Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The fun of a Birthday in the Time Warp

You  know how it is .... your birthday approaches and you start to think about what you'll do, how you'll celebrate, how old you are getting!, and you tell everyone you don't want a fuss ... then the day arrives, and you wake up like a child on their birthday, full of anticipation and 'specialness', eager to enjoy what you have planned!

And the truth of it is, it IS lovely to have others remember and make a fuss of you!  The phone calls, the text messages, the emails, the extra kisses and the Facebook messages, it all makes you feel good, and appreciated and loved.

My birthday was yesterday - Valentine's Day.  I joke that I was a Love Child, and then someone yesterday pointed out to me that how fitting it is that my business is called Horsemanship with Heart ... yes, the Universe's synchronicity at work again!

My birthday is my day to indulge myself in the Time Warp.  The Time Warp is that place and time we go to with our horses ...   it's the 'few minutes' (while dinner burns) we go into the paddock to check our horses!  That's the Time Warp!

Horses have a way of drawing you into the Time Warp.  They love having you in it, like they love a WERP (Walk, Eat, Ride, Play)  with you, and a bit of SMT (Scratch Me There)!

A Birthday in the Time Warp is an Excellent Birthday.  And so was mine.

Thank you to everyone who sent me messages of happiness and love, all of you are very important to me, and I appreciate every one of you!

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Character of a Horsemanship with Heart Clinic

A clinic is only as good and as interesting as what you get out of it, and also, what you are prepared to put into it. Last Saturday's Horsemanship with Heart clinic was no exception.

We had a mixed group - ponies and young people, and horses and older people (I don't mean 'old', just older than 15!). Prior to a clinic, I ask everyone to fill out a Pre-Clinic Questionnaire, which tells me a bit about them, what they think their horse's issues are, any problems that they may be experiencing, and so on.

So last week we had a mixed bag ... horses that push into people, rush through gateways, don't lead well, don't like their faces being touched, don't like their groins being touched, are nervous around people, and who have tantrums!

I keep the clinic numbers to a maximum of 8 or 10 and this gives me the opportunity to offer personal help to every person and their horse. I show ways of doing things that instill trust and confidence in a horse, being firm but gentle and offering confident leadership, which is what they all need! The most common reason that horses behave in ways we don't like is because of lack of leadership. Horses need love, yes ... but they also need leadership - it's part of their nature.

Participants learned about how to be the dominant partner in the relationship with their horse (remember, in the herd, there are no equals), which is done gently and simply, without force, fear or fuss. It's a simple, easy move that anyone can do, and I use it all the time, with every horse, to start off on the right foot, before I ask anything of them.

We practiced some leading, using body language, focus and breathing. We practiced the friendly game, with our tools and our hands, all over our horse's bodies to gain trust and confidence. We handled hooves in a polite way that encourages our horse's respect. We did some cool moves with our ropes that caused our horses to look at us with interest and respect. Then we brought out the obstacles, when participants could test their feel, focus and timing, and their horse's newfound bravery, trust and confidence.

It's always the horse that comes to the clinic with the most 'issues' that turns out to be the Star of the Day, and in this case it was 5 year old palamino Lady, who had come from an abusive background. Lady's gentle owner came to the clinic in the hopes of helping her horse become more trusting and less fearful. Turns out Lady, deemed scared and spooky, loved the obstacle course, and surprised everyone there with her cute playful antics with the tarp and coloured cones!

With strong, gentle, loving leadership, a horse's true Personal Character emerges, and it can delight you, surprise you, and enhance your relationship in so many positive ways.

To know more about Horsemanship with Heart clinics see on Jayne's website

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Mind Readers

Can your horse read your mind? We know that they can sense our moods, particularly those of urgency, or fear or unrest ... but can they 'know' when we feel negatively or positively toward them?

I put forward that yes, they can. Evidence is mounting up as I talk to people about this aspect of their relationship with their horses. It's such an important area that I am including at least one chapter in my upcoming book to this subject.

For instance, what about the man who decided to sell his horse that he'd had for 15 years and whom he wasn't 'using' anymore. The day he decided to do it, his horse would not approach him in the paddock (highly unusual, he assures me, as they'd always had a good relationship!) and for the next 3 days the same thing. On the 4th day the man sat in the paddock to look at his horse and think things over. Suddenly he realised that selling his old companion was the wrong thing to do, and he decided then and there to keep his horse after all. Feeling good with his decision, he stood up, called to his horse and the horse came over right away. Interrrressttting.

If you have a story you would like considered for inclusion, please do let me know! You can email or send an enquiry form that's on my website

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Reunion

During the colder months of 2010, student Steph and I went to help a thoroughbred (ex-racehorse) brood mare and her foal, a gangling, scared, wide-eyed creature whose prey animal instincts were so strong that crashing headlong into a gate was preferable to being near a human.

The mum wasn't much more confident either, and this is why we guessed she was wearing an ill-fitting old leather headstall, that looked like it had been part of her head for some time. The pair tore around that muddy, sodden paddock, fear written all over them, as we stood quietly, waiting for them to relax. It took awhile, with lots of approach and retreat, for the trembling mare to accept our approach, (and I removed the headstall) though her terrified offspring hung behind her, head high, tail high, poised for instant flight at the slightest attempt for us to come close to her.

You may have followed the subsequent story of how we came to trust and know each other on my Facebook pages; it was a slow and emotional journey for all of us over the next few weeks ... the gentle but skeptical mare discovering that not all humans are the same, and for the young filly, learning how to trust and place her confidence in me. I named her Crystal, for her fragile nature. Over the next few weeks we built our relationship, and the young Crystal was ready to meet the barefoot professional, be immunised and dewormed - all which went comfortably and smoothly for everyone. I went back over the summer, taking other students with me, to boost her confidence with other people and to rekindle our friendship. She would come when I called her name, and stand at the fence watching me when I left, and I hated to admit it, but I had become hopelessly attached to her!

So, the months went by and this past week when I went to see her, I stood at the gate like I'd done before, and called her name. It was a beautiful moment when she raised her head from her grazing, 100 metres from where I stood, and came galloping across the expanse of bright green grass, her friend Pegasus alongside her. Delighted, I climbed the gate, and moved toward them, and then when they were almost upon me, I turned and ran away from them, and they followed me, the three of us sprinting back down the paddock, they bucking and me running as fast as my gumboots would allow over the wet soggy ground! What fun it is to be reunited with your friends!

I stopped, and they did too, walking over to sniff and greet me. After a few minutes, it was like old times, and as I ran my hands over their strong young bodies, I couldn't believe how much the fillies had grown. Crystal now a 2 year old and Pegasus a 4 year old (my story about her another time). We played the games of Horsemanship with Heart and I trimmed Crystal's front hooves (so overdue I didn't want to wait for the trimmer's visit) and we hung out a while, just walking about giving scratches and standing close.

When our time was up, I reluctantly left them standing at the gate after I had said my goodbyes, and they whinnied at me as I waved one more time from the car. Every day, in every way, daily in my career, I am reminded that it's all about The Relationship! And the Crystals and Pegasus' of the world are just two of the reasons I love my job!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Do horses and ponies like to do cool stuff?

Coming up next month is our Mini and Pony Agility Clinic - a totally fun day of learning and games, all designed to develop a better bond with the little guys and their humans!
Which raises the question: do you think minis, ponies and horses like to play games with obstacles?

The operative word here is 'play' and 'games' .... like children, I find that most horses (by varying degrees) do in fact join in when presented with stuff to play with, as long as things are presented to them in a light hearted, kind, patient and sensitive way!

If the whole thing is approached as 'work' and a 'must make them do it' frame of mind, instead of a 'let's play' attitude, then a human could mistakenly think that their horse isn't playful, and doesn't want to participate!

Something we all need to remember when teaching something like standing on a log, for instance, as mini Gypsy is doing (above) is the invisible tattoo that is on every horses' forehead ... WIIFM! It simply stands for 'What's In It For Me?' and will shape your whole approach, if you pay attention to it!

So how long did it take for me to help little Gypsy to 'get it'? No more than a few minutes - but be warned, it can take the human a bit longer to figure out how to 'ask' and get a positive response and a 'try'. And then, when the horse does try, relax, give a scratch and a small treat, and maybe even lots of praise!

Tips for training fun tricks: keep it short, fun and simple. Reward lots and often. Leave 'em wanting more! Don't confuse them with voice cues at first (which may be YOUR way of learning, not theirs) instead use your ground skills to move them around gently and quietly. Use Approach and Retreat. Start with something easy and build confidence. Once they've 'got it' realise that the repetitions (after 3x) are for the human! LOL

Back to the question of whether horses do in fact 'enjoy' obstacles and the challenge of mental and physical games, well, we have only to observe them in the paddock if we leave stuff out there for them! Some like balls, others like gumboots, some prefer your ropes, your jacket, your hoof trimming tools! Horses are curious and playful (once they feel safe and comfortable) so go ahead, put on your party hat and have a go with the party games! But, um, be careful, your horse might try to pull it off your head!

For more information on the Mini & Pony Agility Day and other clinics, click here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Awesome Clinic!

Last Saturday's horsemanship clinic at Bethanga up in the northernmost reaches of Victoria, right on the NSW border, was fantastic. The group was fun, light-hearted, enthusiastic and attentive - and the horses were awesome as usual!

Right away I could see how much everyone loved their horse, and how keen they all were to learn about 'being natural' with their horses! Student Steph came along to help with everything, and at the end of the day, we left feeling tired but so happy that the clinic has been such a success, with big positive changes in all the horses and smiling humans!

Biggest Ah-Ha's of the day were about reading the horse's body language, using breathing to control energy, directing focus to relax or engage the horse, and being able to move all the horses around with just a Feather! At the start of the day, no one believed we would be able to do that, and by the afternoon, that's just what everyone was doing! Awesome!

'I'll be back'! and can't wait! I love my 'job'! Thanks everyone!

Am back in the office setting clinic dates for the coming months in between getting my new website up and running! Have a look at the dates here!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Two little ponies

Two little ponies recently entered my life by way of a dedicated rescue team and their new carer - and presented me with one of the most challenging missions of my career.

Who would have thought that two terrified little equines would have such an impact on me? We've all heard that our horses are our best teachers, and nothing could have brought this message closer than this pair of ponies ...

I'll be publishing the whole story of Jumper and Blade in a chapter of my upcoming book (so watch for it!) - but in a nutshell, these petrified ponies had probably seen many of the herd they had been part of, decimated, chased and shot, so they have every right to fear any human!

Being a horse means many things, the most important of which is to survive and be safe - and that instinct is tightly embedded into the DNA of every horse. The most appropriate word to describe these ponies was 'petrified'.

Yesterday, after hours of approach and retreat, recognising and rewarding the tiniest try, lots of soak periods, careful timing and patience, I was able to approach, touch and unhalter/halter these little guys.

The challenge was largely in part to the environment in which I was working. A large paddock with wire and electric fencing that is boggy, muddy and slippery; windy, wet weather; a makeshift yard with one strand of electric tape and pigtails; ponies that have a reputation for jumping anything when scared enough or cornered; and fear so strong it was scary in itself.

Some would have said to corner, grab and manhandle the little guys into submission. While this may work - once - it is certainly not the Horsemanship with Heart way. The HWH Way is to work on oneself - in this case, myself - to convince the ponies that I understand them, will not hurt them and am worthy of their trust, confidence and respect.

My biggest ah-ha after all this, was really just a renewed belief in The Process. The Process being to believe and trust in yourself and your skills, to humbly ask a higher power for help, and to take each moment as it comes. It's an emotional process, and I cried with relief and joy when those ponies first reached out their little noses to smell my hand. They both jumped back when their whiskers brushed the back of my hand, and I had to smile through my tears, as we made that all-important First Contact, a mutual discovery of the most beautiful kind.

(You can follow more on Jumper and Blade on my Facebook page).