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, July 31, 2010

Just a little trim time

I took 3 hours to myself this afternoon (leaving Rick and his parents to do other things wihthout me) to get in some horse time trimming Lola and Fosse's hooves (Whiskey is tomorrow or later in the week depending on schedules and weather), grooming all of them (they just love getting scratches), and cleaning the barn and it felt great as I've not had any time all week with them (I miss them and they live here). Fosse just stands there, no need to tie him or anything (I don't actually tie any of the horses when I do their feet), and viola, he is done. I am able to do the job sitting down and wow, I am right under him...so cool! Lola was really good today too, much better than any time before, she is truly coming along. She does play a game where she starts to back up. In the beginning, I found it very frustrating, now, I just say, outloud, "how interesting" and then ask her politely to come back. I give her a scratch, play a little friendly, and start again. I do the same if she goes sideways, I just make it an opportunity to play the 7 games with her being certain to be friendly, I smile forcing myself to be emotionally fit, and her reactions are much better. We are no longer battling but communicating. Anyhow, she takes a bit longer but, I would take all day if I had to. Whiskey, when trimmed, is also quite good and lets me get the job done, much better than when I first got him (he used to rear and really act up). I just love being with the horses, no matter what we are up to! (Nope, I am not your typical horse person.)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Week Task Challenge: Ride One-Reined and Be a Passenger!

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.)

So how long has it been since you've been a passenger on your horse? How about riding with one rein? This week's task is to take a spin on your horse and jsut be a passenger. Use only one rein and trust in your relationship. If you are able to, try this bareback! You can try this in a variety of places, in the arena, playground, on the trail. Have fun and be safe, use your savvy, and trust in yourself and your horse...your relationship should be ready for it!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Maybe I Can Really Do This, Huh!?

Well, my strive for fitness as part of my partnership goals is really working, I actually think I'll make it to goal, be able to maintain, and be thin, fit, and healthy, for the rest of my life. Amazing, huh. It is not easy, it takes dedication, education, and work but, I am doing it! I've been riding the horses (primarily bareback and one-reined) and feeling great, in-tune, safe, and have been able to trust myself and them...I do think the physical fitness has a great deal to do with it!

Anyhow, this week's Weight Watchers meeting was great. I lost an amazing 8 pounds bringing me well over my 20% short-term goal that meant I'd have lost 52 pounds. With this loss, I've now lost 59.6 pounds bringing me very close to my 25% target of 65 pounds. Yes, I have a long way to go but, I will get there. I want to lose a total of 132.6 pounds which would get me back to 130 lbs, which is in my healthy weight range. Wow, that sounds like a long road ahead which is precisely why I focus on 5% increments! (At present, my loss averages out to 2 lbs per week--details below.)

Above, are photos of me before and now, with my dog, my running partner, and best friend, Morgan, a beautiful female, 2 year old, Great Dane. She keeps me going strong even on the days I feel too tired to walk or run!

So, what am I doing you ask? I exercise 7 days a week, sometimes twice in one day. I do a medly of gym workouts, walking, running, workout videos, and of course follow Weight Watchers (I attend weekly meetings). I try not to eat my activity points or weekly points allowance sticking to just eating my daily points allowance. I also eat healthy, whole foods, not processed, grow much of what I consume, I make sure I get in my healthy guidelines items every day, and I limit alcohol. I journal everything, I menu plan, mentally rehearse, and more. :) I seem to be able to lose this way and am doing well. I am not only getting thinner but, I feel healthier, feel more physically fit, and it feels great! Just remember that we are all different and what works for one may not work for the other. I do believe, as Pat Parelli says, "slow and right beats fast and wrong"! So, if you chose to go down the path of wellness, be sure whatever you chose, you can live with, much like chosing Parelli for life.

Lastly, here is the latest log of my weight loss progress: (The next meeting is this Sat!)

Week 1: 1/9/10, Started Weight Watchers
Week 2: 1/16/10, Lost 6.2 lbs, Total Lost 6.2 lbs
Week 3: 1/23/10, Lost 1.6 lbs, *Started Exercising Regularly, Total Lost 7.8 lbs
Week 4: 1/30/10, Lost 3.8 lbs, Total Lost 11.6 lbs
Week 5: 2/6/20, Lost 3 lbs *Celebrating 5% Weight-loss Target!, Total Lost 14.6 lbs
Week 6: 2/13/10, Lost 2.4 lbs, Total Lost 17 lbs
Week 7: 2/20/10, Gained .2 lbs, Total Lost 16.8 lbs
Week 8: 2/27/10, Lost 1.6 lbs, Total Lost 18.4 lbs
Week 9: 3/6/10, Lost 5.6 lbs, *Biggest Loser at the Meeting!, Total Lost 24 lbs
Week 10: 3/13/10, Lost .8 lbs, Total Lost 24.8 lbs
Week 11: 3/20/10, Lost .2 lbs *Celebrating 25 lbs Lost Milestone!, Total Lost 25 lbs
Week 12: 3/27/10, Lost 3.4 lbs *Celebrating 10% Weight-loss Target!, Total Lost 28.4 lbs
Week 13: 4/3/10, Lost 2.6 lbs, Total Lost 31 lbs
Week 14: 4/10/10, Lost .8 lbs, Total Lost 31.8 lbs
Week 15: 4/17/10, Gained 1.0 lb, Total Lost 30.8 lbs
Week 16: 4/24/10, Lost 1.6 lbs, *Celebrating 16 Weeks on Program!, Total Lost 32.4 lbs
Week 17: 5/1/10, Lost 5.8 lbs, *Biggest Loser at Meeting, Total Lost 38.2 lbs
Week 18: 5/8/10, Gained 1.6 lbs, Total Lost 36.6 lbs
Week 19: 5/15/10, Lost 2.8 lbs, *Celebrating 15% Weight-loss Target!, Total Lost 39.4 lbs
Week 20: 5/22/10, Missed Meeting
Week 21: 5/29/10, Lost 1.0 lbs, Total Lost 40.4 lbs
Week 22: 6/5/10, Lost 3.2 lbs, Total Lost 43.6 lbs
Week 23: 6/12/10, Lost .6 lbs, Total Lost 44.2 lbs
Week 24: 6/19/10, Gained 1.8 lbs, Total Lost 42.4 lbs
Week 25: 6/26/10, Lost 8.6 lbs, Total Lost 51.0 lbs, *Biggest Loser at Meeting
Week 26: 7/3/10, Gained 3.8 lbs, Total Lost 47.2 lbs
Week 27: 7/10/10, Lost 1.0 lbs, Total Lost 48.2 lbs
Week 28: 7/17/10, Lost 3.4 lbs, Total Lost 51.6 lbs
Week 29: 7/24/10, Lost 8.0 lbs, Total Lost 59.6 lbs, *Celebrating 20% Weight-loss Target!, *Biggest Loser at Meeting

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Less Can Be More! - Parelli, Getting Started

On my previous post, I was kindly reminded that not everyone is the same as me and that less information (at least to start with) can certainly be more! I tend to be a person who desires tons of information, all at once, please, please, please, and the more the better! But, that is me, and for many, can be simply too much, overwhelming, and perhaps off-putting at times. (Thank goodness the woman I referred to in yesterday's post was thankful for the information overload.) It is funny, in my professsion, I warn my librarians to be certain to stay focused and only teach what the students need and can digest at that particular instructional opportunity and here I am in all liklihood going overboard when trying to share information! I'll chalk it up to an incredible sense of satisfaction and excitement about PNH and what it can offer horses and humans (so my intentions are pure and good).

In introducing Parelli then, it only makes sense (thanks Lisa), to recommend that people wanting to learn more purchase (or borrow) Parelli's Getting Started DVD!

From Parelli's website:

In the Get Started DVD, Pat Parelli will teach you to how to solve problems naturally, the way a horseman would. Quick fixes don't work -- learn to truly solve your problems with the natural principles of love, language, and leadership.

• See things from your horse’s perspective.

• Learn strategies that make sense to your horse.

• Understand the underlying communication and relationship issues that cause your frustrations and problems -- and know how to fix them!

Monday, July 19, 2010

How I Tend to Introduce PNH - Probably a bit overwhelming - LOL

This evening I had the opportunity to introduce PNH to another person on the telephone based on a referral by the local Agway dealer. I am flattered that I am considered someone with knowledge that is valued but always leary of the people who call. More often than not, people are not willing to change their ways or commit. This evening's discussion seemed to be different and I am excited to have the opportunity to meet a neighbor that I didn't know I had. I am not saying that she will be a Parelli convert but, at least she is open-minded. And maybe, just maybe, I'll develop a horse-friend relationship! Anyhow, I thought that I'd share some of the message I sent her as it is similiar to other messages I've sent to those who were reaching out. I have to admit, it is very lengthy and probably too much info at once but, I guess that is in my nature as a person in higher education. LOL My goal is to inform, get people thinking but, as you will note, I alwyas recommend they discover Parelli by going to the source.

"...I truly enjoyed talking with you this evening. I apologize for being the one doing most of the talking, I hope I did not appear to be too overbearing or rude. I'll apologize in advance for my lengthy email as well! I mean only to inform and it must be understood that I believe horses are truly way more than riding and thus, my response covers many, many topics at some length but note that all of this is introducing you to ideas you may not be aware of. There is much more to it! :) I don't expect you to remember everything so no worries, there won't be a quiz. LOL If you like reading blogs, you may want to check mine out. It is called Natural Horse Lover
http://naturalhorselover.blogspot.com/ I've also attached several things for you to read (and there is plenty more where that came from!

Okay, so first, my disclaimer: I am not a Parelli Professional nor do I have endorsement by Pat and Linda Parelli as an official Parelli-related teaching entity. I am simply a PNH student (officially assessed at Level 3 interested in spreading the message, sharing our journey, and helping others. Parelli Natural Horsemanship™ is a trademark of PARELLI NATURAL HORSEMANSHIP, INC. which does not sponsor, authorize or endorse me or my blog this site, Natural Horse Lover http://naturalhorselover.blogspot.com/ . For more information on the Parelli method of natural horsemanship, the Savvy Club, their trademarks, products, services, or other information, you can and should visit http://www.parelli.com/ .

To begin, I am a Level 3 Parelli Student and the Academic Library Director at Clarkson University. I do not run a horse business professionally as my full-time career at the University takes up much of my time and my horses take up most of the rest! I have helped many people and try to move people in a direction that I believe would be beneficial to them and their horses. I ran a very successful study/play group in Virginia (that is still going strong). I tried it up here in the North Country but found that between schedules, distances, and commitment (or lack there of), it was more time and effort on my end than by the group and thus, disbanded it (unfortunately). I am completely dedicated to natural horsemanship and do not follow anyone going in the opposite direction nor do I try to convert anyone to believe in that I am doing. I personally follow Parelli but there are other natural horsemanship clinicians that may be useful to you like Clinton Anderson, Dennis Reis, and the like. Each clinician has a different spin but, for the most part, they are all looking out for the horse-human relationship. For me, Parelli is what I believe works for me and my horses. So, I will give you my take on the situation, take it for what it is worth to you. I am one of very, very few Parelli people in our region (once again,not a professional, just a student - finding a Parelli Professional is the best case scenario--there are none in our area).

I think that you should learn much of what I will talk about and below is basically a fast, overly detailed introductions to get your mind thinking. Remember, horses teach people and people teach horses. The point is, educate yourself and then try to partner with your horse. We have to try to understand why your horses is feeling this way and then move forward to strengthen the relationship which in turn will allow for the interactions between horse and human (with the trailer and in any situation) to become fun (and safe) again. Often times it stems with leadership but I think that there are many factors to consider including but not limited to an understanding and implementation of horse psychology (which this is all a part of), the the leadership role between you and her, the horse's hierarchy of needs, understanding his horsenality, the six keys to horsemanship, and so forth.

Leadership IS NOT:

1. Power. The idea of power is offensive, rude, and simply out of line. Keep power trips out of the picture and you will create a safe environment for your relationship to grow.
2. Waiting for something to happen and hoping the other party will make the first move to allow you to lead. Leaders get the ball rolling, allowing the relationship to build and happen.
3. Being closed minded and thinking that you are always right. Leaders also make mistakes and you must own up to them for the relationship to work.

Leadership IS:

1. Knowing that change starts with you! If there is a problem, it stems with you, not your horse---kind of like your computer. Computers are not intelligent, they can only think in terms of one and zero. It is humans (the operators/manipulators) that actually make them work to create the wonderful things we do with them. If they are not working right, it is usually our fault. If you've ever watched Pat Parelli (or other clinician) with a horse, on more than one occasion they take a "bad" horse and make him a "good" horse? The horse did not change, his leadership changed making him react differently to the situation. (This is not magic, this is leadership.)
2. Being able to always find the positive in any situation. Dwelling on the negative does nothing but sabotage you and your horse.
3. Not having power-trips. POWER is a dirty word!
4. Understanding that you are a role model, you are infectious--do your horsey friends want what you've got--you'd better hope so because if they do, chances are you are doing something wonderful with and for your horse.
5. Knowing that your horse is evaluating you on a daily basis (perhaps every minute, every second). Does he believe in you and your leadership? Are you trustworthy? Does he want to be with you? Remember you are a predator asking a prey animal to follow your lead---to some horses this could mean something akin to trusting a lion to take them home to meet the pride for dinner. (Do they think they that they are a guest or the main course--hmmm?) Does your horse see you as a scary dominating predator or a partner?
6. Acknowledging a job well done at the very moment it happens. Remember this quote, "Pressure motivates but it is the release the teaches"--Pat Parelli? The release is the acknowledgment or reward (a cookie never hurts either--but is never to be used as a bribe).
7. Someone who leads by example, listens, compassionate, self-aware, tough and courageous, optimistic, intelligent, fun, motivational, creative, accurate, concise, dedicated, punctual, sensitive, enthusiastic, accountable, troubleshoots, understands verbal and non-verbal cues, is able to trust, is trustworthy, plans, and prepares.

As you can see, leaders have a great responsibility. Sure, you can get a horse to do what you want through fear and intimidation but what fun it that? I personally prefer a horse who wants to be with me and who is having fun.

We must also consider the horse's hierarchy of needs. Just as humans have needs, so do horses. Horses cannot truly be bribed to do things, they don't reason like humans, they are prey animals. They are not like dogs either (dogs like praise and recognition as do humans). The question is, have you considered these needs and if so, are they satisfied?

The Horse's Hierarchy of Needs (IN THIS ORDER)

• Safety = Confidence + Leadership
• Comfort = Release
• Play = Fun + Creativity
• Food = Incentive (not a bribe)

Does the horse feel safe with you and have confidence in your leadership? It does not sound like that is the case. To begin with, we should look at how you handle the horse, are your micromanaging? rude? Wishy-washy? What kind of tools are you using to communicate (what kind of halter and lead for instance?) Can you play the games horses play with each other with your horse? In Parelli, they are called the seven games. These are the foundation of the language and can be played in numerous ways and at numerous levels. For the sake of a quick and dirty explanation, here they are: (I've also attached a brief article written by Pat Parelli.)

The Seven Games

Game #1 The Friendly Game
"This game proves to your horse you will not act like a predator, that you are friendly and can be trusted."

Game #2 The Porcupine Game
"This game is called "porcupine" as a reminder that the horse should not lean against a point of pressure but learn to move away from it."

Game #3 The Driving Game
This game teaches the horse to respond to implied pressure, where you suggest to the horse to move and he moves without you touching him."

Game #4 The Yo-Yo Game
"The object is to get backward and forward movements equal and light."

Game #5 The Circling Game
"Do not confuse this with mindless lunging! The Circling Game develops a horse mentally, emotionally and physically. It teaches him to stay connected to you and get the tension out of the line between you while maintaining his gait and direction."

Game #6 The Sideways Game
"This is teaching the horse to go sideways equally as well to the right and left, with ease."

Game #7 The Squeeze Game
"Horses, by nature, are claustrophobic. They are afraid of any small or tight space. The Squeeze Game teaches your horse to become braver and calmer, to squeeze through narrow spots without concern."

Games 1-3 are principle games (a foundation of your language) whereas games 4-7 are purpose games (the language expanded for higher levels of communication).

The comfort part of the equation is important. Do you give an instant release when your horse offers the requested response? They need to know they can not only trust you but that you trust in them and appreciate their effort.

Play is a huge thing in a horse's life. Are they being asked to do the same old thing all of the time or is there a purpose? Are you playing/riding with obstacles, puzzles, and patterns? Or just running in circles. The mind needs stimulation. At my place, I have a play ground set up for the horses and many other areas that we use to stimulate the play and riding time. (OK, so my neighbors probably think I am nuts...so what, the horses love it!)

Lastly, food is part of their hierarchy of needs but is truly last on the list despite what some people may think. A truly fearful horse won't eat. Treats are good as incentives but depending on the horse's horsenality, will depend on how they are used and never, ever, try to bribe your horse. It is a total waste of time.

The horse's horsenality is another key factor in the partnership or relationship. There are four main characteristics that make up a horse's horsenality. (I've attached a horsenality packet for you to review.)

~Innate Characteristics
~Learned Behaviour

The question we must explore is understanding if your horse is a left-brained extrovert (dominant and wants to play and have fun, more go than whoa), right-brained extrovert (fearful and emotional with lots of go), left-brained introvert (wants to know what is in it for them and las more whoa than go), right-brained introvert (emotional, can be catatonic, can explode, tendency to stop), or a combination and to what severity in each of the quadrants? Understanding this will help with strategies how to better communicate with your horse, how to deal with issues, and how to have a wonderful partnership. These simply definitions don't cover it at all but give you a glimpse at how different horses can be.

Fitness for partnership means being fit (you and your horse) mentally, emotionally and physically. You need to use the 7 keys to success with horses as a way to get there in all respects (attitude, knowledge, tools, techniques, time imagination, and support). This is all a huge shift from traditional horsemanship and for many, is way too much to even consider (unfortunately). I personally recommend Parelli to everyone (or some flavor of natural horsemanship) but, it is often cost prohibitive, people don't want to put in the time, and so forth. I wish you and your horse only the best.

I could go on and on as you can see and of course, have only scuffed the surface. You are talking with a person who is creating a private horse park with a horsey playground, trails, obstacles, etc! LOL I play games with the horses using patterns and obstacles, we try to keep things interesting, fun, and always keeping the horses dignity in tact (principles always come before goals). I hope that this helps you to understand that there is way more to horse than riding, way more than trailer loading, etc., and that this process, if done properly, will take time, and that you and your horse are worth it! ..."

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Week Task Challenge: Horse Trailer Safety!

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.)

It is mid-summer and hopefully you've been able to get in some horse time. This week's challenge is to think about your horse trailer safety savvy! (If you are interested in horse trailer play time, please refer to my November 5, 2009 blog post:Weekly Task Challenge: Trailer Loading and Assessment.)

To begin, you should check your trailer and equipment for damage, safety, and reliability. Here is a checklist to start your assessment process (this is not an exclusive list).
  • Make sure your vehicle is the appropriate size to safely pull (and stop) your horse trailer
  • Check tire pressure & wear on both truck and trailer (horse trailer tires are heavier than regular tires)
  • Check your spare tires on both truck and trailer and be sure they are inflated
  • Check your brakes
  • Check your floorboards for rot & cracks
  • Check gates and latches for damage (grease is necessary)
  • Check your hitch for wear
  • Check your brake lights and turn signals
  • Look for any sharp edges or rust holes
  • Make sure your trailer is clean before hauling (don't forget to check for and remove wasp or bees nests)
  • Determine if you need your trailer wheel bearings packed
  • Ensure that the mats on the trailer floor are in good condition
  • Fuel up before you load if possible (and don't forget to check the oil and other fluids in your truck)
  • Put bedding in the trailer to soak up any urine or horse manure -- it will help to keep the floor from becoming slippery (have a shavings fork and manure bucket on hand for any cleanups to keep footing as dry as possible)
  • Purchase hauling insurance should you break down
  • Have a first-aid kit in your trailer and truck
  • Have an extra halter and lead line for each horse in your truck should you be in an accident
  • Carry a sharp utility knife in your truck should you need to cut a halter off of a horse
  • Have shipping boots or other wraps and fly masks for all of the horses being hauled
  • Make sure all horses being hauled are able to load and be comfortable in the trailer (there is nothing wrong with practicing not only loading but hauling...take your horses for rides around the neighborhood!

These are a few resources you may want to read about horse trailer safety!

Horse Trailer Safety Information from EquiSpirit

Horse Trailer Hauling Tips from About.com

Horse Trailer Safety Checklist from Equisearch

US Rider Equestrian Plan Travel & Equine Safety Information

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Lola, Leadership, and an Ah Ha Moment

Today, I found myself connecting with Lola. Why? Because I found humour in the situation, listened to her, and respected her horsenality.
It was very windy today and I was busy in the garden, running with Morgan (we walked/ran 4 miles), and found myself, yearning to sit on my horse. Literally, that was all I wanted to do but, ended up having a much more interesting interaction.

I decided that lacking the keys to the horse trailer, I'd just take a halter and lead line out to the horses with the desire to sit on Lola and try to make a connection, another positive interaction. When I approached the area, Whiskey immediately came over to see me and immediately following him, Lola came over and seemed interested in me. Fosse was in the vicinity but never stopped eating to come over, he just stopped long enough to acknowledge my presence. Anyhow, I haltered Lola, scratched all of her itchy spots (a great friendly game), walked her over to the stump in the playground, and mounted her bareback. We just sat there, doing nothing which was excellent because many times in the past, she'd try to walk off before I wanted her to. I asked her for a flex, gave her tons of scratches, and just sat there.

I finally decided to ask her to move forward by lifting the rope. I did not tie the lead rope so I was riding bareback and one-reined. Anyhow, she moved one foot forward (which seemed to take her great effort), stopped, and munched grass. Rather than be frustrated, I allowed her to have a little grass, scratched here, then wiggled the rope to signal her attention, lifted the rope to ask and waited (being aware of her introverted tendencies). Then, to proceed, I used the "my horse won't go" techniques of rhythmic motion with the rope to apply some pressure, again one foot forward with great effort, and then some grass. We continued this a few times and I eventually would ask for her to approach and complete an obstacle puzzle, then would allow her to eat and even tried to tell her that it was okay by pulling down on the lead line or putting pressure on her pole (we have not figured an "it's okay to eat" signal yet. Anyhow, each time I asked, I would laugh, remain relaxed, and not get upset. What happened is that she became more and more responsive, completed the tasks better each time, and totally connected with me.

I attribute our success to patience (my ah-ha --be patient and laugh and you will get what you want), time, imagination, knowing and responding to horsenality needs, and just having fun with it---no frustration feelings whatsoever! Show me a normal who would take this kind of time to get the desired result? I know of no one. My horse's dignity was in tact, she respected me and trusted me as leader, and we had fun. (And, the winds were wicked...have you ever heard people say they could not ride becuase it was windy...LOL...it is not true!) This interaction today with Lola, my friends, is Parelli savvy...and you just cannot beat it!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Weekly Task Challenge: Undemanding Time - Scratch Those Itchy Places

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.)

After some interesting thoughts and experiences I've had with Lola this week, I've decided that this week's task will be a little different from what you might expect. And to begin, yes, I know I am weird--call is crativity! I am looking for you all to spend undemanding time while on your horse! Is this possible you ask? Why yes!

This is what I plan to do and challenge you to do the same. If you need to make any modifications for safety sake, please do so. If you have a better idea, please post! I am always up for anything new to try! Don't be shy!

Horses are itchy this time of year, no matter how many potions and lotions, screens, etc. we use. Well, I know where my horses' itchy spots are, do you? The first part of the task is to identify those areas (usually underneath the belly, under the chin, between the back legs). Then, purchase a backscratcher (or use something you think would work in the same way and not hurt you or your horse---or even try your carrot stick!) Anyhow, go visit your horse, be sure to ask for permission to enter his/her space if in a stall, and if in a field, allow him to catch you. Halter with savvy, mount up bareback (no pad) politely and after asking permission, and just hurry up and do nothing (meaning just sit there). You can flex either side to ensure brakes should you need them. Then, don't ask your horse for anything. Allow them to graze, walk around, whatever (you are a passenger). Take your backscratcher or carrot stick or whatever you are using, and find those itchy spots. You'll probably have to lay on your horse to do this. This is going to be a fun, friendly, undemanding session with your horse. Can you imagine how this will help with you bond? Amazing. Have fun, be safe, be savvy.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Undemanding time rocks

(Photo of Lola and I when Clare's visited in June 2010)

I had a nice day with Rick an awesome workout in the morning, a great 5k walk with my dogs Annie & Morgan this evening, and then a nice time sitting on Lola bareback while she munched on grass. I thought since we had a few bumps in the road, I'd keep everything as casual as possible. So, I went out in the playground where she was grazing, she came to me, I haltered her, I asked her to sidle up while I stood on a rock, she did, I mounted bareback, and just sat on her. She munched grass, I swatted flies for her, and we enjoyed each other. Undemanding time is underrated and truly rocks...I love my life.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Put yourself in your horse's shoes

Today, I wanted to play with Lola and Ride. I chose the round pen (with obstacles)because it had some shade, was near where Rick was hanging out, and it was a location we'd not been to in awhile. I found her to be fairly pissy and/or non-responsive, she was squeeling, not paying attention, bumping me and acting rude and, and our time together playing online, at liberty, and riding was frankly, not much fun at all and seemed to me to be, a lot of work. I had sprayed her three times for insects, it was a bit hot, and Rick reminded me afterwards that all of the horses had a rough week dealing with 90-100 degree (Fahrenheit) temperatures and the bugs (despite the fans, insect sheets, masks, and leg coverings). Still, I felt frustrated, a bit angry, and was in general, in a bad mood afterwards. I felt guilty about these very non-savvy feelings but, I just could not help it (maybe the heat was getting to me too). She and I have had great times together but the last two times were less than thrilling for either of us. How could we make progress this way I thought? My emptional brain was thinking ok, too hot now, too cold in winter, what to do? GRRR. I was not a good partner today and unfortunately found my initial intentions had turned direct-line (if my my actions, at least my thoughts).

So I took a brief catnap in the shade while sitting in my lawn chair feeling sorry for myself. After I woke up, about 10 minutes later,I decided to go for a run with my Great Dane, Morgan. I am hooked on running...it is so fun and great exercise! It is crazy really as I never expected this feeling about a sport I never thought I'd like. So, Morgan and I ran and I forgot about feeling upset with Lola. (I've restarted the C25K program using a different set of podcasts.) We were actually was going to run the week 1, run 1 tonight, two times, because after the initial workout was complete, we still had plenty of energy despite the heat. However, the deer flies were eating us alive and we were miserable (and we had insect repellent on). We were literally swarmed like an Alfred Hitchcock movie as we ran down the road! Thankfully hubby drove down the road to check on us (great timing), we were relieved to jump in the Blazer, fleeing for our lives from those darned insects! (And, we were sprayed with bug spray.) We had completed the initial run so, walked way feeling accomplished in that respect.

This got me thinking about Lola and how unfairly I had treated her. She was hot all week, being bitten up by bugs, and hadn't had much relief (and maybe not much sleep). Here I was expecting her to perform without giving her the benefit of me, her partner, listening to her complaints and her needs. Next time, I plan to be more respectful to my beloved horse, she is a sweetie and I was simply unfair. Don't make this mistake with your horses! If you are anything like me, you'll feel terrible guilt, I know I do!

(I am sorry, Lola, I will be a better partner next time...HUGS.)

Friday, July 09, 2010

Just Do It - My Latest Epiphanies!

e·piph·a·ny   /ɪˈpɪfəni/ [ih-pif-uh-nee] –noun, plural -nies.
a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.

Epiphany #1: After a ton of positive feedback regarding yesterday's 5K run, I realized more clearly this morning that I truly have a huge support network in my life and feeling privileged for it. :)

Epiphany #2: I was chatting with a girl on Facebook today, she is in her twenties, lives in the area -- Rick and I met her when we moved here, she was our waitress most of the time we frequented a local establishment--we always asked for her as she was simply wonderful, and eventually she just disappeared. I met up with her at last week's Weight Watchers Meeting. She has a past riddled with bad choices, addictions, health issues, and much more. She is a sweet, funny, charismatic young woman who needs to give herself a chance to have a good life. She wants to find success in a counseling role but still needs to find her way in the world and learn to love herself and take care of herself. I feel a bit frustrated and concerned because I feel like she is making excuses and being lazy about trying to change and thus make progress. Anyhow, she was talking about a slip up regarding drugs that happened last night (pot smoking for the sake of relaxation beccuase of a rough time she is having - although she used to be into some really hardcore stuff apparently) and this is an excerpt of what I wrote to her:

"...You want to help others and go to school, I guess it all depends on how bad you want it. This, only you can decide. I think it [quitting drugs] is like doing Weight Watchers or any other self-help program, you have a goal, and there is a way to get there. However, getting there is the hardest thing in the world and it takes courage, strength, support, and drive. It takes focus, tools, imagination, and time. And, it is NOT EASY, and is A LOT of WORK! But, you can do it, and you are worthy of it. So, you can stop smoking, stop over eating, you can modify all behaviors that you chose in life but, it is work and takes tons of determination. And, you are smart, half the battle is knowing what you need to do, the other half is just doing it..."

I personally do not use drugs but to me, they are just another addiction people use to cope, no different than caffeine addicts, smokers, alcoholics, overeaters, shopaholics, etc. This is an over simplification but I think you get my meaning. I am basically not judging her nor do I plan to.

She responded that what I had written to her was extremely powerful and truly impacted her. She thanked me for taking the time and remarked that I truly gave her something to ponder. Then, she told me to write it down because is was poweerful, meaningful stuff. At that moment, I realized that I could have just as easily been talking to myself about Weight Watchers, about the 5K, and of course, about my horsemanship and Parelli assessments! I was coaching someone else not realizing that my words and the knowledge that I needed to succeed and move forward were right in my head. That this was perfect reasoning! Why is it that I can say these things to others but not allow myself to hear them for myself? Well, hear this...I am listening, I have heard, now I need an action plan!

Action Plan: Create a written, detailed plan for the week including these components: 1. horse activity 2. exercise 3. menu 4. work to-do list 5. home to-do list

Thursday, July 08, 2010

New Milestone - Completed My First 5K

So, as you know, part of my horsemanship journey includes physical fitness and I am striving to lose weight, workout, and become super fit. Well tonight, I completed my first 5K Race called the Tour de Potsdam (I was runner number 16,there were 45 runners.)

However, unfortunately, I could not run the entire race as planned. I was running strong for about 15 min (in 95 degree humid temps), hit a water station and drank water--big mistake, made me feel nauseous and sick, anyhow, I continued to run and eventually walked for a bit worried that I may have been suffering from heat exhaustion, then I ran again with a big push at the end thanks to a friend for cheering me on. So, I did finish and was cheered by the crowd which was really nice (but I was last). The timer lady didn’t record my time unfortunately but it was over 60 min considering the person before me had 60:16. I have a lot of work to do! At home, I've been running 2 miles in 25 minutes but, never in this kind of heat so hopefully that was my main issue--I think so as I'd hoped to run the race in 40-45 min. I do feel a bit disappointed and feel like a pathetic loser (part of my perfectionism shining through). I probably could have just walked it faster. :(

Despite my feelings, I am proud to have even tried. I only just started running in mid-May and at that time, I could barely run for one minute at a time with a 90 second break! So, I really have made huge progress. I was very nervous all day and especially when I arrived at the race site. This was way outside my comfort zone but I went anyway! I have never run a race before and certainly have never run in public (and not with people I work with-and some of them were there--they've never seen me in street clothes let alone workout garb). To help with my nerves throughout the day and at the site, I was imagining Stephanie Burns and what she talks about regarding horses and comfort zones trying to channel some positive energy and courage. I also kept reminding myself that I needed to find focus and run with focus, much like we ride with focus.

Anyhow, I think I’ll continue on this running journey because I do like it and plan to sign up for the Hobble Gobble (prediction race) in Potsdam, NY scheduled for November with Morgan (my Great Dane). The weather will be much more agreeable for sure. There is also a dog 5K run in Norwich, Vermont in September but, it is 4 hours away so I am not sure about that one--we will see. I truly missed my running partner, Morgan tonight. She is my strength and my support, she is my true-blue partner.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Weekly Task Challenge: Play Time in Extreme Heat

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.)

The East Coast has been in a super heatwave for days which is what prompts this week's challenge topic. How to have play time in extreme heat! If your horses are like mine, they are sweating and miserable. So, I decided this was a great time to brainstorm fun things to do in the extreme heat. Your task is to come up with your own list of things to do with your horse during the extreme heat and go play! You can also use my short list below. Please consider posting some of your ideas here as comments!

Play Ideas: (Just a short list.)

--Play with the hose. If your horse is afraid of it, what better time to practice approach and retreat with some friendly game!

--Play in puddles, a pond, brook, stream, lake, or whatever water you may have access to. Again, a great time to practice your communication and savvy using this time to overcome any fears your horse may have with water.

--Go swimming with your horse! If you and your horse are ready, try swimming your horse. You are both ensured to be cooled off, at least for a small time.

--Set up a sprinkler and play the seven games while in sprinkler range!

--How about some undemanding time under a tree? Hang out in the paddock under a tree with a good book and just enjoy being around the horses. They are likely to come check you out and some will even lay down next to you!

Have fun, stay cool, be safe, be savvy, and be creative! :)

Monday, July 05, 2010

Play Time with Heather and the Horses

Over the July 4th weekend my sister Heather and her boyfriend Doug visited. We had a lot of fun hanging out at camp, with the horses, and on the boat. What I wanted to tell you all about though is our fun with the horses. The weather has been very hot so, we didn't want to push things too much and wanted to make it fun. We first brought Lola out, tacked her up with the bareback pad and hackamore. We played all kinds of ground games with her and found some opposition reflex in her behavior (rearing and bucking). Rather than be direct line or get angry, I let her work it out and then would politely ask for what ever it was I wanted. She complied and we had a good time while achieving our goals (no principles compromised). I mounted and worked on a little riding but found her to be fairly dull and non-responsive. I chalked it up to the heat and we ended fairly soon but, on a good note. Fosse was next and he, unlike Lola was excited to play and have fun. Once again. some ground play first and then I mounted. I asked Heather to help me teach Fosse to trot. The vet said it was OK despite his heart and so, I wanted to try. The few times I did try, he sort of did it but, I thought this would be a great opportunity to push it farther. She held onto the lead on the hackamore and I got in the passenger position. By the 6th time, he was trotting from my ask, not Heather's. It was really fun for all of us. In between tries, he got treats for success and seemed to have fun. Lola was staring at us and calling out as if she was jealous because we were having fun without her! Lastly, Whiskey was out to play. We tacked as the others, played in the ground, and then I mounted. Last year, when Heather was out,we played point to point at the trot, her being the target with treats. Well, it seems that he remembered because as soon as he saw her, he started trotting to her! I took this opportunity to work on steering, obstacles, and patterns with the reward of seeing Heather for treats should the desired task be completed. I think we had more fun that we've had in ages! I cannot wait for her to visit again, something just clicks when we are together (and she is not a horse person). How interesting.