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

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Just Laying Around

I had such a fabulous time with the horses this afternoon that I wanted to share. It was 24 degrees Fahrenheit here today (feels like 14 degrees according to the Weather Channel).

I walked to the barn (long driveway, two tenths of a mile) but the barn is a bit closer than that. This was a great way to warm up a little and determine if it was too cold to stay out (meaning feed and get back inside) or stay out and play with the horses. I have to admit that I did go out with a plan but was willing to be flexible. I wanted to ride Lola.

When I got to the barn, the horses were eager to see me. I said hello and gave them treats. I also filled my pockets. Why not. I retrieved Lola's halter and took off her blanket. I put on my helmet and went out in the yard (Fosse and Whiskey followed us). We played the 7 games (using many variations of it) and Parelli patterns (figure eight, falling leaf, s-pattern) using obstacles (trees, logs of all shapes and sizes, barrels, and the fence) and I found one sticky spot, a log. This is a log that is 15 feet long, 10 inch diameter, laying on the ground. She's been resistant to walk over and so, I decided to play with this log and help her build confidence walking over it. There is another huge log (2 feet in diameter) with two 8 inch diameter branches coming off of it. And so, I used both logs for her to walk over, the first one and the smaller parts of the second. I used treats as reinforcement and it seemed to help because by the end of our session (which was about 1.5 hours long), she walked over all of them with no opposition reflex (unlike in the beginning where she was trying to back, avoid,or even rear). While we were playing, Fosse and Whiskey were watching and Whiskey was really butting into the play space and so I incorporated liberty play with him. Fosse seemed to be staying away and I suspect that is because I've often chased him off when I'm playing with her. I felt a bit guilty about this and so, I invited him into the play space, he seemed pleased and played with us, at liberty as well. The three of us played all over the yard and made our way to the largest log, 3 feet in diameter, 10 feet long. I use this log and the other large log as a place to mount or play games from in a higher position. I played the games with Lola while on the log and then asked her to line up for mounting (keep in mind, she has nothing on except her halter and lead). She is fairly good at lining up but, I think that I may not know the proper cues to ask for it (I've got some homework to do). I found that many times, she would back up. Therefore, we worked on stand still for mounting until she could. Then, I laid over her several times and she walked off. So, we worked on stand still to be mounted and stand still when mounted (although I was just laying over her my feet on one side and head on the other (get the picture?). Once she'd stand still, I laid my leg across her back. In essence,I ended up laying on her lengthwise and the boys were next to her and so, while laying down, I fed the three of them treats. We were relaxed, having fun, and enjoying our day. I have to note that this is all about her being comfortable with me and them around all at the same time. In the past, she's been a bit nervous with them near her when I am playing these games but today, she was much better. She has been accepting my leadership more and more these days. In the barn, I now just give her a look and she will back (at liberty) away from her grain if I want to pass through (much better than when she arrived). So once I felt she did well, I let her loose and the horses were running around, circling and following me everywhere. The final task of the day was for each to walk over the log at liberty. If they did it, they got a peppermint but not before and no leading/bribing. If they walked over the log, I would ask for a turn of the hind quarters, wait, then come forward. not until then would the treat be revealed. Much to my surprise, Lola did it first, then I asked Fosse--success, finally Whiskey (who was day-dreaming) came over and walked over the log. Yeah!

OK, so did I ride? Nope. I decided to just end on a good note and get back in the house. It was really cold out and the horses were ready to eat. I am working on the parts of our relationship and tasks and not just jumping to the end result. It reminds me of when my grandmother was teaching me to play the piano. I had to break the piece of music apart by measures and play each 12 times, adding measures, until I eventually could play the piece. Not exactly what most people would do with their horses but, I am not most people I guess. I am looking forward to more play time tomorrow as the weather is supposed to be much of the same (except for snow showers in the afternoon).


Marion Princic said...

I love reading about playsession. It really gives me inspiration!
Thanks for sharing!
Greetings from a snowy Sweden
Marion & Milva

Lisa said...

One of the easiest ways I've found to teach "pick me up" is to play it as a squeeze game. All you do is ask the horse to walk past you, turn face and wait. Shampoo, rinse and repeat. The added element is to rub zone 3 and offer a halt (breathe out) right when Z3 is lined up for you to get on. If the horse stops, regardless of how close, you offer dwell and reward. If the horse doesn't stop, finish the squeeze and send him back the other way. It's simple, no stress and pretty soon the horse finds the sweet spot. If he continues to stop further away, use your stick to yield the HQ closer. If he walks off, finish the squeeze and start again. The horse is never wrong - it's a confidence game. It doesn't take long, either. If he's really confused about the halt, a soft wiggle of the rope can help slow down Z1 so he understands the need to bring you Z3.

Soon you get a "come get me" feel in your body and your horse will come, at liberty to pick you up. It's cool and easily impresses non-PNH people ;)

For Cricket, this is a measure of how ready she is to ride. When I get up on the block and she comes right up with Z3 at my leg, I know she's on board. When it takes longer, I know our riding session has to be more about rapport than education.

Lauren said...

Hi Michelle -

I know it's the holidays and we're all busy; but I miss hearing about your learning and adventures! Sending a hello across the miles from Texas :)

Lauren Lee
Brenham, TX

Michelle AKA arabhorselover1 said...

Hi Lauren,

I'll be back soon writing and playing wiht the horses. I just finished up a whirl-whind of work and am now on vacation until January. However, my family is visiting during the entire vacation so horse tme is really limited (not to mention that it is FREEZING HERE). I'll post something soon, thanks for thinking of me.