Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Because I am a retired school teacher I find it helpful to divided learning into smaller chucks so that it is easier for the student to digest. I believe that there are (four main categories or roads) we need to take in order to become better horsemen. I have also discovered that progress is much quicker and improvement enduring if we take these roads in a specific, sequential order. Therefore we avoid getting lost on the journey.
When we become proficient in one category then our experience on the next road will be much easier. In other words the road to becoming a better horseman will be a lot smoother when we build our skills with purposeful progression. It is when we try to take short cuts that the road becomes very bumpy and more difficult. While it may be possible to jump onto any road (or category) at any time, and sometimes it may even be necessary depending upon the situation, it does help to go in an order. Traveling in this manner is a lot more pleasant for both the horse and rider plus the results are far superior to anything I have every tried in the past.
We need to develop skills in these four categories on our road to becoming better horsemen: 1) Develop a Learning Frame of Mind for both horse and rider.2) Advance Groundwork 3) Improve Rider’s Posture4) School the horse for Optimal Movement and Self-Carriage
Within each of these four categories there are different levels; beginning with the easiest and most fundamental skills and building up to the most complicated aspects of training. It doesn’t matter where you are right now, or if you ever want to achieve the most complicated and advanced maneuvers with your horse. What matters most is that you have a general understanding and skill set in each of these categories so that you can be safe and have more fun with your horse.
Here are some of the things I have realized about each category on my own road to becoming a better horseman.
1) Developing a Learning Frame of Mind
What is involved?
- It is so important for the rider to have an awareness of self.
- It is imperative the rider be very attentive to the horse.
- It is valuable to know how to get and keep a horse’s attention.
- It is foremost that the rider has great intention and focus.
- It is essential for the rider to be a calm leader in a variety of situations.
- It is significant that the person be able to read a horse and understand behaviors.
- It is vital the person breaks through any defensive behaviors in the horse.
- The central key is developing a relationship with the horse which means a healthy happy partnership. It doesn’t matter whether it is a young or old horse, a problem or challenging horse, a remedial or rescue horse, because all horses will appreciate this and therefore become more willing.
- It is crucial that the person have an open mind to new learning.
- It is necessary the person is willing to experiment and learn from mistakes.
- The attitude the rider has towards the horse will have a great influence on everything you do with him.
2) Advance Groundwork
What is the focus?
- Developing the balance, feel and timing of the rider is just as important in ground work as what we are doing with the horse. Everything we do on the ground is transferrable to riding for both the horse and rider.
- Balance and communication are best developed in the context of groundwork because the separation helps clarify “issues” that are most often the result of miscommunication or misunderstandings between horse and rider.
- How equipment affects communication and motion is best assessed in this category. A rider can become fully aware of various training equipment, ropes, halters, whips, sticks, saddles, padding and bridles and how to use them better because they do not have the added things to think about while being on the horse’s back.
- The difference between aids and contacts is clarified and both the horse and rider learn their specific roles in the partnership.
- Undesirable behavior issues can be dealt with in a safe way. The change of behavior on the ground can and will transfer to riding. Get it better on the ground and it will be better when riding.
- Habits are created, which will affect either positively or negatively the daily handling with your horse, from vet care to trailer loading.
- Three layers of advancement in the horse and rider:
Emotional balance (calm and attentive during exercises),
Mental balance (understanding exercises and skill development)
Physical balance (energy, relaxation and self-carriage within the exercises).
3) Improve Rider’s Posture
How do we do it?
- Focus on the rider’s balance and position through awareness exercises performed in a specific order.
- Separate the rider’s balance from the horse’s balance so that the rider can become more aware of exactly where and how the horse is struggling and then offer better assistance.
- As the rider¹s balance improves, feel improves and then the timing of the aidsprovides clear communication that is recognizably useful to the horse.
- Ideally this begins on the ground using exercise balls and reins for simulation exercises.
- A safe lesson horse is an invaluable tool where the rider is on a longe line without reins.
- Once in the saddle, this category of training focuses on the rider finding their own point of balance and working from their core on the back of a horse.
- A video tape or a set of professional eyes on you with constructive criticism are priceless learning tools about your posture. This can be a painful process but you will learn more about your posture from these experiences than any other.
- Correct posture also helps a rider feel safer. A feeling of security allowsthe rider to be more confident with calm leadership from the saddle which the horse is looking for.
- Having a sense of balance that is independent of the horse’s motion is what professional riders have that gives them the ability to ride a variety ofhorses very well. While this level of quality is not often taught to non-professional riders I believe it is imperative for all riders to learn because the correct development of a horse depends on good rider posture.
4) School the horse for Optimal Movement and Self Carriage
Why is it necessary?
- Focus on helping the horse achieve balance while carrying a rider.
- Finding correct use of the body while bearing the weight of a rider is a learned skill for a horse and one that is often ignored.
- Although a horse can and often do what is asked while out of balance the cumulative effect of riding an unbalanced horse can be lameness, illness or behavioral problems.
- Understanding the difference between the most advantageous motion and acceptable motion helps the rider understand WHY the horse is behaving poorly, performing poorly or having chronic health issues.
- It is a simple matter of (basic physics) between the rider’s body, the horse’s body and gravity. When these dynamics work together then harmony is achieved.
- By helping the horse achieve his best possible movement with self-carriage under saddle we show the horse that his need for safety and comfort in the exercises we ask him to do are as important as our own agenda of pleasure or performance.
- The fundamental skill of helping a horse find his finest movement with self-carriage which is not forced but is relaxed with balance and energy is crucial for the health and well being of a horse whether he is only ridden on the trails once a week or is expected to go to Grand Prix.
As we travel down the road to becoming better horsemen these four categories will help give us a proper road map which will lead us to our desired destination. The better our learning frame of mind is the better our ground work will be, the better our ground work is the better the horse will ride, the better the rider’s posture is the horse will be able to move with more freedom and proper self-carriage, which is the kind of ride that dreams are made of whether you are a recreational trail rider or competitor at any level.
Author of Win Your Horse's Heart (And Be a Better Horseman)
“Good better best, never let it rest, make your good better and your better best” – George Burns
"It's been a long, long road but it's paying off, baby."--Calvin Borel
"High achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation"--Charles Kettering
Last month I wrote about taking time for rest and play. And I have been practicing what I preach. I have taken time to baby sit and play with my nieces and nephews, I have played cribbage with my Dad, painted with my Mom, spent more time with Keith and my own horses and enjoyed fellowship at church again. During this pause from my regular work schedule I reflected on what has happened in the past ten months, tied up the loose ends of the year, and started to think about and plan for 2010. In fact the 2010 CAMP SCHEDULE is now on my website.
As I reflected on this past year, I discovered that it has been my most productive year to date. I also realized that there are some important things I can do in 2010 to make our services even better. One of those areas involves the young horse development, apprentice program, and mini clinics with free trail rides at my house. The main improvement that is in the beginning planning stages is accommodations for both you and your horse. If I can pull it off I am going to invest in a small lodge for horse owners and new corrals for the horses.
The housing to date has either been in my spare bedroom, at Wagner’s Bunkhouse, Snyder Street Cottage or Calamus Outfitters, all of which are very nice. However, I feel that having a small lodging facility here at my own place especially for the apprentices will be very advantageous. Making this dream reality is the next step. The design is on paper, and the estimates are coming in. The next thing will be figuring out how to finance all of this. I know that if I work smart and hard this too will happen. This will be a great addition to your experience here in the sandhills with me. I will still continue to have camps at Calamus Outfitters because they have the indoor arena etc. But for individuals or small groups of 2-3 and the apprentices it will be very convenient to have this option available.
The other thing that I am going to concentrate on in 2010 is another book and making some DVD’s. These are all big projects and I may be biting off more than I can chew. But I also know that progress will not happen unless I have the vision. I wonder how long it will take for all this to happen and I don’t have an answer for that yet. However, I do know it won’t happen at all if I limit my vision of these projects. And in fact, the more clear and detailed I am about the vision the quicker it will happen.
There is a term that highway engineers call a “limited sight distance”. Simply put you will drive at a speed that is proportional to how far you can see down the road. A curved hilly and wooded road is a dreamy landscape. But the traffic movement is predictably slow and erratic when the driver’s views are limited by trees, curves and hills. Drivers must reduce their speed to compensate for the unclear path ahead, especially those not familiar with the road.
As I map out my strategy for next year, the same thing can happen if I don’t have a clear view of where I am going. My pace will be slower the more limited my view is. The detailed plans and goals that I am putting down on paper will be the visual I need to reduce my limited sight distance and drive my business full speed ahead with the new roads I am going to build and travel down in 2010 and beyond.
Everybody seems to be in a hurry to get to their destinations these days. I know I won’t be able to move at optimum speed with the plans I have for 2010 if I have limited views. So I am working to make the views as clear and detailed as possible so that I can keep moving forward without traffic congestion.
For the rest of 2009 I will still be taking private lessons at my house or the mini clinic with FREE trail rides on Wed. throughout Nov. (weather permitting).
There will also be lessons available:
Nov. 8 Broken Bow Lessons/Play Day
Nov. 13-16 Omaha and Lincoln Lessons
Nov. 28 Broken Bow (Play day)
Dec. 6 Open House Christmas Party at Sherry’s in Burwell
Dec. 11-14 Omaha and Lincoln Lessons
The 2010 Lesson and Camp Schedule are now on the website and clinic schedule will be developing soon. So if you want to host a clinic, let me know as soon as possible, as I will be very, very busy next year, and I will do my best to fit in everyone who wants to take advantage of our services.
The clear and detailed plans that I am creating on paper for the 2010 calendar year is a de-cluttering process which will improve my sight line toward my 2010 goals. Without it I will have to be prepared for stop and go driving, inconsistent speed and plenty of deer in the road. But with it I am equipped to move forward and keep on trucking down the road because my view is not limited.
In closing don’t limit your views, make a clear path, so you can achieve your goals. Then set out a road map of how to get there and you WILL DO IT !
Until next time,
"The most pathetic person in the world is someone who has sight, but has no vision." -- Helen
"Let me tell you the secret that has led me to my goal. My strength lies solely in my tenacity." -- Louis Pasteur
"The question isn't who is going to let me; it's who is going to stop me." -- Ayn Rand
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
When we were at Sherry's in the spring and they were doing the colt starting all of the horses had this calm, quiet trusting look in there eye, it was almost beyond words. I've never seen it before quite like that in young horses or even very often in horses that are being ridden consistently. It's the look you see when a horse and rider have a deep partnership. It's when people take notice of a special bond and comment "They are a great match". That's what I saw in those colts. The trust in their eyes showed through and that really stuck with me... I wanted that for Babe and I but up to this point I had only seen glimpses. It struck me right before we went in for the night that Babe was finally wearing that look. It warms me to see that expression in her eyes and its taken lots of time, sacrifice and the help of a great teacher to get us to the beginning of that relationship.
I still stand in amazement at what we actually accomplished yesterday. I can hardly express the emotion as it's still spinning around in my head. All I can really tell you is I've had this big stupid grin on my face all day! The reason is, with Sherry's guidance, I was able to RIDE Babe, my free 9 year old Morgan brood mare.
I truly had my doubts if we (I) would ever be able to get her riding. Sherry didn't have any doubts but I sure did. We've got even more work ahead of us now but it's been proven to me and Babe that will the right prep work and time we will be riding confidently some day and that day isn't an infinite amount of "some day's", it's the near future.
Sherry and I talked about pivotal moments in a horse's life with humans and how those times can happen as chance or you can create them. We created a huge wonderful one for her at that moment. Babe's expression, acceptance and willingness in that last half hour of play proved to me without a doubt that with consistent handling and good horsemanship that it will be a one of those moments in her life. I hope that it will always stand out as a before and after point. Do I think that everything will be easier now or that nothing bad will ever happen because she was calm/willing and accepting at that moment… of course not but what a great way to start her saddle horse career.
After a lot of soul searching Jessica decided she just didn't have the time and support to work with Babe on a consistent basis. So Erica (my apprentice) and I started Jessica’s Morgan Mare Babe this past Sept. We had her for 30 days, rode her for about 60 hours in 20 different rides plus ground work each day.
This is what Jessica said when she came to ride her horse after we had Babe for three weeks.
What a day!! What a ride!! Sherry said I was going to be blown away and that was an understatement. This is what I wrote to her about the ride: I just can't get over how good that was. I am so excited about it all. You were so right when you said it was so easy it was almost a let down. There was no let down about it but I think I got myself so wound up about it and all that was really required was just to ride my horse and trust her. It was so good, she feels so soft and solid. I felt our relationship was still quite solid despite not seeing her for a few weeks.
I was a little wound up because of the unknown when we started but she felt so good and solid under me that once I stopped thinking about it and just rode her like a broke horse all of the tension melted away.
We did a few minutes of ground work and I mounted up. She stood stock still, flexed very soft to both sides and then off we went. In the pen we did some walking, changing directions, and backing. She tucks her nose so sweetly and backs so softly it's fantastic. Then it was time to do some trotting. After I got over my butterflies we started moving together nice and she has this lovely springy little trot. Then it was time to canter... gulp! The first time wasn't so pretty because I had a hard time letting go of my tension to relax enough for her. The second time was a little better. Sherry assured me it would improve when we got on the trail.
And we were off... out into the wild blue :) Babe walked out great, relaxed and really enjoyed herself out on the trail. She seems to really excel out in the open. Any amount of tension she was holding was all blown out and we had a GREAT trail ride. We did lots of walking, trotting, transitions, turns around trees, up and down blow-outs (burms), squeeze in between cedar trees, crossed water!! It was very eventful. We did a few canter transitions and they were much better out on the trail. I was able to relax and encourage her and she never got worried she just held a canter as long (a few strides to several) as she could then slipped quietly back into a trot. I didn't ever have to completely one-rein stop her. We did circle into the down transition but it was all very soft and controlled.
We rode about 2 1/2 hours and she felt so solid the whole time. She has nice impulsion but it’s pretty balanced in her downward transitions also. She doesn't really have any "drunkeness" to her any more. I was very happy with her straightness. OH... and her HQ disengagement is wonderful. Sherry is going to start working more on FQ, sidepass and etc. next week.
I am thrilled with the progress and basically she was ready to go home. They have already far exceeded my goals for her training time. I will ride her next Saturday at camp and then she'll come home with me. I can't wait!!
Well Jessica rode Babe the next Saturday on another long trail ride, and did a wonderful demonstration to music for us. I am trying to get the video downloaded to youtube.
For the past four years I have had the privilege of working with a group of women who are dedicated to becoming the kind of horsewoman their horse needs them to be. Six years ago I officially started Heart in Your Hand Horsemanship LLC. However four years ago the idea of the horsemanship camps at my cousin’s beautiful guest ranch was born. There were 12 women at that first camp to let me give it a try. I planned and re-planned over and over all the details, until I had completely over-planned. But even so the results were fantastic and it was a huge success.
Since then I have lost count as to how many people and camps I have had. Each one has been different because of the different needs presented by both horses and riders. One thing is for sure they are never boring, you will be tired, you will be fed well, you will have fun, you will have challenges, and most of all you will go away changed from the experience. You won't solve all your problems in four days but you will make significant advancement and you will be one turn closer down the road toward your destination of becoming the kind of horseman you desire.
People who have come to my camps range from people who live in the city and don’t even own a horse, to people who show successfully, to working ranchers, to others with extreme fears, to those somewhere in the middle. They have been from 8 years old to 72 years young, both genders, and with a wide variety of experiences both positive and negative. No matter how vast the differences in skills are or how unlike their goals are, everyone who has come to our camps have a common bond which is a love of horses and wanting to be the best horseman they can be by gaining more savvy.
With this original core group of horsewomen who come back annually in October I have tried to make each year a little different and keep new information coming as they grew and changed. It has been a lot of work but worth it, as I have seen the development of each horse and person throughout the 4 years.
This year we had the worst weather we have ever had. However, we are fortunate enough to have an indoor arena, so it wasn't so bad after all. Even with the rain we do not have to fight mud because the sand seems to suck the moisture right away, so we do not have to worry about bad footing. I enjoyed the rain as Leigh Cheryl and I rode many miles on that last afternoon together.
The private lessons on Mon. were the crowning glory. Each person really got something they needed with their horse and some made very significant milestone changes that final day, which brought tears of joy. In fact, for those of you who have been to my camps you know that tears of joy and tears of frustration are nearly always a part of the process of change.
On the final classroom session at the camps I usually do what I call nuggets of knowledge where we list the things we have learned over the past four days. However this year I did a recap of the road we have traveled these last four years towards becoming better horsemen. I think it is a pretty good road map for anyone to follow towards becoming a good horseman.
The first year was all about CONFIDENCE: for both the horse and the rider. The theme was Finding Wings So Your Dreams Could Fly. I chose Women’s Confident Camp because while doing a demo at the NE Horse Expo it seemed everyone who came to talk with me afterwards told me how they lacked confidence like they saw in me with my special horse Cisco during our routine to music. At that first camp we focused on the ground games, simulations, and lectures which helped build the rider’s confidence. Without CONFIDENCE, it is pretty hard to be an effective leader or communicator with any kind of horse. Lack of confidence usually causes one of two things either the horse becomes more scared and lacks trust in you to do the right thing, or he becomes even more pushy and lacks respect in your ability to get him to do the right thing.
The Second Year we focused on the EMOTIONAL ELEMENT for both the horse and human. We studied the horsenalities. We accessed each horse’s emotionalcharacteristics and behaviors. We learned how to read a horse, how they learn and react. Then we learned some strategies about how to handle those emotional reactions a horse can throw at us. While we studied the emotional elements it wasn’t a surprise that we were all very emotional, in fact there were a lot of tears of frustration that year. The Theme was "The Journey Continues".
The Third Year we focused on thinking and having a plan. The MENTAL FITNESS wasstressed for both the rider and the horse. We set up patterns and puzzles for thehorse to solve. We talked a lot more about feel and how to develop it. Each person was given a check list of tasks to perform in order to access where they were in their horsemanship journey. By checking off the tasks we could and couldn't do with our horses we had a better picture of where we were on this road to becoming a horseman. We caused the people to think about where they have come from, where they are, where they want to go, and how to getthere. The theme was "Are We There Yet?"
This year we focused on developing the PHYSICAL in both the horse and rider. We stressed life up/life down, postures, conformation, etc. We accessed individual horses their willingness, calmness, attentiveness, conformation, abilities, and physical movements. We tried to apply the feel we have developed in ways to change the horses body and movements, towards relaxation, energy, and balance to set them up for collection.The Theme was "This is Your Time!" We demonstrated our steps forward by a shortperformance to music in a celebration of what we have accomplished the past four years. This really stretched some of us way out of our comfort zone. Another important element on the road to becoming a horseman. If you always play in your comfort zone pretty soon your playing field will start to shrink instead of grow.
As a result of the study of CONFIDENCE, EMOTIONAL, MENTAL, AND PHYSICAL FITNESS, necessary for horsemanship these dedicated women have all become better horsewomen. Through this evolution they have developed different goals. Even though they have all progressed at very different speeds and levels depending on how much time and effort they have had to put into the journey they always support and encourage one another because of their common bond of a love for horses and to be the best they can be for their horse.
It has been a pleasure being a part of their journey, and I look forward to what might happen next year. It will take some creativity to develop a new program for next year, but I’m sure we’ll come up with something that will be meaningful and applicable to the next turn on our road to becoming horsewomen.Horsemanship is an art form that to me takes a lifetime to really come into, because it is a way of life that involves change, constant assessment and adjustments to fit each horse. I’m not sure I will ever arrive at my final destination as a horseman, but I do know this that despite the hardships of change and learning, I’m having a heck of a good time riding down the road to becoming a horseman, and I know these women are too!
CONGRATS TO EACH OF YOU WHO IS RIDING DOWN THIS ROAD TO BECOMING A BETTER HORSEMAN!
IT IS EXCITING AND VERY REWARDING WHEN WE FEEL THAT RIDE THAT DREAMS ARE MADE OF!
"A little learning is a dangerous thing but a lot of ignorance is just as bad." -- Bob Edwards F
Every year I come home thinking this year was even better than last! I don't know how Sherry does it. One of the keys is her constant learning and personal development. As she grows, she shares with us and offers us the opportunity to expand our knowledge and playing field. She is always there encouraging and celebrating our successes.
The Switzers have a beautiful ranch with outstanding accommodations, food, and fellowship. We stayed in the North Lodge this year and we all agreed we liked it even better than the main lodge.
The spotlights were quite inspiring. Everyone has their strengths and it was fun to see them on display. The music adds a new dimension. For my turn, I asked Sherry to pick out two Mary Ann Kennedy songs and I rode Kisses freestyle to one and finesse (on contact) to the second. My plan was to live in the moment and ride the horse that showed up. Fortunately, my partner showed up and I was very happy with our ride.
We had some nice group trail rides and a couple group lessons. We were outside all day Saturday, but spent quite a bit of time in the indoor arena Friday, Sunday and Monday. Everyone had a private lesson with Sherry. Leigh and I wanted a trail ride to end camp, so our "lesson" was a ride with Sherry. We rode in the wind and the rain, but we also had some time when the wind was calm and the Sandhills had their special magic. I don't know how to describe it. The Sandhills are spiritual to me. I feel like this is the most beautiful area in God's creation and am so thankful I get to live here. The rain makes the footing even better. We walked, we trotted, we loped, maybe some galloping even. We went up and down the hills, we saw the deer enjoying the misty day. We were appreciative and thankful. It was the perfect ending for me.
Not sure what next year will bring, but I plan to make my annual pilgrimage to Calamus Outfitters for another camp with Heart in Your Hand Horsemanship.
As in every year, I come home from camp enriched in friendships, and my horsemanship. Although the weather certainly could have been better, I still loved every minute of it. The drive out to the beautiful Sand hills brought me peace and joy.
What I enjoyed most:
- The exercises we learned....
- Friday when we played with each others horses, I chose Blue. Leigh's mule. That was a first to play with a mule! He kept me on my toes and you could see he was two steps ahead of me all the way ;) What fun, and a challenge at the same time. I think I know now why Leigh is attracted to mules...!
- Saturday....the trail rides through the Sandhills. I am quite sure that is the most I have ridden Checkers in one day. I loved the ride out earlier in the day. It was the first time I've gone through the gate, landing my eyes on the vast Sandhills, and not feeling fear of the unknown. Checkers gave me that sweet confidence. Sherry showed me the hill that the first year I got off and walked up. (We call it the FAT FARM hill!) This year I cantered up to it. What a difference!
- I also played on my horse bareback that afternoon. Another thing I always wanted to do, but was too afraid to.
- We loved watching every one's routine to music.
- Sunday..... after Sherry's cowgirl church we moved indoors. Sherry kept us busy with exercises in the arena she uses in her colt training to create a softer more supple and responsive horse.
- Monday: For my individual lesson, I had Sherry show me how to Long Line using two reins. I loved the FEEL it presented to me on line. I wasn't sure I could handle two ropes, as I seem to have enough trouble with just one 22ft. but it wasn't as hard as I thought. And was actually fun!
- As usual Sherry gave us some nice study material including areas of Leadership, Communication, Partnership and Lightness. Again also emphasizing the Mental, Emotional and Physical Collection. It was a nice balance of thought and application.
I do feel it all came together for me this year. I have always felt like I was swimming under a layer of ice and I finally hit it from underneath hard enough and broke through. Thanks to my awesome horse Checkers, my mentor teacher Sherry, and my dear friends that are just as much a part of this journey as any thing else.
Wow...I'm finally where I want to be.
Lessons from Horsemanship Camp transferred to working cattle!
Had to write you to tell you what an exciting day I had today. We have been working our calves, pre-conditioning (vaccinating) for weaning in a couples weeks from now. Been using 4 wheelers for moving cows to corrals but used Jack for sorting in the corral. Was so happy to use the maneuvers you taught me on him and he worked so much better. I realized that what helps so much and why we do so good at it is because of the intention that you taught us about. We are so focused on the cow that even when one dives back into the herd, it is like parting the sea. So neat to realize how that works so well. I thought it was all Jack doing that however I do give him a lot of credit for his intentions.
Anyway another exciting thing that I learned today and thought you would be interested in was what I learned in moving the cows. We were taking the herd back to pasture with our 4 wheelers and I was watching our Border Collie and his herding at the same time my husband and I were criss-crossing in the back. It all came together, we were doing serpentines! That's what the dog was doing naturally. So I said "let’s try going up on opposite sides of the herd, turning in towards the cows and criss-crossing in the back, like your dance you talk about. It seemed to work great. I think we can really perfect our timing and dance as we only had about a half a mile to move them. Looks like if we want the herd to move in a different direction, the person on that side would go up a little farther. I am so anxious to try it some more.
So I got to thinking of this on a deeper level. Why I think this works is I think maybe cows need to be disengaged on the front end. When you think about it, when a cow gets on the fight, she braces in the front and faces her enemy. So exciting. I've heard that you need to move cows from the side so I am taking it a step farther. I think you need to disengage that front end and then drive them once moving. We have probably done a lot of this already without realizing what we were doing. I am so anxious to do more experimenting.
I haven't had time to work with Ace. We have been very busy. You did such a great job with him. I have way more hope for him now. Sprinklers have been breaking down and I help my husband with that. Almost through irrigating if we can just get through the next couple weeks.
The lessons that you taught were so, so, so valuable. Thanks so much and looking forward to working with you more.
What a wonderful spring, summer and fall season I have had. I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to work with so many horses and their owners. But to tell you the truth the hectic schedule has been more than I expected and I am so far behind on office work and honey do projects around the home front that I need some time to just catch up, rest and play a little. Even though I love my job and I am so grateful that I have been on a horse nearly every day since last March I am going to take some time for catch up, rest, and play the next couple of months. However I will be in the Omaha and Lincoln Area for regular lessons the weekend of Oct. 23-26, Nov. 13-16, and Dec. 11-14.
I will still be taking private lessons at my house or the mini clinic with FREE trail rides on Wed. I will not be scheduling any clinics away from home until January 2010. I know it will be hard on the pocket book but I am willing to invest in this time for my family, my own horses and myself in order to keep balance in my life. But come January watch out, I plan to have another busy schedule with lots of fun and challenging learning opportunities for those who wish to participate. If you want to host a clinic, let me know as soon as possible and the 2010 Camp schedule will be coming soon as well. So sign up early you will be glad you did!
Both amateur horse owners and professionals who are in the horse business know all about work. There never seems to be an end to it. Being “all caught up” with your work is impossible. Being “all caught up” in your work is probable. The nature of horses is to be “on” twenty-four hours a day. A barn full of living animals dependent on our diligence for survival can be both tiring and at the same time very rewarding. Our responsibility to give daily care to our horses is a given, and I also consider it my duty to help my horses be happy and physically able to do the jobs I ask him to do. So I focus on building his confidence, mental and emotional frame of mind, and his physique. I am obligated to balance his work with relaxation and times of rest and play in order to keep him from getting sour.
I also take my job very seriously to help my clients continue advancing down the road toward becoming an even better horseman. I believe this is my calling. I feel thrilled to have found it and to have so many clients who put their confidence in me. The question I am asking myself right now is whether I am creating the opportunity in my busy life for rest and play like I give my horses to keep them fresh and exuberant. As I consider the balance of work, rest and play in my life I would like to offer these suggestions to those of you who may also feel the need for a little rest and play.
- Set a regular bedtime each night and do your best to stick to it.
- Rise each morning at close to the same time. Like our horses, our bodies thrive on routine and stress on chaos.
- Replace your mattress if it doesn't provide the comfort you deserve.
- Indulge in at least one break in the morning, in the afternoon, and stop to eat lunch.
Your mind and body will function better with defined breaks in your daily timeline to rejuvenate.
Now, if you need permission to take a break, slow down or have some fun, You are hereby ordered to get work, rest and play in balance. That is exactly what I am going to do and I know with this balance I’ll be refreshed and renewed for another busy 2010 season of clinics, lessons and camps. I look forward to working with old clients and meeting new ones.
Until next time,
Heart in Your Hand Horsemanship LLC
Others have said
"The best and safest thing is to keep a balance in your life, acknowledge the great powers around us and in us. If you can do that, and live that way, you are really a wise man." -- Euripides
"Most people struggle with life balance simply because they haven't paid the price to decide what is really important to them." -- Stephen Covey
"We can be sure that the greatest hope for maintaining equilibrium in the face of any situation rests within ourselves." -- Francis J. Braceland
Creative Solutions: Find More Horse Time!
When I get together with a person, I always begin with asking them how it has been going since the last time I worked with them. And quite often the first thing I hear is, “I just haven’t had enough time to work with my horse. “
I do sympathize with them, because I realize how busy everyone seems to be these days. It can be frustrating to realize a month has gone by and you haven’t had time to do anything with your horse except feed him.
FIND MORE TIME BEHIND THE INVISIBLE FENCE!
Since time seems to be such a big obstacle I hear from so many horse lovers about why they can’t seem to progress as much as they would like with their horse I decided to share some creative solutions with all of you that I hope will help you find more time with your horse.
I'll bet you've heard of invisible fences (mainly for dogs), but you haven't seen one, have you? I know I have not ever seen one, but I have heard of them and some people have told me how well they work.
A person can see the components which make up this fence; like, wire and transmitters, but it is impossible to see the finished product. What we do see is the result of the invisible fence, which is the constant confinement of a dog in his yard. The dog respects the perimeter of the invisible fence even when other animals, objects or natural instincts may tempt him to leave. The invisible fence does its job establishing boundaries the dog will not cross.
It must be challenging to sell a product that no one can see. Instead of selling the product you have to sells its results. The results are the ability to keep your dog contained within an invisible perimeter. I'm sure you'll agree that boundaries are important in your life especially when you want your privacy and time respected. We could go on and on about boundaries that we have to establish in relationships especially with our horses. However, I am going to try to stay on point and talk about this problem of not enough time to spend with your horse in order to make the progress you desire.
Unfortunately, sometimes others don't respect the boundaries you want to establish in your business and personal lives especially when it comes to time. Have you ever noticed how the many people in your life have an unlimited amount of requests to make of you and your time? Wouldn't it be wonderful to have your own personal "invisible fence" to turn on and off whenever you needed to protect your horse time. Your invisible fence would allow you to get more done in less time without offending the time robbers in your life. Your message to others is that they are still very important to you, that you desire to be there for them, and that you are not inaccessible, but that you aren't always accessible on demand at any given moment.
How do you create your own invisible fence and get more horse time?
- Let voice mail answer the phone (and cell phone) for an hour or two. In fact you will find that I don’t answer my phone very often. But those who call me are very pleasantly surprised that I always call you back as soon as I can. Remember if the message is urgent, it will get to you. Disrupting your activity to accommodate a ringing phone costs you more time than you think when you consider the time for the call in addition to getting back on track with the project at hand. I never answer my cell phone when I am working with my horses or clients, they both deserve my undivided attention.
- Limit computer and TV time. It is unbelievable how much time can be sucked up by chat groups, e-mails, and TV programs. I try to be as efficient as possible in answering e-mails, and sometimes it is a better use of my time to call people to answer their questions instead of typing a book. I also try to only look at my e-mails once or twice a day max. And some days I even skip it, however, I work hard at being timely to reply, especially to clients. I don’t spend time any more reading all the cute jokes etc. I just can’t possibly keep up. I like our yahoo chat group and the support it provides the horse people who have taken lessons from me, so I keep up with it as best I can. However, I only look at other chat groups on occasion when I feel I can spare a few minutes, which isn’t very often. As for TV, there aren’t too many programs on these days I am all that interested in watching anyway. So I can live without it, and in fact I did for over 10 years. Not even one in the house. However, I think my hubby would have severe withdrawals without one.
- Get out of the mainstream, especially if you board your horse. I don’t mean you need to snub everyone. I think you will find it helpful to retreat to a more isolated area of the barn now and again to work with your horse in order to avoid so many interruptions and distractions. I live by a busy highway, and my arena is visible to drivers by. I often have people stop to visit for various reasons. Sometimes it is even strangers, curious about what I am doing. If I really need some time alone with a certain horse without interruptions for a short period, I go out back behind the trees in the pasture where I am invisible to passers by. I’m not being rude, rather I just want to focus on the horse and our relationship for a quality period of time. Kind of like shutting the bathroom door. If I’m out in the arena by the road, I’m polite to a friendly visit over the fence and realize I am open to that when I put myself in that area of my property. In other words my invisible fence is off or on depending on the location I choose to work in.
- Get Away! Leave the barn or your property for a few hours. You might not even have to trailer if you live in a rural area. Go to a nearby field, park, arena. Any location away from your other distractions that may keep you from quality time with your horse: like (the tank, tack, stalls, pens, need cleaned; the fence, roof, or a number of other things need repaired; the weeds, trees, shrubs, or lawn, need trimmed, etc. etc. etc.) You get the drift. Take a cell phone, laptop, a yellow pad to a library, the park, or a coffee shop where you can set goals and create a plan to keep yourself on track with your . You can often get a lot more done off premise.
- Establish a practice of an early start to your day. Get to your barn a half hour or more before the rest of the crowd arrives so you have the quality time we spoke about in #3. Developing some kind of a workable schedule will help you find more time with your horse. Just like a person schedules a yoga class, bowling league, church, etc. if you schedule a time for your horse, it will be more likely that you will keep the date. The people in WY have a natural horsemanship club, and they schedule regular meetings, play days and trail rides. See if you can find some like minded people to meet with on a regular basis. It helps to keep everyone more accountable. My Mom has been playing bridge on Wed. night with the same group of gals for over 30 years. I just know that I can’t ask her to do anything on Wed. nights because she plays bridge and I respect her time.
- Establish a practice of getting enough sleep. After attending one of my horsemanship camps, many of the people call me the “Ever Ready Energizer Bunny”. When I was in WY in Aug. I gave lessons from 8:00 am until 8:00 pm everyday without a break. Alyce brought me a sandwich out for lunch which I gobbled down as I taught a lesson. However, you can bet that by 10:00 pm I was sound asleep in my little bunkhouse, ensuring at least 8 hours every night. I would not have been able to keep up the pace without enough sleep.
- Get into the habit of saying No immediately to people who want you to do things that don't make sense to your business plan or to your personal plan. You don’t have to say Yes, to every request. It won’t make you less popular, accessible, or approachable. It will empower you to follow your values and develop even deeper relationships when boundaries are respected. No is the switch that will turn your invisible fence on to protect your boundaries.
I am not trying to lecture anyone by writing this article, nor am I trying to make anyone adapt to the principles that I live by, but these things seem to work for me. When I bend the rules of any of these seven solutions for very long, I find I don’t have enough quality time with my horses. I do have to be fairly disciplined when I am at home because of the amount of time I spend on the road. I hope you will be thinking of other ways to create your private invisible fence to protect others from intruding in your personal back yard. And if you come up with some other solutions that work for you, I would love to hear them.
From Emma’s Mom: Emma spent an afternoon at Sherry’s house, riding Cisco.
I just want to let you know what a tremendous impact you had on Emma the other day and thought you'd like to know the great things she's told me about her day with you.
When we were leaving she was in tears... tears of joy Sherry. She said to me; "Mom, she made such a difference in my life..." and the entire way home she told me all the neat things you'd shown her, the interesting ways you explained things to her and how you kept explaining things she didn't understand until she did grasp the idea! That was huge in her eyes Sherry - that you cared enough to keep explaining instead of becoming frustrated and getting angry or upset.
She was overjoyed having learned so many new things and the vital corrections you made in her riding. You notice when she does something right and encourage her, rooting for her to do well and seeing when she's made those changes! That is something she's not had before and was used only to hearing the mistakes she was making without positive correction or encouragement when she did do something right.
That's why I was so excited to get her started with you Sherry - I saw not only how you worked at the 4-H meeting but also how she responded to your encouragement and enthusiasm! I knew you would be kind, understanding and gentle yet firm but also that you would cheer and acknowledge when she'd grasped something new or corrected the things she needed to change. Seeing the good in her and rooting her on to do better made her a very happy little girl. She needs that and it's exactly what you give! Thank you!
I wish I could remember all the things she said so I could repeat them back for you - your heart would melt - you made that big an impact on Emma Saturday and she's very eager for more. Again Sherry, thank you!!! The remainder of Emma's weekend was spent telling anybody who'd listen about her time spent with you Saturday afternoon and even Popcorn Days paled in comparison to the fun, neat times she had with you Sherry.
Emma hasn't had many adults in her life that take an interest in her or her well being and though I have actively sought to bring her together with people that do care and want to be a participant, make a difference in a child's life for the better, unfortunately we've ended up with folks that talked a good story but in the end made things more difficult and hard - if that makes sense?
You obviously are not only great at horsemanship and care about teaching people how to correctly go about riding and owning a horse but also took the time to show Emma you cared about her - that's what made the difference!
Emma just kept repeating, tearily, on the way home how you'd "made such a difference in [her] entire life" and for a mom to hear that is the best thing in the world!!
Well Sherry I won't keep you but wanted to take a moment to thank you and share some of the wonderful things I'd heard from Emma with you, and hope it's put a big smile on your face. She had a fantastic weekend thanks to you!
We look forward to seeing you Wednesday at 10:00 Sherry.
And Emma, I had a fantastic time with you too and so did my special horse Cisco! Thanks for being careful to do what I asked with him, as he is so dear to me.Thanks for giving me the opportunity to serve you and share with you my love and passion of horses and especially my wonderful horse Cisco. I’m looking forward to working with your yearling filly next week.
From Carla in Wyoming: Working with her Young Horse
Thank you for the very encouraging note! The day after our lesson, I practiced the loading button. She followed me in the trailer twice, the third time she walked in and stood there on her own, just like you said she would! I’ve also been climbing on her back from the fence. How much fun is that? It is so comfortable to lay on her bare back. I then saddled her and bridled her and we rode safely and relaxed in the round pen. She stops when I use my butt and when I pick up one rein she crosses her back legs to turn. I am working her with confidence thanks to you. I’ve got two more colts to start and I am excited.
Your saddle pard,
Old Carla in WY
Thanks Backatya’ Carla. I knew you could do it! See you again next year!
Sherry on Milo (3 year old training horse) at fall Women's Camp
Well summer is winding down and we are approaching my favorite time of the year, FALL and the HOLIDAYS! I usually complain about summer heat, but I have to admit that I didn’t whine near as much this year because for the most part it has been fairly cool here. I didn’t even use a whole bottle of Anti-Monkey Butt Powder to control the heat rash I normally put up with. I only had a few break outs this summer, and Keith and I saved a lot of money this summer as we rarely used out air conditioner. Our concrete house stayed nice and cool this summer with gentle breezes blowing through the open windows. I have to admit we used less fly spray on our horses than ever before because we just haven’t had as many flies this year, which was not only less annoying but another money saver. Then all the wonderful rains we have had has kept our pasture going much longer than normal which amounts to less hay consumption, another dollar saver. And last I have had the most business ever in one summer since I started this business full time just 5 years ago. I wish every summer in NE could be this lovely.
Even in the midst of a so called economic down turn a business can thrive with a little help from mother nature, careful strategic budget and market planning, an optimistic attitude, excellent customer service, a fair price, and consistent, encouraging, and positive results which benefit the client.
I can now smell and feel fall in the air and it gets me excited as I love the approaching cooler seasons. I am also excited about the young horses coming to my house this month for training and Erica returning to work with me. She is no longer called an apprentice but my training associate as she has paid her dues and worked hard with me the past three years. However, if you were thinking of sending a young horse this fall you will have to wait until the next course in the spring of 2010, as we are full again for this Sept. As of right now, I plan to take more young horses next spring and fall as I work better in cooler weather. And I plan to have apprentices here at the same time to support my work with the young horses. So if you are interested in the internship program for 2010 please call me as soon as possible to visit about the possibilities.
The summer months next year will be set aside for the successful camps at Calamus Outfitters, plus traveling for private lessons and clinics. I will be going back to Wyoming again next summer for a couple of weeks as they have already requested my return. In fact they want to make it an annual event. A couple of other 4-H groups have already requested another clinic for next year. The 2010 schedule will come out in the next couple of months.
I am thinking of slowing it down a bit in Nov. and Dec. in order to start writing and designing artwork for a second book, plus I love decorating for the holidays and having guests over. Of course, I will keep with my once a month schedule to Omaha and Lincoln for private lessons and mini clinics throughout the rest of this year as I have a very dedicated group of students willing to take monthly lessons from me. I will also still welcome anyone wanting to come to my place for lessons Oct.-Dec. upon special request. Even with bad weather we can always go out to Calamus Outfitters to ride in the indoor arena.
This year a lot more people have come to visit me for private lessons and I love the fact that I don’t have to travel. It is so fun to share my lifestyle and our horse herd with those who come. However, I also know it will always be necessary for me to travel to meet the needs of horse lovers wanting to expand their horsemanship journey. So even though I would like to live in the fantasy world of everyone coming to me, I realize this is not possible. You can be confident I will continue to be the traveling trainer who is always accessible, approachable, adaptable, and reliable. I do still suggest that you consider a trip our place in the sandhills. I promise it will be an awesome experience. This year I have had people travel from MN, CO, WY, IL, IA, MO, and yes even FL to our little piece of heaven here in central NE. And all of them have been more than happy with the experience and have found it to be a quality investment in their future with their horses.
I am also looking forward to three Women’s Camps between now and Oct. 6th. It is always so much fun to have horse lovers come out to enjoy the beauty of the sandhills with me, and allowing me to share my passion for horsemanship through natural feel with them. As I look forward to my favorite seasons, I also look forward to the horses and their owners that I will encounter this fall. And more than anything I look forward to the relationships we will develop, the lessons I will teach them and the lessons they will in turn teach me.
Until next time,
Heart in Your Hand Horsemanship LLC
Author of "Win Your Horse's Heart" (And Be a Better Horseman)
"High achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation"--Charles Kettering
"This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it."-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Monday, August 3, 2009
A Creative Solution for a Hard to Catch Horse
Have you ever thought; “If I only had a round pen?”
Until very recently, I’ve not had a round pen at my place for over 6 years and I have gotten along just fine. I’ve always kept an open mind about using a round pen. I do have some reservations about a few of the techniques used in a round pen because a little too much unnecessary pressure can be put on a horse when we forget about the release and draw. If we are not careful a round pen can bring out the predatory tendencies in a person which will not benefit the horse.
I’ve read a lot of horse training books on harmony and feel with horses. I’ve watched my fair share of videotapes on gentle horse breaking. I studied educational psychology in college and can see how some of it relates to the horse human relationship. I’ve attended quite a few clinics of popular clinicians both as an auditor and rider participant. I’ve learned so much from the hundreds of horses I’ve worked with through my students and the many clinics that I teach. After all of these experiences I can see the benefit of a round pen when it is used properly. But what if you don’t have one?
Many of you don’t have a round pen at home and many real-life situations are not textbook or clinic examples, so you have to be creative and figure out ways to deal with what you have. If you don’t have a round pen don’t be discouraged, just take time to think about horse psychology and the training principles you know then apply it to your situation.
Here is an example of a real life situation that I encountered recently. A client called me to help her catch a hard to catch mustang. The problem was, he was in a pasture with no round pen available and there was not even a smaller square pen which we could chase him into. A pasture several acres in size was the only available place to attempt catching this horse not to mention that there were three other horses with him. I knew that chasing this horse around until he stopped was not going to work. Bribing him wouldn’t work either, that had been attempted to no avail. The little mustang had been winning the “You Can’t Catch Me” game for some time now, so I knew I needed a game plan before arriving. Of course His favorite tactic was to hide behind the other horses. In order to solve this dilemma I started thinking about how we could use the concept of moving a horse in a round pen until he turns toward you without the advantage that real panels would provide by keeping the horse confined.
Working with what I had available I planned to see if I could catch the other horses first and tie them on the outside of the pasture, preferably in a corner. I figured that the mustang would run over to be with his buddies in the corner. I presumed that when I made him move out he would circle back so as not to get too farm from his friends, creating an invisible round pen. This was my game plan and it worked with a few alterations. Remember always have a plan but be flexible to change it when needed.
With my play book in hand I drove to the clients place. When I arrived it was raining, not buckets, but enough to get us nice and wet. We had on slickers which added another unforeseen and interesting element which we suspected would cause concern for the horses. I suggested this is a real life situation where we can't always be in a textbook clinic type environment, so let's make the best of it by using our creative thinking. I reached into my quiver full of savvy skills and principles drawing out the ones I thought we could use to set this experience up for success.
As we walked in the pouring rain and very tall and wet grass to find the horses I advised my client to not even think about catching her horse. I told her not to look at him, to ignore him completely as if he wasn’t even on the planet with us, and above all breathe. Don’t hold you’re your breath because it will create brace in your body which will cause an unfriendly appearance. Wouldn't you know the herd was in the farthest corner from where we began our journey?
When we approached the herd they snorted at our rain gear just as we thought they might. I reminded my client not to put any pressure on them, that all we need to do is blend in and become a part of the herd. It worked. The young Arab couldn't stand it, she was so curious she had to check us out. As I stood still breathing very relaxed she came up to sniff me. Then she turned farted and ran off bucking. The others followed suit but didn't go far before they circled back around us. We began to blend with the herd again. The other two mares came up to greet us, but the mustang never approached us. I suggested some other ways we could look more inviting.
After petting all three horses, we kept ignoring the horse we really wanted to catch until he finally got curious enough to come smell me. But he still said “No touching allowed” as I reached my hand out to his nose. After he quietly left I again acted like I didn't even know he was in the country. We continued to love on the other horses except the Arab who had decided I was indeed the boogie man wearing that long black slicker. So I took it off, threw it on the ground and continued to love on the other two horses. It was so funny when the Arab and the mustang started stomping my rain coat. The mustang even began eating it. While this was going on we haltered the two mares. By this time the mustang was entertaining himself with the stick on the ground, he was chewing on the handle. We laughed when he picked up the string and drug the whole thing around.
We only had two halters so we left the Arab loose. Remember my plan was to tie the other horses on the outside of the fence in the corner. But since we didn't have enough halters, the other horses didn’t belong to this gal and it was barbed wired with a bunch of farm equipment around it, we decided to not take a chance of any of them getting hurt. Instead I had my client hold the two horses we had caught about 60 feet away from the corner creating an imaginary round pen.
After putting my slicker back on I began to play with the two loose renegades. It wasn’t long before the little mustang decided to catch me!!! If you have a hard to catch horse you need to quit thinking about catching him. Use some reverse psychology. Take the attitude that you want the horse to catch you. It was amazing how well the imaginary round pen worked. The smart mustang never left 40 feet from the horses in the middle.
The Arab tried to get in our way a few times, but she was easy to move around when needed. I never once thought about catching this horse. I stayed between him and the two mares in the middle of our imaginary round pen. I mirrored his every move. I was very careful about staying in the neutral zone. I stayed in the proper position so I could still keep him from joining the two mares without driving him away. I only put pressure on him once when he tried to drive me away so he could join the two mares in the middle. It took very little energy from me to let him know he couldn't push me around. I didn’t even need to raise my hand. I just gave him the teacher look “You’re in trouble now Buddy”. I did not have a stick in my hand. I did not use a rope or the lead to direct the horse because my purpose was to draw the horse in to me not drive him away. The halter was draped over my arm in a casual way.
We were surprise that the mustang never even tried to leave the imaginary round pen. It was magical. Every time he stopped or gave the slightest indication he wanted to be with me, I walked a little toward the two mares in the middle. I was a little amazed myself how well it worked. It only took about 20 minutes before the mustang joined up with me. I still had not tried to catch him or halter him. I sent him out about 3 or 4 more times as a test to see if he was truly caught and wanted to be with me before I put the halter on without the lead. After that he continued to be with me on his own accord.
Before leaving I helped my client come up with some alternative techniques and strategies to set her up for success when she is by herself. After putting together her game plan we went to
her house to dry out and eat some lunch. It was a very successful and fun morning playing with horses because we used some creative solutions to catch a hard to catch horse even though we didn’t have a round pen, or a perfect setting to apply the principles. So the next time you are bemoaning the fact that you don’t have a round pen or a real life situation presents a less than perfect setting put on your thinking cap and experiment with the principles and savvy you have worked so hard to learn. You might just be pleasantly surprised at the result!
There is a very happy ending to this story. The next day it only took the owner 10 minutes to catch this horse using the strategies we set up for her and only 3 minutes the next time. I know that it will only get better as these two continue to develop their relationship and savvy by using creative solutions for real life situations.
My horse will not turn right and I am planning to try out for rodeo queen in less than a month. She also bucked me off not too long ago. Please help!
It sounds like you don't have much time to fix this problem. Unfortunately there is not a real quick fix for the issues you are having with your horse. There are a lot of reasons a horse may not turn right or bucks, but aside from a physical ailment then I would say your horse has some holes in his foundation. These issues are just symptoms of a much bigger communication problem. However, if you work real hard and smart you may have enough time to improve before the competition. First you will need to break the problem down into pieces then fix each piece before putting it all back together.
It is wise to start with trying to figure out what is causing these issues,
1. Physical: (Is the horse in some kind of pain or lameness? Is he too tired?)
2. Right-Brain: (Is he afraid or misunderstanding what you want?)
3. Left-Brain: Is he argumentative? (Doesn't want to go forward or turn right?)
4. Adrenaline: (Does the horse have too much energy, not paying attention?)
5. Bored: (Does the horse lack motivation, and not see a purpose?)
Quite often the solutions to many problems you have with a horse involve:
1. Improve ground skills before riding. (Do exercises on the ground which will directly transfer to the saddle)
2. Improve your independent Seat: (Riding with more fluidity by moving with the horse NOT against him. Make sure your weight is level and on your balance point. Check that you are NOT leaning forward and keep your legs loose, NOT gripping, etc.)
3. Improve your Communication. (Have crystal clear intention with a strong focus, soft feel, and timing with release which is meaningful to the horse)
4. Improve your ability to read the horse. (Observe behaviors quickly, assess the situation and provide an immediate and appropriate response before things get out of hand.)
5. Improve the learning frame of mind of both you and your horse. (Think things through and learn how to get and keep your horse’s mind. Let him think and solve problems. Help him find the right way.)
1. First check for any signs of physical lameness or injury, especially on his right side?
Don’t look only at his legs and feet; also look at his rib cage, shoulders, neck, teeth, or even an eye sight problem. If you find anything suspicious then have your vet inspect your horse. You can’t blame a horse for not turning right or bucking if his saddle fits poorly which causes pinching when you ask him to turn right or move out. If there are no signs of physical ailments hindering the horse from performing then it is time to look at your horsemanship skills.
2. Do you really have your horse's attention when you are riding him? When a horse is NOT being attentive to us he is thinking more about the other horses, the barn, the next bite of grass, the wind blowing something in the trees, etc. When this happens you need to stop and bring the horse’s attention back before you ask the horse to do anything. Remember you need to be doing things together.
You can do this many ways, (a shift of your weight, a bend of the head, a step back, a tap of your foot, etc.) If it is really bad you may have to get off and do some ground exercises to get his attentiveness. Sometimes it is easier to gain it back on the ground first then mount back up.
You know your horse is paying attention to you, if he has an ear on you, he is feeling of you, being responsive, and asking you questions like, "What should I do next?" (You can see this in the horse’s expression and feel it when he hesitates for further instructions.) If the horse is not able to stand still and is taking over going where he wants when he wants then he isn't paying any attention to you and you need to get this fixed before you worry about trying to teach him to go to the right.
3. If the horse is scared or worried this would be a sign of lack of trust between you and the horse. It is your job to help your horse feel ok inside with what you are asking him to do on the outside. Your horse may be unconfident about having things on his right side or traveling in that direction, so you need to slow down and help him gain some confidence about doing things on this side. The best way to do that may be starting with some ground work from his right side like: (desensitizing to all kinds of objects, lateral flexion, shoulder yields, HQ yields, side passing, and circling). Until the horse is real confident with you doing things on that side turning may continue to be difficult.
By doing these exercises from the ground you can help your horse be more calm, willing and attentive whenever you ask anything of him while on his right side. After these things are easy to perform on the ground then start to transfer these same kinds of exercises into the saddle. The most important being desensitizing, lateral flexion, and shoulder yields.
4. If your horse is misunderstanding your cues this would be a sign of poor feel on your part or lack of clear communication. You need to learn how to have better feel in your whole body and reins that says, “I'm going to the right. How about you, will you come with me?” Instead of you need to go right even if you don’t understand my cue. The horse needs to give well to the bit, and you need to know the difference between a direct and indirect rein. I would start over riding with two hands until the horse is responding well before I go back to asking with one hand.
If you are NOT crystal clear about how you direct your horse to the right, and if you don't wait patiently for the slightest try releasing him as soon as he makes any effort, then you are creating a situation where you are frustrating the horse even further. Being very soft, patient and consistent with your cues which are progressive adding more support and intensity when needed will go a long way to helping your horse understand what you want. Demanding too much, being too quick and harsh, then quitting before the horse is clear about what you want will cause non-compliance from the horse.
5. If your horse is argumentative even though your cues are clear and you are sure the horse understands this could be a sign of lack of respect. You can't blame the horse for this, because you have to earn respect. If he is used to pushing you around on the ground then it won't change when you get on his back, in fact, it usually gets worse. Or maybe you haven’t earned his respect because you act like a dictator who keeps telling your horse "no don't do this or this and not that either", instead of here let me help you find the right answer to what I am asking you to do, then when you get it I'll reward you.
If your horse is simply unwilling even though he knows what you are asking, then it is your job to figure out a way that motivates him to want to comply with a willing heart. The best way to do this is to help him feel better about what you are asking him to do. I think of releasing the horse into the movement and then rewarding him as quick as possible. (Some rewards may be getting to stand still and do nothing, cantering about if your horse likes to run, a scratch or pet in their favorite place, turning towards the other horses or barn where he wants to go anyway, a treat on a barrel, or a munch of grass with your permission). You have to create a situation where there is something in it for the horse if you want him to be 100% willing. Sometimes when a horse is attentive, there are no physical limitations, he is confident, the cues are clear, he understands exactly what you are asking, and he respects you and wants to please, he may not see any reason in going to the right. Maybe he isn’t willing because he is bored with the, “Same OL’ Same OL’.” You need to become more provocative and interesting to the horse. Help him see a purpose in what you are asking him to do. An obstacle to go around, a gate to go through to the right, a corner to follow, a ball, another horse, or cow to go with or a pattern to perform can give your horse new motivation. Patterns or obstacles give your horse a reason to perform and security about what is expected. But if a pattern is over done it can become drill, well when this happens then it can work against you too. It is all about balancing your act with your horse, according to his point of view.
6. If you are locked up or bracing on one side of your body, you are preventing the horse from turning or may even be causing the bucking. If you are squeezing your thighs together this causes your seat bones to be disconnected from the horse through his back. Bracing in your body can also prevent a good feel in your hands creating a disjointed feeling to the bridle which is your connection to the feet.
It is also important to think about footfall when turning your horse. Asking for a right turn just as the left front foot is hitting the ground and just as the right front foot is leaving the ground will cause the turn to be easier for the horse, because you are actually placing the right front foot to the right as it hits the ground. Asking when the foot is already under the horse makes for big bracing strength against the rider.
Start with getting your horse attentive, calm, and in a learning frame of mind, next get him bending soft laterally and giving to the bit willingly, then make sure you are not bracing in your body and that you are using your core not just your reins to turn the horse and lastly get in time with his feet. Oh and don't forget about impulsion (meaning your horse goes forward real nice). When all these things are in place you will set your horse up for success turning right or doing just about anything else you want him to do and he’ll most likely also stop bucking.
If you don't know how to do the things listed above I suggest you get some professional help for YOU! I don't mean send your horse to a trainer, because it is a mutual learning experience for both you and your horse that will benefit you the most.
PS: Our Friendly Warning: There is always some risk involved in horse training for both you and the horse. Horses can cause serious injury. Be sensible and don’t attempt anything that is outside your comfort level. Any information in this article or that we present through any of our programs are intended to illustrate how we apply our training techniques with success. However you are responsible for using this information wisely. If you don’t feel comfortable with your abilities or an exercise, don’t do it! Seek advice or assistance from a professional before attempting things beyond your skill or confidence level. Stay on the "high side of trouble".
Keep it natural and above all KEEP IT SAFE!
I’ll bet you have heard someone say, “If you have never fallen off your horse you don’t ride very much.” There may be some truth to those words, because you just never know what might happen. Any way we look at it, horses are risky business, which may be part of the lure for some thrill seekers. However, I am a firm believer that by using our natural powers of observation with the knowledge we have gained through study and experience and the better we develop our skill and relationship with our horse the more likely we will be able to avoid catastrophes. Many so called accidents are caused by our own lack of awareness, laziness, ignorance, or attempting things without the prior and proper preparation necessary to perform the task. But other times something happens which can qualify as a freak accident. It may or may not have been avoided. Horses, while predictable the majority of the time, are unpredictable the rest of the time. In a split second things can change, therefore we need to be very diligent at paying attention.
I recently read that Linda Parelli had an accident on her horse Remmer. She was supposedly cantering in a pasture when he tripped and fell head over heals. She ended up in the hospital for a couple of days. It is reported she is at home and recovering well and Remmer is also fine. From all reports it sounds like this could have been one of those “freak accidents” that may not have been preventable. One never knows. I had a gal come to one of my clinics this spring who told me a few months prior to coming to the clinic her horse had stepped in a hole and went down landing on her. From the information I have both of these horses tried hard to save themselves and their riders. But the force of gravity was too great for them to overcome, once the unbalanced movement had begun. I am not writing these things to put fear in anyone, but rather to remind us all to count our blessings and ride with as much wisdom as we can, continue our education and stay alert so we can reduce the risk, stay safe and have more fun.
Hope to see you on the trail this summer or fall! There is still some room in the Sept. Women’s Camps, so sign up now!
Thank you for celebrating with us the love of horses. Thank you to all the new people who have taken lessons from me this year, the people who have entrusted me with their young horses, and to all the regular students who have stuck with me over the last 4 years so faithfully. It is a real blessing serving all of you and helping your horses feel better about what we are asking them to do.
Until next time,
"Hope springs eternal" --Alexander Pope
"There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves."--Will Rogers
You can get a lot accomplished with your horse at the walk. A good walk should be an obsession with every great horseman. A good walk is something we ought to think about every time we go somewhere with our horse whether it is on the ground leading him or riding him.
I remember well the words of one of my mentors:
“If you can’t do it well at a walk don’t even think about doing it at a trot or canter with success.”
What is a good walk?
1. The horse is calm, relaxed, attentive, willing and in balance.
2. It looks light and effortless.
3. It is lively, but not always increasing in speed. You don’t have to keep holding the horse back.
4. The horse is not lifeless or dull; where you are always have to keep encouraging him to keep walking.
5. The horse goes the speed you ride him.
6. You and the horse look like you are going somewhere; you have someplace to be and something to do.
7. There is a steady cadence or rhythm.
8. The horse’s head is level with withers, with a nice swinging motion in his head and neck.
9. The horse’s face is on the vertical and the reins have loose contact.
10. The horse’s hind feet are reaching forward under his belly button.
Some of the benefits of a good walk:
1. You’ll have fewer problems directing your horse.
2. You’ll have more control over your horse’s movements and individual body parts.
3. It enhances overall performance. The better your walk is the more the trot, canter and gallop will improve.
4. It is easier at the walk to develop your horse’s suppleness then when you increase the speed you will set your horse up for success.
5. It is better to improve your horse’s lateral movements at the walk then when you add speed it will be easier for your horse.
6. It is the best gait to teach your horse to keep straight, if he can keep straight at the walk it will be more natural for him to keep straight in other gaits.
7. A good walk allows for mechanical ease and energetic efficiency. It creates strength, power and stamina.
8. A balanced walk will not cause damage or strain to the tendons, legs, soft tissue or muscles.
9. A good walk takes less metabolic energy to achieve the same goals.
10. It also increases the stride length and range of movement, making the body more adaptable and adjustable.
11. It also becomes physiologically and psychologically easier on the horse due to a sense of control and well being that comes from inside of him.
I mention all of this about walking because I recently gave a lesson to one of my regular students and her horse’s overall muscle development was greatly improved since I had last seen this horse. I had never seen this horse look better. I asked her what she had been doing different with her horse. She said that she had only been walking her horse for the last several months. She decided to do this because her horse was bracing so much in other gaits. So she determined to get the brace out of her horse at the walk first, then she would progress to other gaits. Well it is paying off with great dividends.
The walk is a very valuable gait when done well. You have probably seen a horse that is walking real nice. Your eye will recognize it as beautiful, graceful, effortless movement that exudes power and strength. We all have the ability to recognize this when we see it. But do we have the patience to get it with our horses?
Thank you for celebrating with us the love of horses. Thank you to all the new people who have taken lessons from me in the past three months, the people who have entrusted me with their young horses, and to all the regular students who have stuck with me over the last 4 years so faithfully. It is a real blessing serving all of you and helping your horses feel better about what we are asking them to do.
Until next time,
I would like to share my experience of my 4-day, Women's Confident Leadership Camp, held in June in Burwell, NE @ Calamus Outfitters.
I took my horse Atticus, a five-year old Paint with me. I bought Atticus as a three-year old – yes the cardinal sin of horse ownership was broke. A green rider and a green horse – Yee Haw.
Anyways, Atticus and I have come a long ways together. There have been many tears and moments of freedom and joy that I will never be able to explain with words.
I wasn't sure what to expect. When we arrived and began our first day, just the thought of going outside the indoor arena AND the fact of taking a trail ride in the Sandhills was basically unthinkable. How will I control him when he breaks gait or bucks?
As we were in the indoor arena, Sherry asked us to ride at the walk and close our eyes. By God if Atticus didn't break gait. I had a meltdown and Sherry was right there to assure me that I wasn't going to stay in that frame of mind and I was going to take action and pull up with one rein to slow him and change the gait back to the walk. I started to see her words work with my actions. I have had many good friends and trainers explain this to me but for some reason, now was the time the universe chose to make me understand it and execute it.
As the group of wonderful women decided to go outside, I wanted to grow and go too. Sherry assured me that she would be right there with me. She was. Atticus tried over seven times that day to break gate and Sherry was right there coaching me along and I was changing the "normal" outcome of such an action. Even when Sherry turned to assist the others, Atticus tried and I shut him down. I began to feel stronger and more confident as the afternoon went on. Sherry also relayed for me to keep my legs off of his sides and sit back in the seat.
Again, others have shared this but until that very day, that place in time, did I get it and execute it successfully. Sherry knew exactly what to say to help me understand what to do. This is the mark of a true educator and communicator.
I don't care if it is horsemanship or tennis – it doesn't matter. The message was timed perfectly and communicated clearly and simply. Ahhhh, just what I had DARED to hope for.
Then, the group decided to go on the trail ride. I reached down inside me and got the answer to go also. So, we went on the 2.5 hour trail ride and as promised, Sherry was right there with me, coaching me – even when Atticus bucked; I remember the words and actions to take with the one-rein stop, legs off, seat deep and back in the saddle.
I wondered why it had taken so long to find the seat combined with leg and rein cues. Oh, no bother I thought, it is working, I'm confident and Atticus understands.
We had a lovely afternoon with a group of wonderful women and a facilitator that understood me and my needs and was there for me. She was my rock or my well in which I could draw from when I needed to. Yes indeed, I'd found salvation with my horse, and a new lifelong trainer that was efficient and effective in her communications.
This instruction and direction was only one piece of many – discussions, classroom, homework, a review of a very valuable informational packet, private time with the facilitator, group time—all the adult learning principles were covered.
In my job (the one that I do each day so my horses will have a better life!) I recruit for talent and train and develop employees myself (and have been in HR for twelve years). So when I tell you that Sherry is a very polished professional with results that are measurable, I feel I can do so emphatically, with conviction and experience.
One of the most important areas to identify on any road to success is to have a coach or mentor or whatever you want to call it. I already have two (Michelle and Colleen), and I am secure in reporting that Ms. Sherry is on the list too—Sherry, thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping me reach goals and break through thresholds. I've got a long ways to go, but I know success is eminent with you on my side.