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, July 27, 2011

Weekly Task Challenge: Asking Permission

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

This week's challenge is a play on my post about mutual respect. In thinking about how important giving and receiving respect is, particularily when striving for successful relationships, I thought it was truly a good weekly task.

This week, every time you interact with your horse, ask permission to engage. Ask for permission to enter the stall, to put on the halter and/or tack, permission to mount and dismount, etc. Not sure how? Refer to your Parelli materials, it is all in there!

Here is a link to an article on Horse Channel by Pat Parelli responding to a question about a horse kicking. He talks about respect and asking permission...click here to read.

Wanted: Mutual Respect for Horses and Humans

It has been a horribly stressful, headache-inducing day. So far, I am on track (regarding my journey to better health) minus exercise. I am not sure my heart is in it for exercise today (or much else frankly, including horse time). I suppose I could do my pilates video for the horseback rider (Janice Dulak)...sigh. And, as far as horse time, I did say hello and feed them (and the chicks). I am mentally and physically exhausted, wiped out. When I got home, I was so exhausted I wanted to cry or vomit, not sure which, totally beat down, feeling like giving up on the world and perhaps myself. I really didn't even want to go outside or see Rick (no offense to him of course). Oh my goodness, this all sounds so horrible when written (hearing my feelings in my head when I write--erhaps a good way to work it all out though). For most of the afternoon, all I wanted to do was to do is go home, crawl into bed, and hide under the covers (with the dogs of course) and never come out. Not that this would solve anything but, escape was on my mind. I even toyed with thoughts of living off the grid, in seclusion, and escaping from society, responsibility, and thus, no more stress. This is not the norm for me of course (if you couldn't guess from all of my other posts over the years--I am a perfectionist, over achiever--most of the time) so, the situation was truly serious (to me anyway). I hate feeling attacked, I hate feeling out of control, and I hate feeling like what I say and do
does not matter. UGH.

The reason why I am writing is that today, I was reminded about how important mutual respect was. Not only receiving it but making sure that I always give it to others. I believe I do but, being on the receiving end of reactions, responses, interactions that lacked this respect towards me or any caring about the work I do, my professional experience, etc., was truly disturbing to me. I felt like....well, you get the picture without the gory (and probably boring) details. In hindsight, perhaps I took some things more personally than I should have but, I truly believed, in my heart of hearts, that the work I presented was done with care, diligence, and was what was asked of me. I do not go into anything lightly and always put in 100%. In hindsight, perhaps those who made me feel this way have no idea and therefore, I must forgive the situation and will work harder to breathe and will plan future interactions and responses. (A colleague who witnessed this did reach out in a kind way to me, showing understanding, concern, and helped me see from a different lens.) In the future, I won't let a situation like this get to me but instead, try to remember to think the phrase (thanks to Linda Parelli)..."how interesting." Somehow that phrase helps me breathe but I typically only use it in horse situations.

A regard for the dignity of person isn't much to ask, is it? Good relationships are built on mutual respect. This brings me to horses (I am sure you are thinking, finally, she's going to talk horses). Our relationships, including those with our horses, are truly important and good ones are based on mutual respect. Your horse should respect you and you should respect your horse in all situations...this is why those practicing PNH ask for permission to enter a stall (or other living quarter), ask for permission to mount and dismount, and so much more. We pay attention to responses and reactions, and we always try to improve.

Based on Lisa's comment in another post (she's one of my regular readers--thanks Lisa), I realized that I was not completely respecting Lola (despite my sincerest intentions). I never truly and seriously took into account the fact that she is a mare and will have hormone and physical issues that may interfere with our relationship that my geldings simply do not experience. I mean, I know she is a mare and has cycles but, I never truly gave her the benefit of the doubt because of it. To be proactive and bring my responsibility of respect up to par, I contacted my veterinarian today to get more information and thus gain knowledge on Lola's physiology to allow me to better understand her and react appropriately when she and I are having difficulties.

Tonight, take a moment to reflect on your relationships, what ever and with whom ever they may be, it is truly important. It is just another piece of never ending self-improvement. S-A-V-V-Y!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Life Seems Normal Again

I started attending WW meetings again this morning (something that helps me focus on my health and well-being). Rick is doing well and seems like his happy old self, and the animals are all acting like little angels. Somehow the universe has aligned again for us and life seems more normal. ❤

I have a great deal of work to do to get myself back to my lowest weight and best fitness level, then of course to get to goal once and for all. If you were wondering, I haven't been to a meeting since May 7th. I appreciated the hugs and warm welcomes I received from the group as if I was just on a long vacation, they are all are so sweet. I purchased the 3-month tracker as that is my most favorite method of tracking above online with my PC or smart phone. I believe the act of writing and reading a document has a very different and lasting experience. I've written everything down, planned my week, and feel confident that I can and will be back on track. Funny how a simple meeting adds so much value...must be the structure and accountability piece. (I experienced much the same with my horse group in VA. We would meet, challenge each other, and somehow that pushed the envelope increasing progress.) I am starting back at WW as if this was all new so, I am reviewing my introductory materials and set a 5% goal to be met by August 27th.

Rick has been in the process of adjusting medications, trying to mentally cope with less than good news, and getting himself back in the healthy living game as well. Reminders of mortality have a tendency to make people feel out of control but, together, we plan to live a long time, despite any recent detours we've had to face.

As far as the critters, all is well at Hidden Meadows. Everyone is snoozing with the heat and no one is fighting. Good enough for me! As with WW, I plan to review and play catch-up with my Parelli materials too...are you behind in your studies? Perhaps a little reading or videos is a good plan if it is too hot to do much else.

Thank you again for your friendship and support. If there is anything that I can do for you, please let me know. I wish you all a happy, healthy, and long life full of love, fun, and horses!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Like and Angel O:)

Leadership, communication, partnership, keeping it real and ensuring principles are more important than your goals....Yes, you've heard this over and over, many times, and isn't it interesting that each time, it is in relation to a different scenario? The time I spent with Lola last night (after she bit my arm) was very valuable for our relationship (and worth the mosquito bites).

Today after work, I went home and had some farm time. It has really been a long and hot week so, to me, this was chill-out time doing what I love most, being outside with the critters and my sweet hubby. The chickens and guinea keats were doing great, scratching, fluffing, eating, Rick was splitting wood (and sweating heavily--it is still very hot here), and the horses were eating hay under a tree. Once they (the horses) saw me, they stopped and immediately came over to see me. I was clear with each as to how far into my space they were allowed, and even asked for a few minor things (at liberty). I then decided to check-in with Lola, one-on-one, using the 22 foot line and halter, carrot stick and string, just like last night. She was thoughtful, had a kind eye, never offered to rear, buck, squeal, rear, or bite. She very easily did all that I asked and circling was a breeze. She had a beautiful, collected, slow, trot, an animated but controlled walk, she disengaged easily, and never acted up, she was just an angel. I didn't use a treat to reward her, just a nice scratch and some petting of her face which she seemed to appreciate. She wasn't learning anything new and my friend Clare mentioned using treats only during a learning process so, I thought I'd give that a try (also, I remember something form the Horsenality Report about no treats for her but I cannot remember all the details at the moment--maybe treats only at certain times or something).

After the fun time, I proceeded to clean the barn and feed. Lola insisted on hanging out with me. I moved her around at liberty just using my hands and she was very good. She seemed to just want to be together despite the boys being outside. It was very satisfying and very nice. I do love my girl.

Well, time to make dinner and enjoy the doggies and Rick. I hope to do a little horse reading too. Have a lovely weekend everyone!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

My horse bit me...now what to do.

To begin, I have no intentions of ever hanging a sign up like the one I used here but, I got you ateention didn't I? It has been a hot day here on the farm with a heat index of 109 degrees Fahrenheit. Yesterday was really warm too. Everyone is sweating and fairly miserable, man and animal alike. I just went out to the barn to take care of the horses and as I was putting hay in the feeders, Lola came over and bit me, deliberately. Not a nip, she grabbed the top part of my arm with her mouth open wide and CHOMP! It almost seemd like it was in slow motion. Normally I'd have moved the horses out of my space but I was in the process of opening the gate, trying to carry the hay, and before I knew it, a huge bruise and teeth marks were on my arm. I immediately backed her (as soon as I could anyway) and chased her out of the barn. I was, to say the least, upset. I was angry that she'd do that to me as it was nasty not to mention, she hurt my feelings because I thought we've been doing really well together. After this incident, I had to drive Rick back to the house but, I knew, despite the heat and the terrible mosquitoes, I'd have to go back to the barn, retrieve Lola, and work with her to reestablish the herd dynamic, partner, and be her leader. I realize that often times this is a dominance game and I knew that I'd need to win. I see the horses nipping at one another and just yesterday observed her chomping Whiskey pretty similiarly to what I experienced (and he is the lowest horse in the herd).

Upon reentering the barn, the horses were eating hay, the boys calm as usual and Lola, a little on edge. She truly was one big ball of attitude. I blocked her with my arm bend and moving it upwards a few times, keeping her well out of my space until I haltered her and put on the 22 foot line, grabbed my carrot stick and string, and then moved outside with her. In hindsight, I should have sprayed the both of us with bug spray but, there was about 15 minutes of daylight left and I didn't think of it, I was more intersted in fixing our relationship.

The first thing I asked her to do was to walk, me in zone 3, but at a distance (about 5 feet away). I didn't allow her to get ahead and used the stick and string, wiggling it in front of her when she needed a reminder. After getting to the open area in the paddock, I asked her to back up the entire length of the rope, and with some impulsion. She did that well but I could tell she was having a hard time thinking and focusing. Then, the fireworks started. I asked her to circle and she blew her top. All I did initially (phase 1 mind you) was point, then lift the stick, wiggle and pow, freak out! She bucked, reared, squealed, could barely look at me, and couldn't move forward, just up. This happened for several asks and eventually she moved forward but fast, out of control, bucking, squealing, and she kept trying to turn her hind quarters towards me (totally disrespectful) and I could tell she could not look at me. I've seen this behavior before but not this bad (I still don't know why she was so upset). I maintained my emotions and her dignity and continued to ask her politely, as always, and tried to giver her time to respond, rewarding the slightest try. I did this in the other direction as well intermingling backing and pausing, giving her time to lick and chew. Once she had herself more in control of her emotions, I asked for sideways down the fence line in both directions, some squeeze, and eventually, I asked her to back down part of the paddock, around the corners to and into the barn. We ended on a positive note, both calm, both in a good place. I then remembered to spray all of the horses (all at liberty of course) to chase away some of the bugs.

As I headed to the barn, I started replaying this in my mind. Why did she bite, what was going on? I remembered her trying to bite me yesterday when I rode her and the day before she nipped me. I need to be more aware of my cues to ensure that I am being polite while mounted. I believe that as we progress, she is challenging my leadership but taking it to another level. She's always challenged and now, perhaps she's upped the ante? I am not sure of course, only Lola knows but, I do have a plan. I wrote a long time ago about biting and decided to dig up that post. I am also going to read her horsenality report again, gaining me more insight to strategies working with her. Some of this behavior is exactly the kinds of things (similar anyway) to what Fosse did as a young horse, testing me. I recall a time when he grabbed my finger and chomped me, my arm too, anyhow, backing certainly helped cure that (he was backed up the mountainside, fast and that made him think twice). I never hurt my horses over this but do establish a leadership role using the techniques from Parelli.

Here are a few things to keep in mind about horses and biting:

  • Disengage the hindquarters (breaking the hindquarters) to break a brace with a horse taking away the power they have, braciness (start on the ground), be sure to give release, horses are bracey—people usually asking too much too fast (rude or abrupt)
  • Backing cures biting—it starts on the ground, horses get into habits, try new things all of the time, sometimes a physical thing--problem usually mental, emotional, or physical
  • On the ground, backing cures biting for two reasons: 1. Horse backs out of your proximity 2. You back a horse psychologically, you are moving up in the leadership ladder (the pecking order of horses)
  • Horses check you every minute and try to challenge when they can, they try new things to see what your response is
  • Punishment does not work with horses because if you watch horses (geldings) two, one bites the other, the other bites back, they will do it all day just for fun, when people smack a horse for biting, you agree to participate in their game so this would not work
  • On the horses back, back him because they cannot bite you, if the horse wants to come around, (the horse can get lower jaw caught on the stirrup if you remove your foot from it--especially in an English saddle), get your horse busy and back the horse up, give them something else to do
  • You could also, move your foot forward into the curl of their neck (say if you are bareback), they cannot curl their nose and neck around to get to you to bite (just make it difficult for them—they cannot reach)
  • Backing cures biting (ask yourself, how do I change their mind about this behavior and make it not fun anymore?)
  • If the horse views you as a leader, they would not do this.
  • Many considerations, not a simple question, really.
  • True leadership with the horse, the behaviors will go away.

Lastly, I love Lola, I love all of my horses, but, I do have to remember that they are horses, not humans, and that I have to be a good leader, a partner, and keep any anthropomorphic ideas in check. It also occurs to me that I need to remember the horse's hierarchy of needs...maybe too many treats during playtime?? HMMM.

Horse's Hierarchy of Needs (IN THIS ORDER)
• Safety = Confidence + Leadership
• Comfort = Release
• Play = Fun + Creativity
• Food = Incentive
So much to think about....I love horses, they keep my mind reeling! I definitely need to pull out some of my Parelli educational materials and get a more official game plan in play. Here's to the horse, always teaching the human (and hopefully we humans are teaching them too).

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Weekly Task Challenge: Heat & Bug Relief - Is it possible?

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.)

As the country is swealtering in the heat, bugs attacking, how is one to go outside let alone, enjoy their horses? This week's challenge is to brainstorm remedies for heat and insects and share with others here, on the blog, using the comments section.

For me, I find myself using all kinds of sprays (herbal and not) that don't seem to work well, screen outfits that keep the bugs away but make the horses sweat, and Benedryl for the hives/welts from insect allergies! As for the heat, I have a huge fan in the wall of the barn, open doors for air circulation, and of course, provide a lot of fresh water. Oye, it is a rough summer. I cannot wait to hear all of your ideas! I bet there are differences across the globe...this should be fascinating.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Sisters can be so much fun!

I have to say that my sister can be so much fun! When we were kids, we really didn't get along at all. As adults, although we live completely different lives, we've been able to put our past behind us and enjoy together time when we see each other. This weekend was no exception.

Heather and I had all kinds of time together this weekend, we spent hours in the truck traveling, horse time, boating time, and more. Today, I want to tell you about the horse time. My sister loves my animals and they enjoy her very much as well. On Saturday, we decided to have some horse time. First, I lead her around on Fosse for a pony ride. He was a bit unamused at this but was a good sport. She had a short ride but felt that bareback was not her thing and decided to dismount. Instead, she played at liberty with the horses (and a pocket full of treats), and I rode the horses.
I first rode Fosse, bareback and with the natural hackamore. He was a bit aggravated with the flies but soon concentrated on riding the rail, going thorough obstacles, backing, etc. I asked for a trot and he eventually gave me one, it was nice but, his "go button" was not working all that well. I decided that my sister could help. I asked her to take the lead line attached to the hackamore and trot as I asked him to do the same. He took well to this medley of cues and off we went. We worked on transitions and had a grand time. We gave him a few cookies and that was certainly a welcomed treat. Lola and Whiskey walked and trotted too, at liberty, with the three of us...it must have been a sight to see!
Next, it was Lola's turn. When I mounted up, she stood quietly until she got bit by a nasty fly, she leaned in such a contorted way that I almost slid off! LOL Anyhow, once I regained my seat, off we went. We did much the same with Lola and she was delighted. She had been playing trot to and through obstacles with Heather at liberty when I was riding and so to add Heather to the mix with my riding time was unique and fun. Lola has a particularly lovely, smooth trot...she puts some gaited horses to shame! LOL We rode from here to there, also working on transitions, bending, backing, etc. It was a great time and Lola loved her treats!
Lastly, I gave Whiskey a quick spin working on walk/trot transitions using the rail and obstacles (without Heather as she was amusing Fosse and Lola again). Whiskey did well and I certainly enjoyed my time with him. He is very light when he is willing to partner and floats on air!
What I take away from this experience is great joy at feeling progressive with my horses, joy in knowing that I can have fun with Heather, and the satisfaction in knowing that creativity certainly makes everyone happy and successful! We may have looked strange to many traditional horse people but, we played and engaged, we walked away with all parties' dignity in tact, celebrated accomplishments, and walked away with smiles! Heather remarked that she got more of a workout than at the gym and that it was more fun too!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Weekly Task Challenge: Sideways and Sidepassing

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!)

Pat Parelli says that your horse should be able to move in all directions equally. I find that many people ignore the sideways game! So, this week's challenge is to first play on the ground with your horse, winning the sideways game (and the other 6 of course), then try it our while mounted! Please note that there is more than one way to play each game so don't bore your horse with needless repetition of the same old thing. Remember to expect a lot but reward the slightest try and allow your horse to feel successful and confident. Be sure to work on both directions once you master the movement keeping your horse equally balanced. This may not all come at once so use the week to work at it (and longer if you need to). Slow and right will always beat fast and wrong, always.So take the time it takes, have fun, be savvy and as always, for additional help, review your Parelli educational materials, go to Parelli Connect, or contact a Parelli Professional!

***Be sure to read Lisa's comment on sideways and sidepassing so that you understand the different and can perform these tasks at several levels! (Thanks, Lisa, for the additional input---I changed the blog post title to reflect it.)

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Happy Horsin' Peeps!

Rick and I have been working on the property (I will upload new pictures soon), making plans, and finding time to enjoy life. We are both feeling much better and thank goodness for that. I think that Rick has a little more progress to go with medications being adjusted but, at least he is home and not in a hospital! My back is doing great too (my chiropractor was the key).

We are still talking about building an indoor arena and discuss all kinds of plans with that (and drool when looking at brochures, lol). We also have put in another round pen (using push-in posts and 2 rails of 2" tape-unelectrified). I didn't buy the proper round coral as planned (unfortunately), maybe next year. However, thankfully, my temporary pen works very well for me. It is a great tool to use that ensures that I don't pish my horses through thresholds...if I did, frankly, they could bust through it or jump over it...but they don't because I am respectful, have a plan, and communicate with them. I have the big field and horse play ground all mowed and full of fun obstacles (looks like a park really--can you say gorgeous?!). We are really taking advantage of having the new workshop building and horse barn (it is so nice not to be crowded). There is other stuff going on but I cannot list everything here! :)

Even more importantly, I have been truly enjoying my horses. On July 4th, I was riding Fosse out in the big field (Whiskey and Lola in tow of course---when you don't have a lot of time, you try to make the most of it and keep everyone with you I guess). Anyhow, he was a bit more alert than usual but, he is very sensible and listens to my leadership. So, imagine this, Fosse and I are walking and exploring the newly mowed field, Whiskey and Lola are hanging around grazing and off blows fireworks (loud ones with lots of crackling) at the neighbor's house. Whiskey and Lola took off racing with their heads high. Fosse, thankfully, looked to me for a signal of what to do. I was glad too because of course, I was just riding bareback with a halter (I know, so lazy of me to never pull out my proper tack, lol, someday I will start doing that, I think). In any event, I walked him a little bit towards to other two, dismounted and released him. He paused and asked permission to leave, and of course, I said yes. The three went back to the barn area and front turnout. It was a good thing I stopped riding. Despite the sun still being out, the neighbor's had fireworks going like crazy. The horses were upset but, when I stood with them, they calmed down. I locked them in the front area to help give them a familiar, structured, and safe place. Morgan was with us by the way and totally unconcerned about the choas.

Just the other day, I enjoyed a little fun time that I'd like to share. I rode Lola bareback with a rope halter working on straightness going forward, stopping, and backing up). Whiskey and Fosse just clung to us, Fosse on our left and Whiskey on our right (at liberty) guess they were just trying to help keep Lola straight--she was a little annoyed but did very well--all good practice on so many levels! I just LOVE my horses as they are so much fun! Lola and I are always negotiating leadership and I am learning more and more just how far I can push her buttons while keeping our relationship strong. Whiskey and Fosse are just hilarious with her too, especially when I am mounted. They believe that should be hanging with us and they force her to cool her jets! :)

And today, what a fun day...horse trailer window shopping (looking at 3h/lq models), a nice drive through the mountains and lakes of the Adirondacks, and play/riding time with the horses. I first played with Lola at liberty working on walk/trot, side pass, backing, and more. Then, I rode her. This time, working on what we did the other day as well as steering, side passing, and patterns. She did fantastic. There were a few moments where she acted like she may want to start having a fit but, she kept her composure, I kept mine, we worked together, and had a great time!

All in all, the horses and I are really bonded together and enjoy all the time we have. No matter if it is just feeding and cleaning, grooming, play time, or riding. Take every moment you can to enjoy and love your horses...life is simply too short.

P.S. I've back-filled the weekly tasks as promised. April is a month long challenge posted on the first (not how I usually do it but it is a fun exception). Thanks for your support and patience.