Saturday, July 9, 2011

Think About What You're Thinking About

Dear Horse Lovers,
I've been studying the mind for a long time. As a teacher I am very interested in the brain and how it works and how we learn. Over the winter I have been reading a lot of books on this subject.The more I learn the more I realize how important our thought life is. I remember Ray Hunt repeating the words "Think, have a plan." over and over at the clinic when I rode with him. And I recently rode with Buck Braanaman and when one student asked him "How did you do that?" He said, "I thought it." Have you ever thought something and your horse just did it? I know some of my students have experienced this. Thoughts are powerful and they have creative ability. So it is critical that we think about what we think about.

I don't think it is very likely to have a positive life if you have a negative mind. If you struggle with negative thinking, it's important for you to come to grips with the fact that your life won't change until your thinking does. I have learned not to think about every thought that falls into my head. I decide whether it is a profitable thought or not and if it is not I simply throw it out, and I don't allow my mind to dwell upon it. Then I start thinking about things that are true, honorable, just, and honest. I consciously think about things that build myself and others up instead of tearing them down. This includes any horse I am working with.

It may take a little time to develop the discipline of taking your thoughts captive. It may happen little by little just like we develop our horses little by little over time with good habits. Don't criticize yourself when you have setbacks in your thinking patterns, just get back up, dust yourself off and start again.

Sometimes people come to me for lessons or bring their horse to me because they are discouraged about their progress. My job is to equip them with tools in their horsemanship skills and more importantly to encourage them to keep moving forward. Some people are afraid to be positive or hopeful because of past hurts or failures in life. But the pathway to freedom begins when we face the problem without making excuses for it, and then begin to change our thinking about it. You don't have to allow the old things that have happened to you and your horse to keep affecting your relationship and progress forward.
I can't promise the journey will be easy, that you will never be disappointed, or that things will always turn out exactly the way you want them to. But you DO HAVE THE POWER TO THINK AND BE POSITIVE AND MOVE FORWARD if you so choose to replace your fear with hope.

No matter how negative your thoughts are or how long they've been that way, I know you can change. I can promise you that it will be worth it if you make the effort to think about what you're thinking about. This has helped me to succeed in so many ways. But don't forget that the thinking will then have to be followed with positive actions that match those positive thoughts.

If you are struggling in any area of your horsemanship or even in your personal life, our camps will help you transform your thinking and we will encourage you to be the best you can be. Hope to see you this summer at one of our many camps. Please check out our calendar and sign up now.
Happy trails,

No Matter What!

Dear Horse Lovers,
Throughout the course of a horse's life both positive and negative things happen to them. Some of those things are very damaging to the horse's willingness to interact in a safe and acceptable way with humans. It is heartbreaking to me when I see a horse operating with high defense mechanisms. They are simply doing it for self-preservation and survival. People who are ignorant of the horse's survival needs and effective ways to communicate with the horse are normally the cause of this. The horse is struggling with fears, confusion, lack of trust and respect for humans.

I had a horse like this in training during April. I am very happy at the dramatic changes that happened in her in just over a month. But I spent over 100 hours with her in order to break the chain of fear and confusion which caused her to be scared and defensive. Through a lot of relationship building exercises I gained both her trust and respect. She looked like a different horse when she left here both physically and emotionally.

I was patient with her, no matter what. I took the time it took with her, no matter what. I worked with her consistently every day, no matter what. I gave her enough repetition and variety, no matter what. I expected the best from her, no matter what.
I never got frustrated or angry with her, no matter what.I preserved her dignity and curiosity, no matter what. I remained calm and stable for her, no matter what. I focused on her confidence, no matter what. I was crystal clear with her, no matter what. I was soft as possible and firm as necessary, no matter what. I did not 't give up on her, no matter what. I know it may sound impossible that I was able to do all of these things but it is true. I am not perfect; however, I have taught and disciplined myself to be very serious about doing whatever is necessary to help a horse come around, no matter what.

Going at a slower pace than I wanted to with this horse actually paid off much more than I ever thought it would. In the end I was very pleased with her overall progress and I know that she has a new confidence in herself and would like to be a willing partner given half a chance to do so. Once again I realized going slower is actually faster.

No matter what issues you or your horse may have there are workable solutions. However, depending on the severity of the issue it may take a lot of time and effort in order to get to the other side. You will find great satisfaction from overcoming these issues and by taking it to the next level with your horse.

I became very attached to Babe this month and it is was very hard to part with her. But I know her owner also has her best interest in mind and will do all that she can to continue what I started in Babe. Babe was not the only beneficiary here, I gained another opportunity to take my horsemanship to the next level by working with her.

After I fulfill the obligations I have already committed to,
I am not taking any more horses this year. I really want to take my horses to the next level. I have had very little time in the last couple of years to work with my own horses because I am always so busy riding everyone else's horses, and solving their problems for them. However, help is still available because I am still doing camps, clinics and lessons. One of these avenues is a great way for you to take it to the next level with your horse.

I will take horses again next April. I love working in the cool spring weather even when it rains and snows. And I hope to work on my second book during the heat this summer, when I prefer being inside with the air-conditioner.

I hope you have another great riding year, having more fun than ever and staying safe, no matter what.

Happy Trails,

Affordable Horse Vacations

Whether you show, are new to horses, have lost your confidence or simply want a safe and quiet mount to trail ride, our clinics, camps or lessons are for you!!!

I am all about safety and creating a "partnership" with your horse. I am a full certified instructor for American Asso. of Horsemanship Safety, Inc.

By attending one of our events you will learn to understand how to work through any situation that may arise between you and your horse. Knowing why your horse does what he does is the first step in creating a willing relationship based on mutual trust and respect. The result will be a well trained "partner" and will always result in a safer and more fulfilling relationship for you and your horse.

I will use proven methods I have learned from other great trainers like Buck Brannamen, Ray Hunt, Richard Winters, Jack Brainard, and Pat Parelli, (a few that I have actually ridden with) in order to teach participants how to achieve:

A "yes" attitude in your horse
Respect, trust and control
Softness and suppleness with the bit
Collection and lateral/vertical flexion
Softness and suppleness with leg and seat cues
Balance in both horse and rider

Some of the topics covered and issues dealt with will include:
Ground Manners

Standing Still While Mounting
Head Tossing
Pulling Back
Great Stops
Smooth Gait Transitions
And much, much more!!!

If you are interested in more information about attending one of our events go to our website at

When you come out to Burwell to one of our very affordable camps you will be surprised at how much you get for your dollar. The clinics which I mentioned above that I have attended on average were $600 for about 12 hours of instruction and did not include lodging, food or stalls for my horse. So that is always an extra expense, which can really add up when you stay in motels and I have paid up to $40/night for a stall for my horse.

For about the same price at one of our camps you will get over double the amount of instruction from me which is very individualized because I keep the groups small on purpose. (Only about 6-8 people as compared to 25-30 participants in other clinics).

Plus I include in the price very comfortable lodging in our bunkhouse, nice stalls for your horse, and beautiful scenery on free trail rides each day. (Meals are optional for some of our camps).

So if you are looking for a summer vacation where you can enjoy your horse or one of mine, give me a call. You can come and just ride trails, or participate in a horsemanship camp for learning, or even sign up for a Spirit Horse Retreat where you let the horse teach you about yourself and God.

We do private camps upon request. Call to find out available dates. So if you want to come with a friend and design your own camp, let me know. The bunkhouse is full from June 15-30th. But starting July 1st I have some openings.

Here is a testimony from a gal in Florida who attended a camp and she doesn't even own a horse.

Had the good fortune of participating in one of Sherry's amazing clinics 2 years ago... the experience was a life changer. The lessons learned go far beyond you and a/your horse. I continue to practice and reflect on my experiences, thank...s Sherry! Oh, I augmented my "camp" experience with a few days working with Sherry and her herd. I stayed in town... again, I cannot tell you how special the time was and how much I learned. Don't pass this up!

So if your looking for an affordable horse vacation give us a call.

Happy Trails,

Watch Your Words!

Here it is the 14th of June. This is the latest date I have ever sent out my monthly newsletter. It normally comes between the 1st and 5th of each month and I have met that deadline every month for nearly 7years now. That is a lot of writing and articles. However I have a good excuse for being late this time. Many of you know that on May 19th my Dad had a heart attack and he is still not out of the hospital. However, we are hoping he can come home by this Fri.

On June 9th my parents celebrated their 54th wedding anniversary in the hospital. What a great accomplishment to be so in love and devoted to one another for over half a century. I have a thing or two to learn from them about relationships. They seem to always be there for each other no matter what. They always speak good words about one another. It is amazing how powerful words are. I saw this quote on facebook and I believe it is so true.

Watch your thoughts: They become words.
Watch your words: They become actions.
Watch your actions: They become character.
Watch your character: It will become your destiny.
How does this relate to horsemanship? We really have to watch our thoughts and actions around horses, because they have this uncanny way of nearly reading your mind. But technically they don't read your mind, however they are so darn good at observing your body language they just as well be reading your mind. And words we say about our horses and our own horsemanship abilities can somehow become self fulfilling prophesies. So be careful what you say. I think a horse knows our character even better than we do. Because he knows what happens before what happens, happens. What is your destiny with your horse? You can create that destiny by paying more attention to your thoughts, words and actions.

I recently said that I wasn't taking any more horses in training at my place until 2012 so I had more time for my own. Another example of being careful what you say. I had to eat my words because last Sun. a nice little black mustang named Husker came to live with me for the next month. When these people called it just seemed the right thing to do to help them on their journey. I have already had a great time with Husker in just 3 days. The owners are going to be spending a lot of time in training with Husker, because they realize that they need the training even more than he does. So it will be an enjoyable month teaching both horse and owners who are so willing to learn and be the best they can be.

It is exciting to have so many people coming out to Burwell to stay in my bunkhouse to learn along with their horse instead of just sending the horse for training and expecting him and I to do all the hard work. I have 5 more people coming this month to do exactly that. Then at the end of the month is the parent youth camp, which will be fun.

I have given my bunkhouse a name, "Horse Lovers Bunkhouse". I purchased some signs and brochures for it recently and am excited to see them and get them hung up. It is very cute and comfortable. You don't need to bring your own bedding, towels, or dishes, all is provided. Just bring your own personal toiletries, food, clothes, and an attitude of learning and fun. We have air-conditioning, but no TV, don't worry you won't have time to watch one anyway. However we do have wireless internet access.

I hope you get the chance to come visit us this year.

Happy Trails,

Report from Parent/Youth Camp June 2011

By Anne Burkholder

Megan and I had a wonderful time at Sherry's Youth Horse camp this week. We sat
down tonight and she recited some of the things that she learned.
1. Don't ever over-correct your horse b/c it makes him stop.
2. Always have control of your horse. (Keep them between your legs)
3. When you are doing ground games or riding, take your time. Don't rush your
horse and always reward the slightest try.
4. When something is hard, don't ever give up. Stay positive, Get creative, Be
5. Attitude—have a good one!
6. Be confident, Be a leader!
7. Have fun and be interested—your horse will too!
8. Fun with horses also comes with responsibility.
9. Don't let your horse get in your bubble-protect your space so that your horse
respects you.
10. Don't pull your horse, push him!
11. One reign stop! Lateral bending with softness.
12. Nose, neck, maybe feet.
13. There are four distinct phases---hair, skin, muscle, then bone.
14. When backing, the way that you move your hand will determine which direction
his butt goes.
15. Never get frustrated when your horse is yanking your chain.
16. When backing while riding: keep your hands in front of the saddle horn with
tightened reins, roll your hips backwards by rolling your belly button back, and
lift your hands.
17. Two pointing is awesome and I can't wait to gallop!
18. Never lean forward in the saddle.
19. When your horse has a bad expression with his ears, fix that before you ask
for anything else.
20. Do not touch your saddle or your horse's butt with your leg when climbing in
and out of the saddle.
21. Always balance your relationship with friendly!
22. What you don't do on the ground, you shouldn't do in the saddle.
23. There are 7 ground games: friendly, porcupine, driving, yo-yo, circling ,
side passing, squeeze
24. Have a set routine when asking your horse to pick up his feet—pinch instead
of push. When you ask for a back foot—stay out of the kick zone and bend his
neck toward you. Don't release until he gives you what you ask for!
25. Use your entire body to direct your horse.
26. Lead and ride your horse like a QUEEN.
27. Be particular!
28. Be a partner, not a predator.
29. Don't let your horse wallow when you are on his back!
30. FOCUS (pay attention to your horse) and have a PLAN!

Thanks so much to Sherry for a great camp. Horses are such a wonderful thing to
share, and they teach great "life lessons".

Youth Parent Camp: July 21-23
As of today I don't have anyone signed up for this camp. It will be a first come first serve basis whether I stay home for the camp or go to Omaha and Lincoln for monthly private lessons that weekend. If you read the above report you will see it is a great camp for both parent and child. The list of things that Anne and Megan learned is very detailed. This camp is a great value as the parent instruction is virtually free. So it is a two for one as far as the instruction fee is concerned. Carol another grandmother who came said she thinks she learned more than her granddaughter. It is a great way to bond with both your horse and a child.

A More Excellent Way

Do you need help with getting your horse to stand still for mounting, bridling, trailer loading, crossing water, taking a lead, slowing down, speeding up, stopping, or a million other things you wished your horse did better? Or maybe you are ready to take it to the next level with collection and refinement. Whatever you are searching for to make your life better with your horse, I am sure that we can assist in a way that will allow both you and your horse to be happier.

I am always pursuing excellence in both my horsemanship and teaching skills which is why I also continue my education through clinics, seminars, classes, etc. Excellence as I define it is a general consistent state of high quality. It brings to my mind an unmatched performance, someone with unusual expertise who demonstrates consistent high-quality performance. We often think that to be the best at something we have to be naturally gifted or talented. But experience has taught me that talent, while it can be important is not the main ingredient for excellence.

I believe that no matter what area of life you want to improve you can develop it to a level of excellence with a little know-how and a lot of effort even if you are not particularly gifted in that area. The primary pathway to excellence in any endeavor has three main ingredients, none of which depends solely on talent.

# 1. Find Your Passion:
Well I believe you would not be reading this if you didn't have a passion for horses. People of excellence love what they do. I am sure you love riding horses, so I challenge you to learn how to fuel the fire that keeps moving you forward in your skills as a horseman.
You can spot a really passionate horseman seeking excellence, here are some things you may observe:
  • They put their whole heart into it
  • They are attentive and undistracted
  • They work with maximum energy needed for the task
  • They are consistent
  • They have a positive attitude
  • They put in the time it takes
  • They are willing to take small and gradual steps
In life the prize goes not to the person who is the smartest or the most talented; it often goes to the person with passion. Are you passionate about being excellent at trail riding, barrel racing, dressage, jumping, cutting, roping, showing, or just developing a relationship with your horse where you can both have fun and be safe? If you are passionate, that is wonderful. You are off to a good start, and that is the easy part, but the next step is the hard part.

# 2. Never Cease Practicing
Passion won't take you anywhere unless you combine it with disciplined practice. Successful people like the Beatles, Bill Gates, any great horseman like Chris Cox, Clinton Anderson, Buck Braneman, Peter Campbell, Pat Parelli, Bill or Tom Dorrance, Ray Hunt, Walter Zettle, Lynn Palm, Karen Rolhf, Charmayn James, you just pick the one you think is great; they have all put in thousands of hours of practice before making a big splash. Nobody cruises to the top on natural giftedness alone.

Malcolm Gladwell writes, "Practice isn't the thing you do once you're good. It's the thing you do that makes you good."

I don't consider myself as having made a big splash yet, but if people knew how hard I had to work to gain the mastery I have, it would not seem so wonderful at all. Learning is only the first part. The real key is putting that learning into practice that leads to excellence. You can't just read about how to fix your horses problems and expect it to just happen. You can't just watch a video about how to train or ride a horse and be able to do it very well the right away. You need to perform what you have learned over and over and over again to perfect the skill.

# 3. Honor Your Values:
Passion and practice bring excellence, but character sustains excellence over time. Absence of strong character eventually topples talent. People cannot climb beyond the limitations of their character. Eventually the limelight of success brings to light the cracks in their integrity.

I encourage you to develop a core set of horsemanship principles and values from which to be passionate about and practice from that foundation. Without that foundation the building of something excellent will eventually fall apart. I have tried very hard to never sacrifice my principles in order to achieve my goals. It has been difficult at times, but in the end it will pay off.

The fact that excellent horsemanship skills aren't something a person has to be born with should be encouraging... In order to be excellent all you have to do is determine what your passion is and then put in the hours and hours of practice. As long as you stick with it and honor your foundational principles and values along the way, you will reach a level of excellence you never thought possible.

I hope to be a part of your journey towards excellence no matter what your passion. And it doesn't matter whether you go to the grand prix, or the world show, excellence is not a competition, it is a prize of satisfaction for a job well done.

Our camps will set you on the course of learning and give you the extra practice you need to help ensure your success when you get home. A commitment of a couple of more days at a camp instead of an hour or two private lesson or a 1-2 day clinic will offer the extra practice with instruction that can be just what you need to keep you going at home. All you will have to do is use some wise time management.

Hope to see you this summer! And keep reaching toward excellence with your horse. You can do it!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Independence and Liberty

Free Yourself to Experience the Joy of Horses at Liberty!

But be smart about it; preserve the horse’s dignity and your safety.

Since I am writing this on the 4th of July I decided to write about the fine art of dancing with your horse at liberty. It is truly a beautiful sight when done in a way which allows the horse to perform from joy with natural enthusiasm and expressive movement while looking to the person for leadership. A horse at true liberty is free to engage every moment in the process of building meaningful relationships. When a horse is at liberty the handler can shape his character, confidence and curiosity for learning or he can destroy those valuable qualities.

I recently had a person spend over a week with me who has been struggling for a few years to get her horse to perform at liberty with her. It can be very frustrating when your horse keeps leaving you at very high speeds. Then you slap the ground and chase him hoping to disengage his hindquarters to get him to look at you. After doing this enough times it becomes a great game for the horse and an undesirable habit is developed, one which will be very hard to break.

The worst thing you can do to see if you can dance with your horse at liberty is to take off your halter go to the round corral, turn him loose and see what happens. If all you have ever done with a round pen is watch a famous clinician work in one a time or two, chances are neither you nor your horse are prepared to have a successful first experience. The second worst thing you can do is form a habit of chasing the horse rather than drawing the horse to you. It is the draw that you must perfect and that means the release is more important than the pressure, not the other way around.

The general perception of liberty training is a system which applies nearly constant pressure to the horse in a small confined area like a round pen. The person is often quite aggressive, snapping a whip with forced manipulations along the fence line. The horse may come to the person in the middle because his lungs are burning bad enough that he needs relief. It is often a chase game with lots of hard pressure, change of directions and hopefully release of the pressure at the right time to cause the horse to stop look at the person and hopefully move towards the person. And even this can look impressive to some folks. It seems the adult trainer is often very pragmatic in his approach and everything has to be cut and dried. He thinks, “That’s the way we’ve always done it.”

But what if….

· training could be more than simply a person's will forcefully imposed on the horse or a person begging with carrots?

· the horse could have a real voice and truly participate actively in his training?

· there could be a mutually shared partnership between you and the horse, based on a system of communica­tion both could understand equally?

· in the process, the training time was dramati­cally reduced while results were signifi­cantly amplified?

Would you do it? Would you be willing to change your thoughts and actions?

Rather than forcing specific behavior from the horse…

What if….

· We could be more free in our approach, simpler, maybe even childlike with a magical quality.

· We had a proven system based on the actual language horses use to communicate with each other.

· We focused on the horse's language, which is spoken through body movement, eye contact and touch, not sound or verbal cues.

· We fostered a healthy ego in the horse, stimulating his desire to learn, enhanced his natural curiosity and motivated him to excel with meaningful rewards.

· We developed a truly harmonious working relationship based on trust, respect and understanding.

· We encouraged a ballet of shared energies, like dancing, where body language and compatible movement create a strong bond.

· We were so crystal clear so the horse readily comprehends the goals we hope to achieve, plus we give the horse the freedom to work with us as a team player.

· We allowed the horse to be trusted as a willing participant in the dance.

All of this is definitely possible with liberty training. But liberty training is much more than just turning a horse loose in a large enclosed area, free to move about at will, regulated without use of any tack, ropes, halters, or other restraints. It is about speaking a language the horses recognizes and can understand. Even though there is complete freedom of wills there must also be an instant cooperation, precipitated by immense gratitude, and coupled with security felt upon joining up. We must never forget there is high demand for responsibility, sacrifice, appreciation, and commitment from the human in this act of independence which will ensure success at liberty. It is much like the independence we can experience in our personal lives and our great country (America), but in order to maintain it there is a price for liberty.