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, 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!

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