Thursday, December 30, 2010

Jan. 2011 Newsletter

As I write this newsletter with only two more days left in 2010 it is lightly snowing. The last three days it was in the 40’s and even up to 50 so I took full advantage of the beautiful weather by riding my horses. However, my office work has taken a back seat for way too long and I will discipline myself the following weeks to get caught up. As I look back over the past 12 months I am so thankful for all the wonderful people and their horses who shared their horsemanship journey with me. I think I learned as much as they did as I taught and helped both horse and rider develop their relationship and skills.

One of the things I hear people say when they talk about instructors they have had, they want a person who will listen to them, encourage them, and teach them from where they are not from where the clinician is. So this year I am working on my listening skills for both the horse and the rider so that I can break things down and teach them from exactly where they are, not where they think they should be, or where I want them to be. However, I do know that sometimes this may cause the person to be discouraged, especially if they are not where they think they should be. So I will hone in and work on my encouragement skills (or in horse language, reward the slightest try) in order to support the person to keep on moving forward one step at a time even if there are obstacles in our path. I will work with the person and horse to either work around these obstacles, learn to deal with them, or move these obstacles out of our way.

Each year Heart in Your Hand Horsemanship has grown and evolved in different ways. In the past couple of years some additions have been my book “Win Your Horse’s Heart” (Be a Better Horseman) was published and this year we added a new bunk house for you to stay in when you come to our place for lessons, clinics, trail rides, camps, internship, or to bring your horse for 30 days of training. We also have nice new individual pens for your horse, a round pen, and playground. In 2011 we will hold any camp with only 4 or 5 people in the new Bunkhouse. Camps with over 4 or 5 people will still be held at Calamus Outfitters. In fact the May 9-12 Camp is already full with 8 people. It will be exciting as it is a camp with both husbands and wives coming together. Another first, well we have had Dad’s come to the parent youth camps before.

2011 will be another year of firsts, growth and change as we evolve to meet the needs of horse lovers. This winter, I am working on another book, but this one is a spiral bound workbook, with step by step exercises to help you build an even better relationship with your horse. In addition to our monthly private lessons trip to Omaha and Lincoln, a yearly week in WY at the Carter Ranch, plus clinics anywhere upon request, we are also offering several new camps formats this year which include:
• Horsemanship & Trail Obstacles Camp: will include groundwork, de-spooking, horsemanship skills, and a variety of trail obstacles and fun trail rides. A friendly competition for extra motivation.
• Trail Ride Camp: is for people, who are not interested in lessons, they just want a really cool place to trail ride. We provide the lodging for both horses and humans, the land to ride on, lease horse if needed, and the wrangler to guide you. Bring the whole family or a group of your friends. Space limited to small groups of 6-8.
• Spirit Horse Retreat Camp: is for those who want to grow spiritually and they love horses. I have found that horses can teach us so much about ourselves and our relationships. They are like mirrors with hair on them. They can teach us many truths about life. Round pen, ground work exercises, riding tasks, mixed with free times of reflection, plus guided discussions & bible study will round out your day. Bring your own horse or lease one of ours if you don't have one.
• Yoga for Riders Camp: is for those who want to develop their physical abilities as a rider. We will be doing yoga class every morning for our own bodies. Then we will be doing stretching exercises for your horse to improve his suppleness, and then we will be transferring the yoga exercises to riding. You will go away more physically fit, a plan to continue it, and a more balanced rider.
• Body, Mind, and Spirit Camp: is a combination of the Spirit Horse Retreat and Yoga for Riders Camp with common sense horsemanship skills which will keep you progressing. We will start the day with Yoga exercises (Body), work the common sense horsemanship skills in the middle of the day (MIND), and end the day with Bible Study (Spirit).
Of course we will continue the camps we have had for the last 5 years as well. Which are:
• Youth Camps for those over 12 years of age, and the Youth/Parent Camps for those under 12.
• The Women's Confident Leadership camps are a real hit for those needing just that, more confidence with their horse.
• The Young Horse Handling Camps are for those who want to get their horse off to a good start with a solid foundation.
• Horsemanship Boot Camp for those really serious about taking their horsemanship to the next level (we worked real hard, not a lot of leisure time, and the camp is more days).
• Alumni Camp in Sept. This is for anyone who has ever attended a camp in the past 5 years. It will include the regular classroom sessions, free time with your horse, group and individual instruction, simulations, and leisure trail rides.
• Annual Alumni Camp in Oct. This camp is by invite only, we will be advancing each person from their level, doing drill team patterns, liberty and finesse skills, and yoga exercises
It is not too early to sign up for one of these camps. You can find dates for each one on our website Calendar . I know in this economy everyone wants to know the cost of the camps and I can guarantee you that our prices are more than competitive. In fact I have been looking for a clinic to attend for my own continuing education and everything is nearly 2-4 times what our camps cost. So if you are looking for a great value we will meet your need. You can sign up by Clicking Here.

We invite you to join us in our new horsemanship adventures in 2011 and go where you never dreamed possible.

Upcoming Events:

Jan. 7-9 Private Lessons in Omaha and Lincoln, unless the roads are bad, then the back up date is Jan. 14-16

Please reserve your private lesson time as soon as possible, as we only have a week to put together the schedule and we all know that can be challenging. If we have to postpone until Jan. 14-16 we will try to keep the schedule as close as possible to the Jan. 7-9 one, however, I know it will need a little adjusting.

Jan. 22: Equine Psychology Class in Bennington 10:00-4:00
This will be held in a private heated indoor arena. Bring your own lawn chair. We will have a variety of horses to observe as they are at liberty in a herd, and then while being handled by different people. We will discuss their horsenality, things going on with the horse and between them and the handler, plus strategies to deal with behaviors and situations that come up. You will not need to bring a horse. This is an interactive session in the arena with some classroom time as well. Bring a lunch, or be prepared to go somewhere.

I will also schedule some lessons this weekend on Fri. the 21st. However I do plan to go home Sat. night after the class unless some others want lessons on Sun.
I plan to come to the Omaha/Lincoln area each month throughout the winter just as I have done for the past three years. So if you can't make the trek out to Burwell for lessons or camps, remember I will continue to be the traveling trainer coming directly to you in order to meet your individual needs.

Feb. 11-13 Private Lessons in Omaha and Lincoln, unless the roads are bad, then the back up date is Feb. 18-20

Feb. 26 Yoga for Riders, place to be determined.

Against All Odds

Last month I continued the discussion about the acronym CAWA (Calmness, Attentiveness, Willingness and Adaptability). I talked about the willingness of the human and how the heart regulates the hands, if you missed it you can read it on my blog. I said that I would talk about the willingness of the horse this month, but every year my January newsletter usually includes something about goal setting, achievement and motivation. So I would like to continue that tradition this year.

The picture is of Bettina Eistel and her horse is Fabuleax 5. If you look closely, this is a 50 year old woman from Germany who does not have any arms. Bettina doesn’t let her disability stop her, in fact she didn’t just overcome her disability, and she walloped it! She wears riding boots with cut-outs in the toes so she can have ‘hands’ (imagine how cold her toes must get … and how often they clip a branch or a fence board – ouch!). She can saddle, bridle, hose down, wrap, blanket and do just about anything else that is needed for her horse. And, she rides by steering with her legs and holding the reins in her mouth. IN HER MOUTH. Try that…Kind of makes me feel ridiculous for complaining about anything I can't do with my horses.

Her accomplishments include: 2 silver and bronze medals at the European Championships in Portugal in 2002 and 3 silver at the World Championships in Belgium in 2001, 2 silver and one bronze at the 2004 Paralympics in Athens, 3 German Championships. A bronze and silver medal in the team standings at the 2008 Paralympics in Hong Kong. She also wrote a book, and hosts a TV talk show, not bad for a girl with no arms. Now that is winning against all odds. You can read more about her by Clicking Here

I share this story not to make us feel like incapable failures with our horses but to motivate us to believe that we can do anything we set our minds to. It might help us to stop looking at what we can't do and start exploring and expanding what we can do! During Christmas Break I read three very powerful books about overcoming challenges, gaining confidence and never giving up. The combination of some R&R the last month, reading Bettina's story and these books I am re-inspired to do even better this year with my horses, students, business, family, and my personal life. When I look back over the last seven years since moving to NE I am empowered by all the changes that have occurred in my life. Now I admit that there were challenges and struggles along the way and that all of the positive changes I have experienced were not accomplished without some pain and effort. I am not yet perfect and still have areas in my horsemanship and personal life which need improvement. When I am not exactly where I want to be I remind myself that neither am I where I used to be. The fact that I have not yet arrived does not intimidate me or make feel less successful; it simply spurs me on with a deeper desire and more courage to reach my potential. And I am sure that it is much greater than I have even imagined. Now I don't say that to brag, but I say it to encourage each of you that I believe in you and the things I know that you will be able to do in 2011. A teacher cannot teach effectively what they do not practice or believe themselves. Integrity is living and practicing what you preach or teach.

So what do I practice and believe? I believe that we should never give up on ourselves. I refuse to live in fear. I didn't say I would never experience it, I said I would not let it rule my life. Because fear is the greatest obstacle many of us must overcome in order to develop our potential. I have met people who are afraid of their horse or being hurt by them. However in addition to that I find many horsemen afraid of failure, change, making the wrong decision, criticism and what other people will think. So I practice keeping a right perspective on fear, where I learn to discern when to heed it's warning, when to face or confront it, and ultimately how to conquer it.

I believe that it will take some sacrifice in order to reach my goals and I am willing to pay the price. Progress or success will cost something. I believe it takes consistency in order to make significant progress or succeed at anything, and this is something I practice in many areas of my life. I know that if I am not happy with where I am at or a situation I am in right now that I will have to make an effort to change myself first, even if it is just my attitude towards the situation. I know that if I don't want to be in the same place next year at this time I will have to pay the price on this end to have the desired results on the other end. I will have to spend some of this year moving towards my goals for next year. As I move forward I am sure I will have to make some tough choices and I will come to some painful crossroads. When I reach those places I have two choices I can either run back to where I came from or press through. No matter what I want to see change (in my abilities as a horseman, my business or my personal life) I will either press past the pain of change now, or I will be exactly where I am today this time next year. However, I believe I will have the strength and courage to be consistent, make wise decisions and keep putting one foot in front of the other, because I know that if I continue pressing through without giving up I will eventually have the victory I long for.

I fully believe reaching your potential is linked to the way you handle adversity. Winston Churchill said: "Difficulties mastered are opportunities won." When we allow difficulties and challenges to frustrate, intimidate or discourage us we will never win against all odds like Bettina has. We don't all have to be alike, we don't all have to face the same giants, but if you face your own giants head-on and press past them taking one little step at a time and then another one and another one and another one, you will develop the skills and determination needed to be everything you were created to be and experience your dreams to their fullest and beyond whatever they may be. They don't have to be riding in the Olympics, they may be very small, but we should never despise small beginnings. They are just that a start; and that is where it has to begin. So we all have a new start in a couple of days, I hope that each of you will take advantage of it and that at this time next year, we can say we conquered a few giants in our lives and we have moved closer to becoming all that we can be.

The Heart Regulates the Hands

Over the past few months I have been sharing an acronym CAWA in the feature articles of my newsletter.We have covered C-Calmness and A-Attentiveness of the horse and the human. Plus I have shared training diaries of the seven horses I worked with this fall.

This month I will focus on W-Willingness for the human and next month we will talk about the horse. As we have been discussing these qualities we realize that not only do we want and need them in our horse in order to have a safe and successful ride, but we need to display these characteristics as much as the horse does. Horsemanship is a partnership and when both parties do their best to uphold their responsibilities the outcome is a learning experience where growth and progress is a continuing journey.

Let’s start by defining willingness:

It is relating to the will or power to choose
Intentional or deliberate choice
Ready to act voluntarily, without being forced or because of external pressure
Accept what asked to do by choice with eagerness or without reluctance
It is an enthusiasm to cooperate or comply
Prompt to act or respond not dragging the feet
Something offered or given freely and cheerfully
Being agreeable or favorable disposed in mind
Being prepared to act on your own accord

This fall I had a little black Welsh pony here named Lightening Bug, she was one of the most willing horses I have ever trained and so it was really effortless for me to be willing. One willing horse and one willing human equals two very happy partners. I was eager to get out and ride her everyday. Each session was pleasant, trouble-free, simple and straightforward. When things are going well it is not difficult to be willing. However when a challenging horse appears in our lives suddenly it is not so easy to be willing to do what it takes with that horse. But this is the time when we need more than ever to be willing to change.

I had another horse this fall who was quite the opposite of little Bugs, this mare was complicated, demanding, and problematic. I exerted every ounce of my energy, strength, and concentrated thinking every moment I was with her in an attempt to help her become calm and willing. She was very complex with numerous issues to resolve. The more I worked with her the more I had to be willing to change my own strategies, to think outside of the box, and to look at my own shortcomings. This horse pushed me to the very limits of my patience and the trial with her often exposed my true colors. This pressure triggered something totally unexpected; I became more willing to take the pressure off her. I offered her more time than I could afford. I gave her everything I had. I tried to be spontaneous with her. I observed her carefully, sensibly and judiciously. As I watched her I became more sympathetic and compassionate towards her. This insight caused me to quit trying to order her around against her will and instead try to bring the best out of her.

Each day I worked with her I had a plan before we started but I remained willing to change that plan accordingly. The best thing that I did was I always finished what I started with her no matter how many hours it took. She taught me we have to be willing to do what it takes to finish. I learned that even though my commitment to finish with her was clear, I could only do what I could and not what I couldn’t. I tried many new ideas but one idea kept returning to me; the heart regulates the hands. And so I needed to be willing to control my thoughts and heart feelings about this horse so that the feel I presented in my hands to her were something that she could respond to with willingness.

Are you willing to go the extra mile with your horse? Are you willing to make the necessary changes in you in order to help your horse become a more willing partner? Are you willing to take the time it takes, putting aside your goals and entertainment so that your horse can develop into the trustworthy horse that you desire? Are you willing to learn from your horse? If you are, I am willing to bet that the more willing you are to be the kind of horseman your horse needs you to be the more willing your horse will become. If you find yourself being unwilling to do what it takes with your horse because you are at the end of your rope, or you have simply run out of ideas remember we are here to support and encourage you. We may not have all the answers but we have a pretty good reputation and likelihood of getting you on the right track again.

In the middle of this holiday season of love and giving I hope we find ourselves willing to give more than we receive and that this spirit will continue with us throughout the year in all of our relationships including the ones we have with our wonderful horses who give us so much. If you are a horse lover you know what I am taking about.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Discovering the Joy Again!

After a long weekend of lessons in Omaha and Lincoln, frustrating cancellations (as usual) and driving over 600 miles I was exhausted last night when I got home around 10:00pm. Went straight to bed after hearing about the deer hunting weekend.

The joy is the absolutely wonderful day I had with my horses. I played with eight of
them. I started with Sunshine, and I wept tears of joy in her mane as if I had met up with a lost loved one after months of not seeing her. Well, I do see her and feed her everyday, but have not spent any quality time with her since July, or maybe before that. I can't even remember the last time, because I have been too busy training other people's horses. Sunshine was perfect, she was so soft and responsive and we did everything at liberty because I soon realized I didn't need a halter. She was so with me I can't even explain it.

It also makes me sad when I go to work with other people's horses that are so disconnected from them or even in opposition to the people. I am not trying to put anyone down, so please don't take it that way if I gave you a lesson this weekend or have ever given you a lesson.
But after working with eight of my horses today: they were all so with me,I was on phase one and only once in a great while two, much of the time I was just thinking it and they were doing it, I realize how many horses are using huge defense strategies to just survive. I worked with a horse this weekend that was so shut down, introverted and catatonic that I have never seen the like. He is only three and just shut his eyes like a child hoping that if he didn't look at you, you might go away. Then another was in total flight mode in fear. These were suppose to be broke horses. Another was so crabby and cinchy.

It is so heartbreaking that people think they have trained these horses, but in my eyes, mind, and heart they are far from being trained and even further from being a partner. The people who own these horses just bought them a couple two or three weeks ago, so the sad shape these horses are in is not their fault. However, it just puzzles me that a person would sell these horses as well broke. I guess people are just so accustomed to brace and resistance in horses that it is just looked at as normal, they don't even know what true oneness feels like.

So coming home to work with my horses for the first time in months was such a joy today to find out that they are so different from most of the horses that I encounter when I am on the road. Now, not all of them, so please don't get offended if I saw you and your horse this weekend. Some of you have a very good relationship with your horse and are making super progress each and every time I see you.

After I was almost finished with Sunshine I think I found my answer to taking horses next spring. I have been really wondering if I should take horses next spring or just work on advancing my own horses to greater levels. I really miss working with them and have spent less time with my own horses than other people's horses this year.

Today when I found out just how with me each of my horses were, I was convinced that I would rather work more on the relationship I have with my own horses, setting a high example and standard for those around me, rather than developing a relationship with someone else's horse to have him go home and not even be touched for two years or worse yet handled in a way that causes him to develop poor habits.

I think it would be more valuable to require that the people come with their horses, because too often they go home and start to train their humans. Again I am not putting anyone down who has brought a horse to me, and certainly that has not happened with all of them but it certainly has happened with more than I would like to admit. I know that each horse has gone home a better horse, and that what I was able to accomplish with the horse has helped the person as well. And some of the people are continuing lessons with me and are doing fine, but there are always those who fall through the cracks.

You see the bottom line is I can't develop a relationship for you with your horse. I can't put in the time for you that it takes. I can't give you the patience that it takes. I can't keep your horse trained you must do that. So I can offer support and encouragement through lessons, camps, clinics, study groups, and a workbook program that I am putting together this winter. But bottom line is you have to follow it and do the work. There are no short cuts, even having me take your horse for a month isn't a short cut, you still have to keep up the work when you take the horse home.

Even DJ and Que were breathing and stepping in rhythm with me today. I rode Cisco and Dolly bareback and bridleless. It is the first time I went totally naked on Dolly. I always had a halter with lead before and tried not to touch it and the bareback pad. But today, I bared it all, however I did have a stick in my hand and only had to use it a little on turns. Go and Whoa were awesome and we even cantered circles. I laughed and hugged her neck so much.

It was also fun finding out that I could back all of my horses in circles with porcupine game and no halter. In fact I played with everyone at liberty today, after a short warm up with the halter. I love what Pat Parelli says, "When you take off the halter all that is left is the truth". And I was so surprised with the truth today and it brought me great joy.

The joy in my heart is also thankful for the opportunity to help other horses who don't feel the freedom to be with their owners without brace, resistance, fear, anxiety, etc. etc. and for the way my horses responded to me today with freedom, grace, exuberance, expression of softness and oneness. I am not trying to brag and I am not perfect, but my horses were perfect in my heart today and they blessed me beyond what I can express in words. I feel like I have neglected them long enough trying to make a dollar training other horses. I would rather be poor for a while and spend more time with my own horses and working with people who really have the priority to develop a oneness with their horse far above all goals and entertainment that their horse can provide for them.

I am not trying to be elitist, or condescending to those who have competitive goals or just want to trail ride for entertainment, I like those things too. I just feel a desire for something deeper on the inside of the horse and me that will be reflected on the outside. It is sort of hard to explain, but I seemed to have turned a corner on my journey today and am excited to see where it takes me from here.

Anyway, this is one of the happiest days I have had with my own horses in a very very long time. It is about time, and I am going to make sure it happens more often in 2011 and if that means not taking horses in training unless the owners come with them, then so be it.

So if you were considering bringing your horse for 30 days in the spring save your pennies and come for the ride of your life WITH your horse.

Happy Trails,

Does Your Horse Have ADD?

In the summer newsletters I started a series of articles about CAWA an acronym I use to describe four characteristics we would like our horse to have. In June and July I wrote about C – Calmness. Then in August I wrote about the attentiveness of the human and promised to write about the attentiveness of the horse in Sept. However, in Sept. and Oct. the newsletter articles featured diaries on the horses I had in training. Even though I could share more training diaries from Bugs and Duchess who have been here since Sept. 10th I will return to the CAWA series.

I pose the question, “Does your horse have ADD?” because I see so many horses that are not paying the least bit of attention to their handler or rider. When you take a horse away from the comfort and safety of his natural surroundings, there are many things in the big wide world that can distract or attract him. His attention wanders to those other things. All horses are this way by nature, and green horses or horses that haven't been handled much or well are by far the worst. They HAVE to check this, that, and the next thing out in their environment. They need to be sure there's nothing that's going to come get them. They like to check and see if there is some other horses they'd like to be with, some grass or some other food they'd like to go eat, some manure to smell, or some wide open space they would like to go lounge in. These are the things that give pleasure to all horses.

A horse pays attention to what matters to him, and the direction of his desires. Are you more important to your horse, than anything else in the world, including such powerful draws as other horses, food, and piles of manure? At some point you have to get to where you rate higher in his mind than those piles of manure!!! Are you something that gives your horse pleasure? Or does he dread to see you coming unless you have a bucket of grain?

If your horse is easily distracted and doesn’t seem to want to stay with you it's time for you to start thinking about supporting your horse toward being more able to choose to be with you rather than anywhere else. When a horse learns to pay attention to the handler/rider he becomes able to focus on the handler/rider when requested for a few seconds at first then building to longer periods. Something magical happens when a horse begins to really pay attention. It is like something clicks over on the inside to where he begins to have a feeling of inner peace and confidence, rather than a feeling of anxiety. He actually stops trying to leave you all the time, and starts wanting to be with you.

We have all had the experience of being in a classroom at school. The teacher stands at the front of the room and expects all the students to pay attention to what he/she is saying. When people pay attention to a speaker they look at the speaker. But if, suddenly, there was gunfire out in the street, then everyone's head would turn because their attention would have been caught by the sound from outside. It is your power of observation to see where the horse’s attention is and how to get it back that allows you to train horses with effectiveness and without the need of painful physical force or coercive methods.

There is a law of the horse's life which says; wherever the horse’s attention goes, his body must also go. It causes a horse to experience great inner turmoil to have his body separated from his attention. The main cause of a horse’s body and attention being separated is the actions of people who do not even realize what is occurring. Some horse owners are not even aware when the horse has lost his attention they only see and are aware of the things the body is doing wrong. I challenge each of you to pay closer attention to where your horse’s attention is especially when he isn’t doing what you want him to do.

A common way to practice being more aware of where the attention of your horse is directed is to dramatically slow down your actions. If you will learn to be more present in each moment with the horse you will start to see things you never saw before. Learn to wait on the horse, and give him wait time. This doesn't mean you can't be present while working fast. Speed and intensity of focus can go hand in hand. Also worth considering is the subtle distinction between "working quickly" and "being in a hurry"

If your horse jumps around and this catches you by surprise, it is because you were not paying attention. This means you were not attentive to what the horse was paying attention to. It means you were not sufficiently focused to call upon him to remain focused upon his work, or what you wanted him to do. Your focus determines his focus. Your confidence and inner peace determines his confidence and inner peace. Your ability to "set the horse up" to go quietly depends entirely upon your ability to attend to the signs he gives you BEFORE he jumps around.

There are a million things that can potentially distract or spook a horse. You can never desensitize him to all the things he may encounter. Our mistake is in thinking that being distracted or being afraid is the horse's main problem. It is not his main problem. The external situation or objects are not what cause the horse to be distracted or concerned. It is the loss of his attention, the loss of his inner peace and confidence in himself and in us that is the problem. There is a buildup before this happens. The rider or handler's shortcoming lies in not being able to detect, or defuse, this buildup. We have to know what happens before what happens happens.

It is true that other animals, dead fish, flags, blowing paper, motorcycles, bicycles, rattling dry branches, loud noises, flowing water, high wind, other horses, and ten thousand other things all have the power to unsettle a horse. But they do not have the power to do that all the time. I am sure that all of you have noticed that sometimes the sign on the road doesn’t concern your horse in the least and he keeps his mind on his job. Then the next day the same road sign is associated with a buildup that leads to an explosion. Why is it that on the same trail ride some horses totally refuse to cross flowing water at the same stream that another horse will quietly cross?

The answer is that when a horse gets 100% OK on the inside, nothing bothers him, or at least he has learned how to deal with it. Some people believe this is impossible. But I believe it is possible you just have to work to find that ability with yourself. How do you help a horse become 100% OK on the inside so he is OK with everything on the outside? How do you help a horse learn to deal in a postive manner anything that is thrown at him? In order to do this you have to start with one particular thing or situation where you work through together successfully with the horse no matter how long or how much effort it takes. Then you go on to another success and another. After a time, it becomes second-nature, a habit that both you and your horse do all the time when something unexpected happens. Many of you have heard me say over and over that good horsemanship is a HABIT. And you have to be Ok with this stuff you are asking the horse to do too. Because until you are 100% OK with what you are bringing to the horse, they will never be 100% OK with you or the object. An example is a person who really wants to canter their horse but the moment the horse brings ups his energy to do it the person immediately says "Whoa" in his mind and also in his body, but especailly the reins. I call it the "Go but not really syndrome". I see it all the time.

Remember horses learn to be100% OK from the release of pressure. To drive a horse into pressure destroys his confidence and causes the horse to develop distrust for you as a leader. I take the horse back away from the pressure area until we find that place where the horse is comfortable. Then once calm is fully restored, move back toward the pressure until we reach the slightest reaction point. Keep repeating the approach and retreat while holding the horse’s attention with you all the time. As soon as you feel or see the horse’s attention starting to leave you need to catch it before it leaves. If you catch it before it leaves it never does leave. This is why we need to ride every step and be present every moment with your horse. The earlier you try to capture the attention the less physical you will have to be to get it back. The goal is to become so subtle that it is invisible to those watching.

If we expect to be able to control our horse's attention, we had better be able to control our own first. If I am still focused on other things or if I have a case of ADD, is it fair to ask my horse to focus on something other than the grass beneath his feet or the next manure pile that he would like to smell?

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!

Until Next Time,
Sherry Jarvis

Author of "Win Your Horse's Heart" (And Be a Better Horseman)
82507 465th Ave. Burwell, NE 68823, Tel: 308-346-5663

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Getting Off to A Good Start!

The last three months the feature articles have been relating to an Acronym CAWA, which I am using to teach about my philosophy. C stands for calmness in June and July I tackled this aspect. Last month I explained about second letter of our acronym A attentiveness. I started with the attentiveness of the human and I promiesed that this month I would discuss the attentiveness of the horse. However I believe I will wait until next month to deliver that article and instead I have decided to give a little report on the horses we have in training this month. If you would like to follow our progress you can either join our chat group E-mail Leigh, or you can become my friend on facebook.

Wed. Sept. 1st was our official first day of developing 5 very nice horses for the next 30 days. Alyce's horse Peepers arrived Sat. Aug. 28th. She is a pretty 8 year old bay Arab from WY who already has some training so we are working on refining and finishing her. I have already ridden her a week last year another week this year when I was out at Alyce's beautiful ranch near Lusk WY. She is a very smart and sensitive horse. I enjoy working with her very much. I rode her a little Sat. and Sun. plus did some ground work on Mon. and had her stand tied that day as well. So she has a big head start on the other horses, which are all around 5 years old and haven never been saddled or ridden. Erica (my training pratner, used to be apprentice) got to know Peepers on Sept first and she did a fine job getting her over the bridge and on the pedestal. Then she mainly worked on transitions with her while I rode my horse Sorry. Alyce would like us to also get her used to crossing water, riding with a rain coat and working cattle a little. So we will see what we can do about that. I guess we will go do some beach riding on the Calamus Reservor sometime this month, which is great fun. As far as cows go there are plenty in our country and I am sure we can find some to play with.

On Sun. Aug. 29th Kache arrived. She is also a nice brown Arab mare about 5 or 6. I have been told she can be a handful, however so far she has been real easy for us. I did some ground work on Tue mainly for respect. On the Sept. 1st we put her in the round pen at liberty and that went real well with good join up and direction changes. Had fun with invisible driving reins. Then played put your nose on things all around the property for about 45 minutes, followed by put your feet on things, like a pedestal, bridge, tarp, log, etc. Played some circle game, then friendly with plastic bag and tarp. We then put on the bareback pad without any issues, but when we turned her loose in the round pen and asked her to canter she gave us some good bucks for about 15 seconds, then decided it really wasn't worth it. After that she gave us about six nice canter transitions and change of directions. We decided there was no time like the present since things were going so good, so we got on her bareback and rode around about 5 minutes at the walk. She was super relaxed, calm, attentive and willing. So we left her in the round pen wearing the bareback pad cinched up pretty tight for a few more hours, while we worked with Peepers, and cleaned stalls.

On Tue. the 31st Erica brought a small 5 year old sorrel mare named Punky to start and she did the same as what I did with Kache although she wasn't quite as calm and relaxed when Erica first mounted her bareback, but she came around.

Luan arrived with Wildfire on Wed. Sept. 1st. She is also a 5 year old small bay mare (Skipper W and Two Eye Jack) quarter horse. She is a 1/2 sister to Ace the little black horse we had a couple of springs ago. She has a real soft eye and is a complete blank slate, so we are excited to start working with her.

Arlene arrived late in the evening on the first with Maiden, a red roan Tennesse Walker 5 year old mare. So we have all mares this time. She is a foal of City Lights the Black Walker I had in training last spring. She is huge compared to all the other horses we have this time. Erica's first impression of her tonight was she was a little pushy, however she just got off the trailer from a 6 or 7 hour ride and her life long partner and mother City Lights was in the trailer whinnying for her as she left.

Thur. Sept. 2nd: On the first day of each horses training here in Burwell, all were given their first ride bareback (with a bareback pad). I like putting the bareback pad on first before the saddle so they get used to the girth. Maiden and Punky (Erica's horse) did not buck at all. Wildfire only made it around the round pen once before she gave it up and she didn't really put her whole heart into it. Kache put a little more effort into it but it didn't last one spin around the pen either. None of them bucked until we asked them to canter. However after their initial attempt at getting rid of the girth, each canter transition was without any bucking. So we said, "what are we waiting for we only have 30 days so let's ride." We only did walking and lateral bending but it went very well.

Since it was Kache's second offical day of training we rode her a second time, she still bucked with the bareback pad on the first canter transition but again it didn't even last 10 seconds. After riding her again bareback asking a little more of her we saddled her. After desensitizing to the stirrups we turned her loose in the round pen, she did buck a little longer with the saddle but not as hard as she did the first day with the bareback pad. So we were happy. We let her be in the round pen wearing the saddle for several hours while we worked other horses on the ground (flagging, tarping, backing, circling, flexing, etc.) Every once in a while we went in the pen and asked Kache to move again, no more bucking when transitioning into the canter. If this continues we will be putting the first ride under saddle very soon.

We repeated all that we had done with Kache yesterday with Maiden, Wildfire and Punky. Then we will saddle them tomorrow. We believe that we will be able to ride Maiden under saddle on Friday, and maybe Punky too. But have doubts that Wildfire will be ready until the next day. She may need a little more confidence.

Peepers is doing great too. I rode her last night while Erica rode Dozer. That Dozer loves his girl Erica, he is actually Keith's horse. She got him up on the small pedestal with all fours last night. Wish I had my camera. I will try to take a pic of it sometime soon. Last year she got him up on the big pedestal with all fours but the small one is a real challenge. They are soooooo cute together. Peepers and I worked on a lot of subtle control of HQ, FQ, sideways, and backing. She didn't want to sidepass over the logs but was doing fine anywhere else I asked her to do it. So I spent some time desensitizing her to the logs. It was a lovely evening riding because the wind had finally went down. It was brutal here again yesterday, however, we can count our blessing for the trees around our pens which broke some of it. We rode until after dark, the mosquitos were coming out and we were getting exhausted so called it a very successful and easy second day after 12 hours of work, but a very satisfied feeling was in my heart as we wrote the notes in our training diary.

Day three Fri. Sept. 3 morning
WOW!!! Erica and I are knocking our own socks off. We had the most amazing morning ever with 1st rides under saddle. It is really only Maiden, Wildfire and Punkies second day here. Kache is a day ahead of them, and of course Peepers is way at the head of the class but she has a big head start.

Anyway, we are jumping for joy right now with the peaceful easy morning we had. We rode Maiden, Wildfire and Punky under saddle and it was the first day they had ever had a saddle on them too. Erica and I keep talking about how much easier it is when we have clean slates and that is exactly what these three are.

Here is the process we repeated for each one of them.
A little liberty work in the round pen.
Put the bareback pad back on them. They all cantered without bucking. So rode them bareback at the walk again.
Change of direction this time, and one rein stops.
Saddled them very slowly and gently, using lots of approach and retreat.
Desensitizing to the stirrups.
Move at liberty around the round pen, invisible line driving while carrying the saddle.
Sent them into a canter.
(Amazingly enough only Wildfire through in a few bucks but it wasn't anything we could not have ridden. It only lasted a few seconds, then the rest of the canter transitions were A OK. )
Took all three of them to a bigger arena, I rode Dolly and used my new long whip, to move them around at faster speeds and turn backs. Dolly loved chasing them around the pen and even got down cutting them for me. It was a blast.
After seeing they could really move out, change directions quickly, increase and decrease speeds well without any issues, we took them back to the round pen and rode each one. Only at a walk.
Did a little change of direction and 1-Rein Stops, lots of flexing and called it a very very very successful morning.

3 horses saddle and rode for their very first time in 4 hours without one single issue. YAHOO!
This afternoon we will do the same, with Kache!
Then we plan to take Peepers on a trail ride, looking for water and cattle.

Afternoon of day 3 went exactly as planned. Could not have been better. Kache did great on her first ride under saddle. She did do a little half hearted buck when we first asked her to canter before mounting, but changed her mind quickly about that being a very desirable thing to do. Put her in the arena with Peepers, since they are best buddies now, and moved them around while mounted on horseback, just like I had done to the others this morning. I think my horse Dolly has more fun than I did. Also ponied Kache from her a little.

After putting Kache away, we rode out to the school section seeking cattle and water for Peepers next step in her education. Found both at the windmill and Peepers handled both very very well. It took about 6-8 minutes to get her across the water, and the cattle were a none issue. Next plan for her is the rain coat.

We are looking forward to this month and hope that it continues to go as well and easy as it has been the first three days. We are off to a very very good start and feel confident that the horses will teach us much this month and that the owners will be satisfied with their horses at the end of our time together.

In the middle of the month (Sept. 18th and the 25th) we will have another auditor day if anyone would like to come observe us developing these horses. There is a fee of $35/day and the bunkhouse is available at $35/night if you want to stay more than one day.

We pray that they will continue in the fashion that we have begun with their horses. I thank the owners for putting their trust in us and we will take the best care of these horses and not only gain their respect and trust but we will help them to be more valuable horses. We hope to bring out the potential that each one of them has.

We welcome new apprentices to learn with us next spring as we get another group of horses off to a good start! Or anytime, if you are a serious student of the horse I am more than eager to share my passion with you.

Observing Kache

Day 25
Nila was driving by my arena as I was sitting on Kache the night before and she knew the horse was unhappy and wondered if she was in pain. So the plan for the day was to put her in a pen and watch, I mean really really observe the horse, nothing else. So bucket sitting is where I started with Kache in a medium size corral. I remember Jack Brainard telling me my most powerful tool as a horseman is the power of observation. So I just watched Kache with a very keen eye, not asking her to do anything as I sat on my bucket in the middle of the pen being as neutral as possible. At first I put her buddy Peepers in with her. She is also an Arab with a similar build, I thought that would give me something to compare to. I was trying to see what I had been missing. Is there a lameness issue, I had failed to see? What? What? What is it? They pranced around and played a little bit. I couldn't seem to detect any lameness in Kache, but Peepers was moving with a lot more freedom, and there was brace in Kache's body, plus she was throwing bucks in for fun every now and then and Peepers seemed to just be floating around on the air. After about 7-8 minutes Peepers came over to join me, she just stood there by me for at least 5 minutes. Then she wandered off again for a while, but it wasn't long and she was back by my side. I didn't touch her, I just sat there as she stood close by. All this time and Kache had not even looked my way once. She was mainly doing figure 8's on one side of the corral as far away from Peepers and I as possible.

Keith then brought in my horses and as they gallop by our corral Peepers ran off and Kache and her got excited running around playing a bit more. Then as my horses lined up on the fence by the corral we were working in Peepers went over to greet them, squeal and do horsey things. Kache ignored the whole bunch and did not join them. She kept doing her patter figure 8. Another thing she was doing a lot of is the head tossing in a circle thing that a dominant horse often does. I see my head horse Dozer doing it at the others to chase them away from his hay pile.

After Peepers was finished talking with my horses she interestingly enough joined me again rather than Kache. She stayed with me the rest of the time. A good 45 minutes has gone by now and Kache has shown not even the slightest interest in me or Peepers. I have not asked one thing of either horse, I am just letting them be who they are and do what they want. I decide to walk to the gait and put Peepers out in the other arena. I get up, she follows, I open the gait she walks out with me. I thought for sure Kache would try to follow but she did not. So I went back to my resting place on the mounting block to watch. I sat there for 2 more hours and Kache did not attempt to come to me, ever. As I sat there I kept praying, Lord, show me something that will make a difference for this horse, I only have 5 days left. It is obvious that she has no desire to have a connection with me when given complete free choice. I realize that we are stealing rides on her, and I guess if I were a good enough bronc rider, you may be able to ride her until she quits. But that is not the way I do things, nor the way I feel is best for a horse. It may work and it may not, but I am not willing to sacrifice my body to find out. I've done everything with her and much more that I did with the past 30 horses that I have started and yet, she is
still not accepting the partnership I have offered her. Oh Yea, she is obedient
now when she is on-line, but it isn't the kind of feel that I believe is in there somewhere. I just haven't accessed it yet.

Nila was driving by so we decided to now ask Kache to move around at different speeds in different directions to watch how she moves and handles changes etc. Neither of us believe we saw any signs of lameness or pain, just brace in the mind which follows through in the body. As we moved her around, Peepers was running up and down the other arena and actually putting a lot more effort into her movement. When we stopped Peepers did not have an sweat on her and Kache was drenched. They are both in great physical shape. Another sign I believe that Kache was very emotional and Peepers was moving about with freedom in her mind and body. But Kache is holding in a lot of pain in her mind and emotions. Where it comes from, I have no idea. I have tried everything I know to help her through it. So I decided to go for a long relaxing trail ride on Peepers and think on it. I was gone a good two hours. As I rode her I worked on the relaxed walk her owner desires.

When I got back I unsaddled her and went back in the corral with Kache. As I entered it was the first time all day that she had acknowleged me. She watched me as I walked to my resting place, but the moment I sat back down she began walking her pattern again, ignoring me. I sat there for about 15-20 minutes then left. Caught Maiden and went for a 2 hour ride, worked on the same things I had done the previous day. Came back and repeated the same thing with Kache again. However this time when I walked into the corral she started to follow me to the resting place, but left before I got there. Same thing happened so after another 15-20 minutes I went to catch Wildfire. Rode her for 2 hours, worked on perfecting her sidepass over logs, backing through L's, canter transitions. Leads on line, etc. By this time, Kache had been in this corral for 10 hours. I feed the other horses and by now she really wants out of there. I walk in and she follows me clear to the resting place, but the moment I sit down she leaves. So I watch her ignore me for about 5 minutes, I decide she has outlasted me and I am ready to give in. I pick up the mounting block and move it closer to the gate, she approaches me comes close, stays for about 5 seconds then leaves again. I sit for another 5 minutes, get up move the mounting block closer to the gate, she repeats but stays maybe 10 seconds. I move a little closer to the gate, she repeats. I realize the only reason she wants to be with me, is I am
her only ticket out of here and back to her pen which is where she would rather
be. She is training me to do what she wants. I get clear to the gate, touch it and here she comes. I give in put the halter on and rescue her. But I know in my heart she is not with me. She is using me. Smart horse. When we are walking back to her pen, I know she is not with me, because she is trying to lead me. I put her in her pen and hang with her for another 20 minutes just petting her. Then I feed her and call it a day.

Another very very very long and exhausting one. I have no idea at this point where to go from here. I feel totally defeated and disappointed. I think about throwing in the towel, raising the white flag and humbling admitting that I have met my match. I decide to think on it and pray about it a lot, because it is the first time I have ever wanted to give up on a horse. Sunshine was just as difficult to crack as this horse and in fact was more dangerous than this horse, but I had years and all the time I wanted to develop the relationship with slow progression and it worked. I feel that Sunshine do have a partnership now and if I bucket sit with her, she chooses very quickly to come hang out with me.

Day 26
Fast forward to Sunday morning devotions and church, a much needed time away from the horses. The sermon is on Job. A man who learned to persevere even in the toughest of times. He never gave up and never cursed God for all the bad things that happened to him. So I will not give up and I will take care of Kache right up until the end because her owner has entrusted me to do that. I will keep up my work in faith and love exactly as I set out to do at the beginning of this month. I will guard this precious horse that is in my custody and give her my very best until she is with me no more. I don't have a great new plan of some super duper technique or magic pill that will solve all the problems, but I will continue on in faith that what I do will eventually work given the right time. When the going gets rough, when I take it on the chin, I will get back up and persevere. It is the diligent farmer who gets the produce. So I will remain diligent. I don't know what the next 4 days will bring, but when it is over, I will know that I never gave up and I gave it my all, even if my all wasn't enough.

I left Kache in her pen all day. Thought it was best to give her and me a day off. What we will do tomorrow morning with her, depends more on her than on us. Repeating the basic essentials over and over can never hurt, so I am sure we will start there.

30 Day Training Diary (the short version)

30 Day Training Diary (The short version)

We had 5 mares in training here for the month of Sept. I shared a detailed description of their first three days in last months newsletter. Here is a shorter version of the diary we kept the rest of the month.

We take the best care possible of the horses entrusted to us, and we plan to not only gain their respect and trust but we will help them to be more valuable horses. We hope to bring out the potential that each one of them has.

Day 1
Ground work and ride with bareback pad in round pen.
I like putting the bareback pad on first before the saddle so they get used to the girth. None of them bucked until we asked for the canter. However after their initial attempt at getting rid of the girth, each canter transition was without any bucking. So we said, "what are we waiting for we only have 30 days so let's ride." We only did walking and lateral bending but it went very well.

Day 2
Repeat day one and then saddle.
We let them be in a pen wearing the saddle for several hours while we worked each horse. (flagging, tarping, backing, circling, flexing, etc.) Then we move them all together under saddle.

Day 3
Repeat Day one and two, plus put first ride on them in the round pen. (Walk, trot, 1R stops, lateral flexion)

Day 4
Repeat Day 3 plus add snaffle bit and long lines during the ground work.

Day 5
Canter under saddle in round pen. Pony on a trail ride.

I have discovered that many horses are ok with desensitizing while standing still, but just because you can do things with your horse standing still doesn't mean that you can do it while in motion. When you put a horse in motion they can become scared, or maybe even defensive, especially on their right side in zone four. I spend quite a bit of time with this until a horse doesn’t feel the need to kick out or spin away from the stick/bag when in motion. Spending a lot of time near the right flank and back legs is profitable. It is important to give the horse lots of wait time. Then I do the falling leaf pattern with the bag as my stimulus. I also believe that part of desensitizing is teaching the horse to respect or move away from the object. Interestingly enough the more they respect the object the more confidence they gain. I always put the horse away
on a really good note.

Day 6
Mock worming and ride out of round pen in a small arena in halter, walk trot transitions.

After a little ground work we mounted up. Well it took a little longer to mount Wildfire. She did not want to stand still. It was windy, thundering and raining. We went slow, because mounting is part of riding and if it doesn't go well, especially with a colt well you can't really expect the ride to go much better. We started with passenger riding, then tit for tat, then some 1 rein stops, and circles. Next we played follow the rail only using reins when necessary. We combed the reins instead of pulling on them to direct the horse. Then we did the same thing with some 360's on the rail and finally some figure 8's. Plus we added a little yo yo (riding forward and backwards).
It was more difficult to get Maiden moving forward than the others. So I had to support Erica from the ground. We feel it is really important to get the forward button fixed from the very beginning. It is pretty hard to teach a horse anything that is difficult to move. Impulsion is so important. You have to have life in the feet in order to direct them.

Kache problems: When we saddled her and turned her loose in the round pen, she went to bucking harder than she ever has. So we went back to square one with the friendly game. We did lots of approach and retreat with sticks, ropes, stirrups, etc.
Again she is pretty fine when standing still but put her in motion and it is a different story. I suppose we could have worked a little faster but I gave her plenty of down time whenever she made a little progress. After 2 1/2 hours she
had made some pretty significant changes. Then I spend another hour and ½ helping her to circle at the walk. Whenever we ask her to go she goes alright, but it is mighty fast and with an attitude. So I didn't quit until I could send her out and she was calm, attentive and willing to walk an entire circle without breaking gait or shaking her head with attitude or bucking. I feel like I made some real strides with her tonight. The truth will be told tomorrow after she has time to think about everything that she learned today. I am confident that she will be a lot better, maybe not totally cured yet, but life will be better for both her and I. I knew we would have just been stealing a ride tonight if we had tried. I want her in the right frame of mind before we mount her again, because I want it to be as good for her as it is for us. The plan for tomorrow is lots more friendly with Kache, getting her to slow down and be in physical and more importantly mental and emotional control while circling. We will ride her only if she is ready.

I know it doesn’t make good business sense to put in 5 hours in one day on one horse, when you are not getting paid by the hour. But she needed it and I will do what needs to be done with a horse. I will to my best no matter how long it takes. I won't push through just to make things happen. I will take the time it takes to get it right before I move on. It is better for the horse that way and safer for us. Plus the results will be more lasting, instead of a quick fix which isn’t permanent.

Day 7
Raincoat riding because it is raining. Lead by rope on feet, Ride in larger arena with obstacles.

Well it paid off big time! I am referring to the 5 hours I spent with Kache yesterday. She was a very changed horse today. She was the most relaxed and willing than she has been since she arrived. So we did make the ride as good for her as it was for us. The end to a beautiful day and what we think is our easiest and most successful first week ever, since Erica and I have been working together. It was a peaceful and rewarding day.

Here is our raincoat progression.
Spend some time on the ground with bag and tarp preparing for raincoat. Then work with the rain coat before saddling. After saddled I continued the process of desensitizing to my rain coat. Let the horse carry it. Hang it on the fence, and then I wear it while doing some ground work. I drag it, swing it, and throw it, all kinds of things. Then I mount and ride up to it on the fence let the horse smell it. Next position the horse so that all zones and both sides are close to it on the fence. I then pick it up put it back down, then put it on the saddle and carry it around. Finally I dismounted put it on, then remounted and rode for an hour with it on.

Day 8
Trailer loading and riding in the rain in the small pasture.
Tomorrow another round of trailer loading just to make sure each horse is confident. We are getting ready to haul the horses to camp this weekend. Remember prior and proper preparation prevents poor performance. Don’t make the mistake of waiting until you have to go somewhere to see how well your horse loads. It is important to practice trailer loading until your horse is well seasoned in hauling.

Day 9
Focus on Impulsion, transitions, backing and 1 rein stops. Ride horses in arena by themselves for confidence and to prevent buddy sour issues. Short trail ride in bigger pasture with another horse.

Day 10
Take horses to clinic this weekend to ride in group situation, plus first longer trail rides.

We were very proud of them as there was a lot of distractions which included: (People cantering around on their horses, a big herd of horses coming in from the pasture, over 50 people coming and going in the lodge for a dinner, lots of cars, etc.) They stayed calm, attentive, and willing during the longest ride we have put on them. Kache is still not quite where I would like her to be this many days in, but we are glad we have been taking the time needed with her. We only rode her in the round pen at the clinic, however it was a good ride. We both feel that once we give her a couple of days off to soak on all of this the progress will begin to go a little faster for her. We are enjoying working with her even though she has been teaching us how to stay patient, giving her the time she needs to figure things out and change her attitude about it.

Day 11
All horses have the day off while I take one of my horses to the camp. A day off will not only refresh us but them as well. We have over 20 hours in each horse in the first 10 days. Peepers and Kache have over 30 because they came earlier and Kache has needed more time.

Day 12
5 hour trail ride at camp. They didn't spook at anything and went right across the water and mud. We cantered out on the trail, around hay bales in the fields, went up and down some steep hills. Plus they rode politely in the group.

Day 13
Same as Day 12

Day 14
Ride in Snaffle bit for first time. Trail ride at home and ride through cattle.
Practice circling and turning around cedar trees. We like to do a lot of training out on the trail, not just arena work. So from this day forward it is about 60% trail and 40% arena work. We do about 70% riding and 30% ground work. Added the use of a post for change of direction to follow a feel in the ground work.

Kache bucked today. She was goosing to movement of the legs so we spent an extraordinary long time doing friendly game along her sides until she could move with out humping up again. Then we got off and desensitized with the stirrups. Did some more ground work and quit on a good note. She has definitely been a challenge compared to the others and is quite a bit behind their progress even though we have twice as much time in her. But all is well, we will not give up and she will keep
teaching us how to be tip top horsewomen.

Day 15
Focus on freeing shoulders and disengaging HQ followed by FQ (Dennis Reis call this the million dollar move). Sometimes we support one another on the ground with the stick. We always have fun doing that together Started sidepassing over logs. We
finished up with our square barrel pattern.

I split up Kache's training times today one in the morning and another in the evening. In the morning I really worked on moving her FQ around from the ground for more respect, sort of like lots and lots of falling leaf but without the HQ disengagement. Also flooded her with the stick and bag, in other words more desensitizing exercises than the law allows, being passively persistent. She has been really touchy on her sides and above her. She can take it while standing still but in movement she has a hard time accepting it. I also did some long lining with the bit, which went nicely. Then went back to the stick using it for
porcupine game (move the FQ, HQ and sideways). I did this until she was responding instead of reacting or humping up. That was just the morning session. I want to say that even though she has been a challenge it is a good thing, because she is
teaching us a lot, especially to be persistent because she sure is. Again not a bad thing, she is who she is and we are working our tails off to help her be a calm, attentive willing horse who wants to be a partner with us.

Day 16
Focus on figure 8’s because our plain circles are coming along well; get up on the big pedestal with all 4 feet while being ridden; work on relaxation and stretching on the circle during ground work.

Again split up Kache sessions into two again today. Still putting twice as much time into her as the other horses, only because she needs it and I want to. All of the horses are still getting 2 hours a day and that is usually more than enough. All horses are different and some are definitely easier than others and some are quicker than others. I guarantee that I will do what it takes with each horse. I do what I think is best for each one to the best of my abilities, and if that means more time, it is just longer hours for me. I don't skip another horse’s time if I need to spend more with one for any reason. I am real happy with each horse’s progress. Each was in a different place when they came and each will leave in a different place, a better one, I am sure. Of course the easiest ones were the blank slates, but that doesn't make them better or more valuable than the other horses, they are what they are, each one of them. It is my job to take what they are and make the most of it, no matter how difficult or easy it is, no matter how much time it takes or how little.

To help Kache more with her nervousness about accepting a rider on her sides and above we sandwiched her between our horses and waved our arms above her, slapped the saddle, and let our feet and legs run into her from both sides for about 2 miles until it was no big deal for her. Of course we gave her lots of retreat, rest and soak time when she wasn't reactive. Little Wildfire rode like a dead broke horse instead of a green horse on this ride, side-passing over to Kache every time Erica asked her, and of course Dolly kept everyone in line as a polite but persistent lead mare should. I was real proud of all three horses. Not only did we desensitize Kache to things on both sides of her and above her, she has learned not to be crabby when riding with other horses on both sides of her, and Wildfire learned some good lessons about that too.

We got on and off Kache about 50 times after our sandwich trail ride. Up and down on both sides, jumping around her, moving legs on her sides, etc. etc. Then I put the lunge line on and she had the most forward moving relaxed ride to date. Whew, it is the first time we didn't think she might explode at any minute. We are sure hoping and praying that she has given up the need to think about or attempting to buck. Our goal is not to have to ride a bucking horse, and not to let her find out it is an acceptable thing to do. If that is all we get done this month I will think we have certainly won the battle. And oh, yea she did some real nice lateral flexions tonight also.

Day 17
Focus on soft turns, stopping, backing while riding in the field. When we got
back we worked on rounding them up.
A few friends showed up to watch us ride Kache. Doug mentioned we must have the best job in the world, and I do love it even though it can be very physically and mentally demanding when you have the responsibility to get a horse along as
far as possible in just 30 days. I think we do a pretty good job, but it isn't accomplished without a lot of commitment to do what is necessary for each individual horse. It can be challenging and rewarding all in the same day or even moment to moment.

Day 18, A couple of the owners came to ride their horses today. The lessons went very well, everyone was pleased.

Day 19
I am doing my best to be a real good steward of the horses that have been entrusted to me. Putting as much time and patience into each one as I possibly can. I am giving them each my very best. In the past three years all the horses Erica and I have started were doing very well at the end of 30 days. In fact each client has said they were doing more than they every imagined they would and more than other horses they had sent to trainers for 90 days. However, this time I have learned that a trainer must always remain humble. Because just about the time you think you are doing really well a horse will come along to teach you a few more things. I always knew that being passively politely persistent in the proper position was important, but I now know just how much patience must go along with that little philosophy. I wrote a book on winning a horse's heart and like people sometimes this nearly happens over night and with others it takes a lot of trust and respect building which must be earned over time.

Kache is doing her part in my journey of becoming a better horseman. I have had to be creative, consistent, and try some things I have never done before. Tonight is the first time I have worked with her that I finally felt like I was actually winning her heart. She was so relaxed, calm, attentive and willing and it felt soooooo good to be with her. I hope it felt the same for her. I know I still have to keep up my A game with her and continue building a relationship based on trust, respect, clear communication, which will lead to a horse who wants to be a partner with a human. Her eyes changed tonight and her body was softer as I finally got her to stretch on the circle using the invisible human technique. I don't have time to explain it right now. But if you are interested in it, I recommend you buy Karen Rolhf's book and video called "Dressage Naturally".

Day 20
Trying to mold what the horses offer us instead of trying to force things to happen. We continue working on rounding them up a little better. Backing through the L, creative riding over the bridge being particular about what feet go where. Ride up on small pedestal with all four feet after getting it on the ground. It is really quite a task in good communication, talking to specific feet of the horse in order to get the job done. It is much easier on the big pedestal.

Here is a quote from Buster McLaury that I really like and I keep thinking about it today. "If the human could just learn to give a little bit, then the horse could learn to give it back. Ray Hunt always said if the human could just give 5% the horse would come up with the other 95%. But it's pretty hard it seems like, for the human to learn to give. Most everybody, they want to take. They get on the horse and they want to take him over this direction, take him over there, speed him up and slow him down. And while those changes in direction and speed are important pieces of the horse's foundation; the trick is to allow them to happen, not force them to happen. You're trying to get that horse to think about the same thing you're thinking about. You let your idea become his idea. It's easy right? But how exactly, do you go about doing that. Horsemanship is pretty simple. It's not easy, but it's simple."

I think a lot of time when you are having trouble with a horse, if we could ask him what was going on he would tell you he was either confused or afraid. Kache has been both with a little bit of attitude and dominance thrown in there. I keep reminding myself that the horse is never wrong. Where she has been coming from in her mind is exactly what she thinks she is suppose to do, or what she thinks she needs to do to survive. To date she hasn’t been thinking with the partnership side of her brain. But I am hoping she will change more in the next few days. She has needed, direction, discipline, understanding, and of course feel from us which was meaningful to her. I think she may be starting to believe that we are on her side
and that we are just taking care of her. Maybe someday she will take care of her riders.

Day 21
Work on opening gates, ride the rail (5 times) until we get one entire lap at the trot without any corrections and a solid steady consistent rhythm in the gait. Then we did our favorite thing "Canter Wars" Ride up and down the big arena from point A to B. Resting at each end. Seeing who can get there first and with straightness and relaxation. Green horses can be so darn drunk and this is how we get them going straight. We love it and had a blast. We ended with some million dollar moves.

Again I repeat that when a horse comes to us that is a virtual blank slate they are usually much easier because they don’t have to unlearn any bad habits, before they could start learning. I can make the whole process a lot quicker. I will admit that a great temperament is a big plus as well. All I could think about all day was take care of the horse and they will eventually take care of you. We love this time of the month. Today was the first day we have nearly a perfect day. All the horses were at their best and we didn't have to work too hard at anything to get it accomplished. It all is finally falling into place, as it should.

Day 22
The end is near, and I am so thankful for having had the opportunity to learn from each of these horses. It has been fun and challenging to get them off to a good start. I think we have accomplished that with each one of them and helped each one become a better using horse than when they arrived. I am sure they have learned as much or more from us. I think they have learned to think things through instead of react, they have learned to accept a saddle and rider, they have learned to be directed by a rider, they have learned to be responsive to the handler or riders cues, they have learned to be trustful and respectful, they have learned to yield different parts of their body, they have learned about moving forward with straightness, calmness, and rhythm. The have learned to whoa and back up well. And they have learned about some lateral movements as well. They have learned to give to the bit, and a little about posture. They have learned to cross water, trail ride, and move through and behind cattle. I am sure there is a lot more. I would have to go back through my diary notes to list everything. But all in all I am very happy with the results as a whole. Of course I am always looking to improve, so I am sure there are some things I could have done better, and I know I will next time, because of the lessons I learned this time. Each horse and each opportunity makes us a better horseman if we are in a learning frame of mind.

Day 23
I had two new clients come from Blair NE today for lessons. They rode my horses Cisco and Dolly while I spent the whole day playing with and riding Wildfire since she will be going home this Sun. instead of staying until the 30th, due to family travel plans. Just a note to let everyone know that people come to my place quite regularly to take lessons on my horse, or they bring their own. So you don't have to wait for a camp or go to one of my many clinics, you can come here directly anytime, as long as we can find a date that works for both of us. And now we have the bunkhouse for you to stay in if it is a long drive for you.

I demonstrated a lot of ground exercises with Wildfire today while teaching the gals. And then also demonstrated riding exercises with her as well, she was a really good horse today. Then we went on a long trail ride, cantered her quite a
bit out there as we all rode together. Also did circles around trees, stepped her up the mounds, crossed water again, etc. She rode just like a real broke horse. I am real proud of her. She is ready to go home a little early.

Counting down the days now, only 7 days of training left, but I won't give them any slack, I will keep trying to accomplish as much as possible with each one of them.

Day 24
Erica is gone so I put the first solo trail rides on each horse except Kache. They all did great, a couple of whinnies when we first got out of sight of the herd but nothing else. Then I got bucked off Kache in the arena That is a story in itself.
I didn't get any supper because I worked until after dark with her. I was able to make a good change with her and ride her again a little before I put her away. I remember reading in Tom Dorrance's book that one of his students said, Tom would work through supper well into the night if that is what it took with a horse. I feel like I quit in a good place with her. I went to bed exhausted at 1:00 am after talking on the phone for a long time with my friend Nila. That is a true friend who will just listen to you and support you through the rough times. She gave me a good suggestion to really watch Kache closely and see what I was missing. Let her tell me what I need to know.

Day 25
This was a very long day, go to my blog to read what happened on my observation day with Kache, it is too long add here.

Day 26
Arlene came to ride Maiden, and Luan came to ride and pick up Wildfire. Wildfire was a perfect little gem for me as I rode her, and as Katlin, Luan's daughter, who will get the horse rode her. Then Luan rode her on a trail ride. It was a beautiful day as the fruits of our labor were evident as we rode across the sandhills together with a pretty blue sky above us.

Day 27
I was happier with Kache’s connection today, but I had to cause it by giving her some very clear choices. So it was progress even though we chose not to ride her. We have ridden her 20 times in the last 27 days. We have right at 80 hours total work with her and she has only had 4 days off. We have three days left with her, and we hope to ride her three more times, but I won't steal another ride on her if we feel like she is going to buck again. I feel totally proud of the effort and work we have put into her and I am not ashamed in the least that she is not riding like the other horses who have less time and fewer rides, she is what she is and I am not criticizing her in any way. I know that we have made a lot of positive changes for her and also given her a lot to think about as she learned with us. I have laid out the truth plain and simple. I am not judging or complaining about her or the long hours and effort we gave to helping her. I would not have done it if I didn't care about her, because if I figure our hourly wage it is way less then minimum wage. That is the chance you take, not all horses take the same amount of time or progress at the same pace. After being a school teacher for a lot of years, people are no different. And a good teacher does the best they can with each student no matter if it is easy or hard to teach or reach them. I am happy to have had the opportunity to learn from each of these horses.

Here is the statistical run down of our month so far.
Kache 80 hours, 20 rides, 4 days off
Peepers 64 hours, 21 rides, 4 days off (she came three days early and I worked with her before Sept. 1st).
Maiden 50 hours, 19 rides, 4 days off
Wildfire 55 hours, 19 rides 4 days off
We didn't keep statistics on Punky but it would be pretty similar to Maiden.
Wildfire is gone but I will put at least 3 more rides on the others.

Day 28
We took some video while riding Kache first thing this morning. Her 21st ride and it went better today, however, we don't feel like she has yet truly accepted the rider, and there is still something funny about her right side. However we were happy with the morning, with some independent riding at walk and trot, some 1Rstops, plus back up and change of direction.

Kache's owner arrived later in the day and so we worked with her again while her owner watched. She did about normal for us, and the owner agreed with us about the right side and that she doesn't totally accept the rider quite yet. I also mentioned that I am sure there are still some bucks in there to deal with. I am sure that with time it will all work out for Kache. She just needs time, patience, and crystal clear communication on a regular basis. It will be important to give her consistency with cues but variety in the work so she doesn't get bored. I look forward to hearing how she progresses through her life. And I wish her and her owner the very best. Sometimes the toughest horses turn out to be the best ones. And Kache has a lot of potential.
We then took Maiden and Peepers for a nice long trail ride and gave Punky the day off.

Day 29
Each of these horses left in a different place and each of them came with their own issues, experiences and temperaments. I am proud of what we accomplished with each one of them. Erica and I have put our heart and soul, every ounce of effort we had into each horse this month. We have a lot of hours in each one, each horse has only had 4 days off, Erica had 5 days off and I had no days off. Training horses isn't about luck, but about plain old damn hard work, dedication, consistency, persistence, and enough savvy thrown in. Maybe we lack enough savvy every once in a while because it took us some time to figure each horse out, and develop strategies that worked best for them. But nobody can fault us on dedication, consistency, persistence, and hard work, that is for sure.

Trainers also need patience and a great positive attitude. We have been tested a few times this month but because there has been two of us it is great to remind each other when one of us slips a little in either of these departments. We keep each other honest. As teachers for these horses we have kept our cool when things fell apart, and we worked firmly when needed while maintaining a patient fairness with them. We have not argued with then when they chose the difficult roads. As students of the horse we allowed them to teach us being gentle listeners, seeking what was best for each horse according to each situation and adapting our approach with flexibility when needed. You just never know how or when a horse will understand, make a change of heart and turn around for you. So we never give up.

Day 30
Erica and I had a very lovely morning. What a gorgeous fall day. Erica and I finished our last ride together for the month. She rode Maiden and I rode Peepers. We talked about all we learned this month, the highs and the lows. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Above all we learned that we both are persistent and can endure a lot of different things, and that problem solving involves a lot of willingness to try a variety of solutions until you come upon the one that works best. She is gone now. I will miss her. But we did enjoy the beautiful clear blue skies this morning. What a great ending to a challenging and rewarding month.

We not only worked hard this month, we had a lot of laughs with each other, plus a lot of nice rides too. We had challenges, frustrations, victories, and satisfactions, but in the end it was all good! We are both better people and better horsewomen from the time we have spent the past month. And gals and guys that is a lot of what it takes - TIME! So if you are not happy with where you are as a horsewoman then you just need to get out there. Make time for it.

Notes from people who followed the full training diary on my yahoo group or facebook.

Sherry, the point that keeps coming home to me, after all these years of knowing you and doing some of your photography, is this: the solid foundation that you do put into these horses. You take the time it takes, and that sentence is not used lightly. Your daily journal reports are helpful for all of us, because it reminds us about breaking things down into small pieces for our horses, especially with the early training and then also with anything new. The horses know what they know what they know because you have taken the time to make things clear and simple for them, and you are quietly persistent every day. You don't brush past to go on and do something more "fun". This is a lesson that many trainers glide on by. I'm glad you have had Kache, the tough nut to crack. It's a lot of work for you trainers, but it's an important lesson for us all. Thanks for sharing your journal notes with us each day/each week they have given me insights and inspiration in my own daily work. Sherry--I've appreciated your diligence and your daily writing, for all you've done and all its shown us, living vicariously thru you in this horsemanship journey. Thanks Julie

I've been following your reports all month and I am inspired by your honesty and persistence. What a challenge. Enjoy your camp this weekend, you deserve it.

I have enjoyed every report you sent out Sherry. You two gals worked so very guys gave it your all & more! I learned some more from your reports Sherry. Now to get out there & apply them. Jan.

I, too, have always enjoyed your posts about the young colt starting. I have saved all of them on when Dusty and then Kai were being trained by you and Erica. They are learning tools and insights into horse’s minds. I have always been thankful, that even though you may be tired, you have always taken the time to keep everyone informed. That alone is something that not every trainer would be wiling to do. Thank you for going the extra mile! Have fun at camp! Sharon

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Catching Mustangs in WY

I just got back from a great week in WY giving lessons and training horses. The ranch where I stay is very remote. Many miles of dirt road, but it is gorgeous rugged country. The people came to the ranch for private and small group lessons as far as 100 miles away. The Carter Ranch has a nice indoor arena, however I had to use a real old fashion outhouse for a week, and drive a few miles just to take a shower at the neighbors. I stayed in a cute little old fashion bunkhouse.The Carters are wonderful people and greats hosts. They took good care of me and fed me well. I enjoyed riding and training their nice Arabians while I was there. We rode in the arena on the mountain trials, high plains and badlands. There was a real variety of terrain. It was soft in places and rocky in others. Their horses do just fine without shoes and an natural trim.

The most exciting part of the week was going to another ranch on Monday, about an hour and a half drive away to catch, halter and work with three mustangs for their first handling in this manner. I had a blast working with each of them in the round pen until they gently and calmly accepted their first haltering. It was sort of a spiritual experience for me as these horses trusted me in a very special way. It is hard to explain.

These horses were 5 and 6 years old. They had been captured as 1 and 2 year olds. But for the last 4 years have not been handled much other than to throw some grain in a feed bunk for them and touch them once in a while. Even though they were in captivity they have been in a big pasture eating to their hearts content 24/7 so they were fat. They were used to people being around, providing food and care for them. Other than that they didn't see any need to have people around.

It took me less than 5 minutes to halter each one and they stood perfectly calm and relaxed as I put it on them. However, it took me on average about 2 hours to prepare each horse for this kind of acceptance of the halter. I could have maybe
got the job done a lot quicker if I were a better roper. I could have roped them around the neck like a good cowboy would have. But I knew I would miss several times before I succeeded, and I also knew that it would be a lot more stressful for them. So I did a lot of bucket sitting and join up with them until each of these horses was willing to follow me. I wanted each one curious about me and wanting to be with me before proceeding.

Up to this point I had not tried to touch them. Next I started with a lot of approach and retreat in order help them accept my touch. I spent a lot of time petting the air and eventually the horse from his withers forward with my hand, the stick, rope and halter. I kept this up until I was really winning the friendly game. When it was time to put the halter on it was no big deal. I know I was as happy as the horse was that there was never a fight involved. There was never a need for either of us to get stressed. However, I will admit that we got a little hot as it was well above 90 that day, which more than likely played in my favor.

I started with the most difficult horse first. The gal who owned him said that she had never gotten close to him even with grain. He remained out of reach from human touch the last four years. As I was working with him she asked me if I wanted a bucket of grain to help catch him. Of course I refused the kind offer, because I wanted the horses to catch me and not try to trap or trick the horses into being haltered.

After haltering the first horse, I turned him out into a bigger corral by himself wearing his new halter while I started on the next horse. So he stood around for a couple of hours getting used to his new tack. Before I even approached the corral to take off his halter, I wondered if I would have to run him back in the round pen in order to get the job done. However, I decided to just pretend that he had been haltered a 100 times before and act as if it was no big deal. I walked casually up to him, gave him a pet on the forehead, stepped to his side and took it off without any trouble. I gave him another rub on the forehead and walked away. He was still standing there calmly as I walked away. He was probably wondering what just happened to him. I think I was as shocked as he was. Right after I left the corral I was jumping for joy because it went so well. To me it was a sign that he truly accepted me and the halter. I am so happy that the experience was so good for both of us.

The other two horses went in a very similar manner. I could not have been happier at how well it went. I only have a couple of regrets for the day. One is that they wanted me to catch four mustangs and I only had time for three. The second disappointment is that the whole process did NOT get video taped. I am really sorry that I didn't get even one picture.
DANG IT! But I have the memory in my mind and experience under my belt that I am very honored to have and will always treasure.

I look forward to going back next year to see how these horses are doing, plus all the students who came and took lessons from me. In fact this is the third year in a row that I have done lessons for these horselovers in WY. I had several new people
this year. And they are expecting me to come again next year. I will be excited to see what kind of challenges they have for me next year, and see the progress that each horse and person has made.

Happy Trails,

Friday, July 2, 2010

Balance of Calmness

Last month I wrote about “Calmness Without Obedience Leads to Trouble”, however a horse who is NOT calm, who has NOT learned the art of relaxation will also cause difficulties that prevent the nice ride that dreams are made of. Either too much or too little calmness causes an imbalance in the horse which affects his performance and our safety.

At one end of the scale is a horse that is NOT calm, he moves quickly, and is reactive instead of responsive to our aids. Riders often turn to bigger leverage bits, and tie downs with this kind of horse. In order to achieve the correct balance a not calm horse must learn the skills of standing, waiting, and relaxing. If we don’t help a horse find enough calmness, where will control and precision for performance come from?

On the other end of the scale is the horse that is very calm but dull, slow, and boring. The rider usually needs spurs and whips to get much of anything out of this horse. To achieve balance this horse must learn the skills of moving faster, quicker and more respectful to respond. If we get a horse too calm, where will exuberance for performance come from?

While trying to fine the correct balance of calmness, just like people, horses often overshoot the mark by quite a lot before they find the middle ground where both precise control and exuberance can be seen in their actions. While we are trying to find this balance we can expect to see new problems pop up in the process of change. There will be cycles between one problem and its opposite, until the horse’s behavior gradually becomes less and less severe. As you make progress the horse will become more manageable and eventually he will settle into the middle ground of a harmonious balance. The horse will find this middle ground because harmony feels better than imbalance. Once we correctly address the extreme behaviors of no calmness and too much calmness the horse will start to feel better and his body will naturally seek this harmonious feeling.

I have been asking myself this question for several years now, “Where does calmness or relaxation originate?” Does relaxation always originate in the mind, or can it begin by changing the posture of the horse so that the body tells the mind to relax as opposed to just the mind telling the body to relax? I have come to the conclusion that it is both, because body posture can induce calmness/relaxation, and relaxation/calmness always induces body posture. So calmness can originate in the mind first or it can be a by-product of the physical.

I have also been studying Yoga the past year and I have learned all action starts with a thought first and that although it is important to become stronger and more flexible, it is just as important to train to learn to control the mind. Yoga poses are meant to help clear the mind of clutter by concentration only on the body’s new position - twisting, stretching or balancing. This induces a softer focus and a calmer mind. The physical effort of remaining in the pose for a few seconds or minutes stills the mind even further. Yoga poses should be carried out meditatively, rather than rushing from one pose to another. To my mind, this is the same attitude we should attempt to achieve when schooling a horse, both for the horse and the rider. When done in this manner (mind and body together) the proper balance of calmness between both the horse and rider can be accomplished in a shorter amount of time.

I have also discovered that there is a fewer number of people who can make effective use of this greater mental pathway. Because not everyone has acquired the ability to directly induce calmness/relaxation in themselves let alone their horses. To do this, one must get directly into the mind of the horse. When the mind is uncluttered and focused the body will follow with greater ease. The human must be able to hold onto this mental state himself, if he expects the same from the horse.

It is rather ironic how it does not seem at all difficult for humans to directly induce negative emotional states in horses, i.e. fear, confusion, resistance. It seems more rare for humans to consistently be able to directly encourage calm and a sense of well-being with a horse. Those who can are masters of their own minds and bodies and we admire them with awe. Those who have learned to reach this greater path have become true artisans of blending with a horse and they make everything look so easy. With determination anyone can learn to have the kind of soft focus and mental power necessary to shape the body. Champion athletes and successful business men and women do it all the time. They have learned to wait, remain composed in turmoil, and visualize with clarity and confidence a flawless appearance.

Besides the mental and emotional pathway to calmness/relaxation, there is also the physical path, which everyone has access to. Anyone can learn to properly work through physical maneuvers which help induce a state of calm and relaxation in the horse. Even if you think you are too uncoordinated or out of shape if there is a burning desire you will find a way. People with physical handicaps find creative ways to adapt to perform some amazing activities which those of us who are not handicapped think of as impossible.

Some physical maneuvers which help relax and calm a horse are: un-tracking, squaring a horse up, lateral bending, lowering the horse’s head, properly executed stretches, muscle massage, endo-tapping, and any activity that causes the horse to focus and pay attention.

A horse which has lost his calmness/relaxation has lost his “all-rightness” inside and even the path to it. It is the human’s job to step in there and get the horse to change, focus and come back to being 100% OK on the inside. This may be as simple as showing the horse where the trail is. Once the horse finds the trail again, he has an inner drive to return and remain in the trail or state of “all-rightness”. Once a horse has been shown the path to this “all-rightness” he will begin to voluntarily ask the human to help him and accompany him on the path to it. He will begin to go further down the path and hold it longer every time he is helped to find it again.

The bomb proof horse isn’t one who never looses his calmness. The bomb proof horse is a horse that lives for the place of “all-rightness”. When things come along which knock him out of his “all-rightness”, it is only a moment before he can return to “all-rightness” again. By contrast, the agitated and impatient horse that is always on edge of turbulence is knocked further from “all- rightness” every time the smallest knock comes along, and he even gets more and more lost the longer he is left in this state.

It is our job as horsemen to find a path to follow (preferably both the mental and the physical) because we cannot take the horse anywhere we have not been. I suspect the horse in many ways is already there waiting for us to catch up with him. This is one of the things I like the best about horses, they cannot be faked out. We must be genuine with them.

Whether you choose to work via the physical path, and thereby induce relaxation in the horse as a by-product of body posture, or if you use the mental pathway first, or if you use a combination of both the important thing is that we find a balance of not too much or not too little calmness. It has to be just right for optimal performance.