trailer! What I mean is that I challenge you to evaluate your trailer loading savvy, fix what needs fixing, and play with your horse using the trailer. Use the inside and the outside. Loading in forwards, backwards, and any other combination of tasks you can think of and that are possible. Get a few friends together and share trailers so that your horse can have many experiences! Having your horse's comfort zone include the trailer is vital to your partnership. Below are some notes to help you.

Trailer Loading Horses Notes Based on a review of the Parelli, Trouble-free Trailer Loading DVD and segments of other Parelli DVD productions

• It is not about the trailer and trailer loading, it is about the relationship
• Love—Do it for him, not to him
• Language—7 games
• Leadership—Have a plan
• Take the time it takes—Don’t wait until you are late for the show, be able to play the 7 games and win before trying to load your horse, don’t ask a trying horse to try, don’t rush and slam the gate if the horse gets in, don’t be a direct line thinker, don’t think in an anthropomorphic mind-set, don’t constantly move your feet, the horse should be moving his feet, use communication to get your horse in the trailer not force
• The horse in the trailer, not the human
• Set up for success with the right tools, 12 ft and 22 ft ropes, rope halter, carrot stick, savvy string
• Pretest—before asking your horse in the trailer, squeeze game between you and the trailer, don’t forget the turn-face-wait
• Your horse needs to want to be in the trailer, mentally, emotionally, and physically
• Use approach and retreat, prey animal psychology
• Don’t knock the curiosity out of the horse
• Remember: Nose, Neck, maybe Feet
• Horses have bilateral vision
• Don’t micromanage your horse
• Horses are skeptics, cowards, claustrophobic and panic-a-holics by the nature of being a prey animal
• Keep your horse’s dignity in tact
• Don’t ask a trying horse to try, you want the horse to be curious and want to complete the task, answer to puzzle
• Lead it, life it, swing it, touch it (lead horse, lift stick, wiggle stick, throw it over his back (touch the horse—“Atta boy touch”)—create a pattern)
• Prepare to position to make the transition from outside the trailer to inside the trailer
• It is not about the trailer, it is about the relationship we will have for the rest of our lives, and this task prepares horses for all kinds of other activities in their lives.
• As gentle as you can as firm as necessary, never get mad
• Three parts to this: 1. trailer loading 2. Being calm in the trailer 3. Coming out of the trailer
• Horses are creatures of comfort, you can use discomfort as a motivator
• Two parts of the brain, prey animal side (right side) and partnership side (left side). You want your horse to be thinking left brained, you task them using the 7 games to get them to be there.
• If the horse loads, allow him to stay in there but don’t shut the gate! You are preparing him; you allow the desirable thing to be easy but the undesirable thing to be uncomfortable.
• Match your horse’s energy
• Practice this with your horse, work up to higher levels of
• Be happy with the try
• Momentum comes from impulsion is emotional collection and impulsion comes from respect
• Short range (is not using the string)
• Why no voice cues? Be silent and be savvy, horses are not voice responsive animals as much as logic or savvy responsive, horses respond to movement (alpha horses use movement to get other horses to yield to their wishes)
• Horses usually the 3rd -5th time, they get worse and worse loading, so get good at home, practice over and over, at home then, you will be prepared when out and about
• He who moves their feet the most, looses (although you really want a win-win situation for both the horse and human)
• Most of the time, if you stand still, you will do the right thing
• Strategy is like being a fisherman (stay on the bank, stay in the boat)
• You want consistency and certainly, you want him to load for life, this is about the relationship, love, language, leadership
• Cause your idea to become your horse’s idea (it is like a debate)
• Know the nature of the horse
• Each horse is different, know their horsenality, read them, respect them,
• Principles before goals
• Pat and Linda have taken anywhere from 3 minutes to 3 hours to load a horse, it just depends, don’t get frustrated, be interested
• Liberty and horse behavior has a long trailer loading segment that is a must see (3 hours long)

Pat’s Q&A

Should a horse be tied in a trailer?
Usually yes, I tie a horse in a trailer to keep him out of trouble. But this is not to be a trap for your horse. Think about why, how. Stay away from straps to tie the horse (it is a sink or swim). Adjust to fit the situation. Don’t trap or sneak your horse in the trailer. Horses loose in stock trailer is ok, the trailer has to be safe and fit for this purpose.

What about a horse that rushes out of the trailer?
You probably have a big problem because the horse was forced in, coaxed in, etc. at some point. When they get in the trailer, they start to panic and when they have a chance to get out, they rush. The solution is the yo-yo game.

Which is better a trailer with or without a ramp?
The real answer is do you have the savvy it takes to get your horse to use the left side (partnership side) of his brain to load in anything. It is not about the trailer. However, a ramp is more difficult but it does offer a chance to do many fun things (like backwards loading).

Is a slant load better than a straight load?
Slant loads are popular for several reasons; easier for humans to deal with in getting around, etc, horses have less trouble in a slant load traveling because 60% of their weight in on the forehand. Dividers should not be solid to the ground, but a mat that would swing a bit would be better or don’t have dividers that go to the ground. Stock trailers and slant loads help horses and make it a bit more natural.

Have you ever used a “butt-rope” to get a horse into a trailer?
Usually not, but I would use it in preparation for a butt bar. Horses can panic when the butt-bar in place so this rope could help with this preparation. Using the butt-rope method to get a horse in a trailer, I stay away from that.

What can you do for horses that “scramble” while traveling?
If you horse scrambles, he is claustrophobic, he feels unbalanced and like he has no room. Prepare your horse, in and out; until it is his idea, horses scramble more if facing forward instead of slant or backwards. Solution, get an open stock trailer, use it like a mobile stall and slowly drive (3mph) around (after he loads—loose) to help him learn to get balance. This is about finding a way to get your horse out of this pattern.

How do you stop a horse from pawing when tied in a trailer?
This is not a trailer loading question but is something asked a lot. Most horses are not used to being tied. Best exercise is to have a patience post. The concept is tie a horse from above (high and strong) and let them figure out being tied for 3-4 hours a day—teaches a horse mental and emotional fitness of being tied.

What can I do for horses that have had trauma in a trailer?
Horses are adaptable and can change their patterns. Horses tend to think differently than people, think about safety, comfort, and play. Horses that are bad loaders and have had a bad experience, through association are phobic about the trailer. Have the confidence to study the materials, follow the principles, and practice and play with your horse, you can improve his loading skills and confidence.

How often do you stop and rest your horses while traveling?
If the trailer has good ventilation, suspension, and on good roads, stop the trailer and just let it be motionless, don’t unload (unless you are going a very long way). Give them water and molasses mixture for hydration, feed hay, let them relax. There are directories of places you can stay overnight at too.

Why shouldn’t I lead my horse into the trailer?
Most people think like people and not like horses. It seems logical to lead him in there. There are many dangers and safety elements. There are many ways to get hurt. Horses being forward-aholics can lead to disaster. You in the trailer is like a mountain lion in a cave asking for trust. They are prey animals.

*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, November 01, 2009

Setting a goal to finish up the year

I recently joined an on-line Parelli focus group called, "savvypppp · Positive, Progressive, Parelli Peers." The objective is to share goals and actively participate, helping others move forward on their journeys. I want to start by saying thank you to Heather from Canada for starting this group. As I believe you all know, I run a local play group (NCPPG) but am the only one truly studying Parelli with a goal of assessment in mind, and therefore feel quite lonely on my journey. This new opportunity seems like the next best thing to being with others in a local setting. It has accountability, reporting, and goal setting (things I typically do well with).

My official assessment journey has been with several horses (although I've played and redeveloped countless rescue horses, friend's horses, and of course my own - all to various degrees in many savvys and at several levels-unofficially). Anyhow, a little recap for those new to my blog (but do search and read the archives), I passed Level one under the previous iteration of the program with Wilbur my TB (whom I no longer have - he was retired and sent to a lush farm in VA), I had a gap in assessment because of re-homing Wilbur and then relocating to New York. I passed officially passed Level 2 online this summer (not the best audition but I passed) with my Arabian Whiskey but have come to the realization, especially since the St. Jude's event, that he is mentally incapable, at this time, of handling some of the pressure related to official assessment and the journey to level 4 (and beyond), and my other Arabian, Fosse (who has health considerations) is also inappropriate because he will have physical limitations at the higher levels. Therefore, my new horse Lola (QH) was acquired as my new, viable, levels partner, a horse that should potentially go places. She is a great prospect for this journey. To be completely honest, I am tired of being in Level 1/2 limbo (officially) as I do play in the higher levels in some of the savvys, my desire is to officially be assessed and start having fun doing more advanced maneuvers in all the savvys (and even go to the ISC some day).

So, my goal, from now until the end of the year (as per the new group's assignment to have a goal) is to complete and officially assess Level 2 freestyle with her. It is going to be a challenge because I do not have an indoor arena and the weather is a challenge here. However, I have successfully rented the use of a local indoor arena on Sundays for two hours each time (starting next weekend) and believe I can expand on that. My goal is quite ambitious and perhaps unrealistic but, a start. I acknowledge that I may have to adjust my expectations, especially because she is green, new to me, and we will be playing at a strange barn. I'd say minimum, I'd like to be at least riding her regularly at WTC by the end of the year, maximum I'd like to complete all of level 2, officially with her.

Thoughts? I am always open to input. :) Keep it savvy!