Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Horse's Christmas

Above: Little Cisco last Christmas, who is missed so much ...

After a morning of gifts, laughter, eating and carols, I wandered outside to say Merry Christmas to my horses, and realised I was anthropomorphising! Just another day for my guys, although they reacted to my clip-on red antlers with much snorting and wide-eyed disbelief at what I had obviously grown on my head overnight!!
All jokes aside, gifts for horses might be many (new rugs, tack, etc) - but likely the best gifts for them (from their POV) would be the present of your undivided attention with rubs, treats and a walk to a fave grazing patch!
So that's what my herd got ... some relaxed hanging out time. I put a soothing Christmas CD into their stable CD player (that was for me), and just hung out, with rubs and scratches and sitting doing nothing in the morning sunshine. Everyone was pretty relaxed (it had been a chilly night and the sun felt good) and I was probably the most relaxed I'd been in a while too, after the busy weeks leading up to December 25.
There were a few treats - politely accepted - and it was beautifully fulfilling and good for the soul. And that's a great gift for anyone!
I hope your Christmas was joyful and heartwarming too.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Learning Curve

This morning have been up writing since 5.30am and watching the dark skies give way to morning. Well, not exactly. The skies are still black and 60kmh winds are forecast along with thunderstorms and more heavy rain! While we all wonder what happened to a gentle spring, and alternate between our drizabone and gumboots/ sunglasses and flymasks, it's clear that we need to learn about unfamiliar environmental ailments that can affect our horses!
When I speak with horse people around Australia about their horses, I hear about all the challenges they've been having. Not the least of which is fence-related injuries from horses panicking in a storm and getting tangled in wire. Keeping horses together rather than solo can help prevent this, as in many cases, the herd instinct of the horse living alone will override his good sense. Fencing is one of my favorite topics (more on this another time!)
My own herd's hooves have taken a beating this season. Before coming to the lush Yarra Valley, the boys and I lived for many years up in the high country, with natural playgrounds, hundreds of acres to roam, rocky ground, good drainage and a rare hoof problem!
So, I've learned about laminitis, seedy toe, abscesses, mud fever, thrush and cellulitis, as well as sliding-in-mud-injuries. And now with the tropical weather, we've got to be alert for rain scald, Queensland itch, mosquito bite reactions and more! I've delved into natural supplements, (working from the inside out) and have learned heaps about these often painful and persistent conditions.
And then there's the grass. Mmmm. Brings to mind Katie Watts and her "Are you feeding your horse like a cow?" Highly recommended reading. Watch where your horses graze ... your grass may look pretty to you, but could be toxic to your horse. Case in point: my well-intending neighbour decided to prepare his property for horse agistment - so ploughed it and had the 'grass specialist' sow seed 'suitable' for horses. Guess what ... clover and rye, mostly! There will be a lot of sick horses who are grazed on such pasture for any period of time. My own paddocks now have a little rye and clover popping up (from hay brought in) so they're being moved around daily to minimize exposure as much as possible....
And brumby Spirit has just endured his first abscess. Never thought I would see it. He told me a few mornings ago where it was ready to burst out - he was biting at the skin at the coronet, pinching it with his teeth. Shortly after, he was 90% less lame, what a relief for the tough guy!
Looks like there is a lull in the rain, so I'm out to check everyone over and see what learning experience there is today! LOL!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Enjoying Clinics and Other Fun

What fun we've had at the clinics this spring - everyone all rugged up like it's the middle of winter! We've done some cool things at liberty, brought out the balls, tarps, hula hoops, jumps, chairs, umbrellas! Everyone's been stimulated and challenged, and the horses have been so interested in everything!
A clinic gets everyone motivated and inspired. It was great to be awarding Level One Foundation and Intermediate Skills Certificates to well-deserving students, and to see how much the exercises in the levels program have improved skills.
It's also fascinating for everyone to see the individualism of every horse ... they all have such different characters and it's fun checking out each horse's favorite toy and game.
One of the funniest things has been watching Corbello's daily swim across the deep dam and one of the most happy things has been Poncho's emergence from his sadness over losing Cisco. It is a joy to see him bouncing around like his old self, and poor Woody (his 17hh paddock companion) is on the receiving end of his Napoleon-like dominance! All is good!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Smorgasbord of Information!

Whatever way you look at it, the Equitana Event in Melbourne is a veritable smorgasbord of information about everything equine ... nutrition, riding, property management, hoof care, training aids, tack, chiropractic, massage, even bling! (I've only listed a few!)
So to go along to an event like this when you are interested in horses is a wonderful treat, and a time warp, as there is so much to look at and absorb!
I loved being there to endorse such wonderful natural products and services as the Light Rider Bitless Bridle and the Barefoot Treeless Saddle, along with the Bare Hoof Care services of Andrew Bowe (aka The Barefoot Blacksmith). I talked with hundreds of people about their horses and it was fantastic to catch up with students and subscribers to my newsletters!
There were lots of highlights and I met some remarkable people who are Doing it with Heart - it is inspiring to know that people are tuning into their horse's needs on the emotional and mental level, not just the physical level - evident in the interest in horse psychology and natural communication!
And let's not forget the horses that were there for us to admire! - the gorgeous gypsy cobs, the walers, the brumbies, the miniatures - who stood around for days being stared at and confined, wondering what on earth was going on with all this pampering and attention!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Equitana and Christmas coming up!

"Where's my bling?" Arriba looking gorgeous in his Rhythm Beads and me having to do with the clip-on microphone!

It's November already and it makes me realise how quickly time does fly past, and in Melbourne, between now and the jolly season we have the big horse event of the year, Equitana. Do come along and see me at the following booths: The Barefoot Blacksmith (bare hoof care), Horse Connection (treeless saddles) and Natural Horse World (Light Rider Bitless Bridles) where I will be endorsing these wonderful products and services and answering questions about my program of Natural Horsemanship with Heart.
Thinking up ideas for Christmas, as in gifts (like bling for horses) and some cool accessories to make life this summer a little more comfortable. There will be the Rhythm Beads, and the Cool-It Bandanas - watch for these on my website shop - along with some other goodies that you and your horse will love (like healthy cookies for your horse!!) Plus for we girls, the best underwear for riding!
It's going to be a great couple of months!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Variety is the Spice of Life!

You've heard the phrase, "A Change is as Good as a Holiday" ... (then I take a lot of 'holidays'!) ... it is healthy and natural to embrace change as part of life!

Horses of course, are creatures of habit, and get into their routines. Upsetting those routines too radically can result in them become a bit disorientated, or worried and confused. (Like us!)
However, if we always stay with the familiar, the comfortable and the 'safe', we will not take opportunities to grow and experience new things.

Another useful phrase to remember when considering change, is "if you keep on doing what you're doing, you'll keep on getting what you are getting!" - and "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result!" (I love that one!)

Including some variety in your relationship with your horse is a positive thing. You could change the place where you usually go to play with your horse, you could change the activities or games you play with your horse, you could change the toys you use!

I often liken horses to 2 or 3 year old children - they can get bored easily, they always willingly do what feels good, they let you know when they are not happy with something, they like cuddles, like to be the centre of attention, and are capable of temper tantrums!

Zorro, my arabian gelding, is the epitomy of a 3 year old child. He has taught me so much - and is still teaching me today! (I'm not anthropomorphising, just drawing a light-hearted comparison!) A playful, spirited, intelligent and social horse like Zorro practically 'demands' to be stimulated, mentally, emotionally and physically. If you are lucky enough to have a horse like this, delight in the opportunity to learn and enhance your horsemanship skills!

Adding variety to your horse's life will keep them interested, keep you inspired and will create more joyful, heart-happy moments!

Above, you can see my brumby, Spirit, play the ball herding game! Yay, a win for the WJ Ranch Team!

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Life of your Horse

One of the simple joys in my life is to sit on the terrace, with a morning coffee and gaze at my horses, who stand quietly enjoying the warm rays of sunshine after a cold night. Notice the word 'gaze', not 'look at' ... the word completely summing up the lovely fuzzy soft feeling that I have when engaging in this favorite pastime! How lucky and blessed I am to be able to do this - and it never ceases to bring a smile, and to lift my heart and spirits high.
Being a horse 'in captivity' requires a compromise on the horse's part. Deprived of her natural tendency to wander, browse, explore and other natural daily horsey activities, a horse could get pretty bored! I often think about this, and try to see life from my horse's point of view. What can I do to make life a little more interesting for my horses? They already live in a herd which is great for them with all the social interractions it provides. They have a good space in which to get up a gallop if they feel like it. They get to participate in play with me. They get special treats. They have toys in their paddock. They get to go on walks, and the best of all! - they get Honorary Trips onto the House Lawn with all the Roses!
For a happier, livelier, more interractive horse buddy, try to look at your horse's life in captivity and think about what you could do to make it more interesting and enjoyable. Today's Plan of Action for my herd of boys is to encourage some dam splashing and to let them up to the top paddock where they can perve on the mares across the road! (With a solid post and rail fence protecting them of course!!) Yeeha Boys!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


WII-FM: "What's in it for me?" is written in invisible ink on your horse's forehead! In my Natural Horsemanship with Heart training program, I encourage students to always consider their horse's point of view when teaching, riding, playing or just hanging out with their horse. And when you know what's important to a horse (through understanding of horse psychology), it's easier to know what things your horse might enjoy (apart from the obvious munch on a favorite treat or patch of succulent grass!)
This is why I love WERPs so much (Walk, Eat, Ride, Play). We take outings that involve some walking side by side, some eating (some trailside picnics for both parties), some riding, and some playing (ground games). We both have fun and your horse will be a much more willing participant in your activities when next you call them up from the paddock!
One of the best, simplest pieces of motivation for your horse is a good scratch! Sometimes in clinics when we play the Touching or Getting Friendly Game, I hear that 'my horse doesn't like to be touched or brushed', however after a few minutes of experimentation, we find that the horse does in fact love to be touched and groomed, just not in the way that their human was doing it! Horses, like people, are individuals, and have individual likes and preferences. What is a wonderful scratch for one might be irritating for another. But when you can read your horse, and importantly allow them to stand freely so they can 'talk' to you, you'll be amazed at how much they 'tell' you! One of the easiest words to teach your horse is 'Scratch'!
I stand next to my horses, my scratching hands at the ready, and say the Scratch word, and they will reach their head around and nip themselves where they would like it! You can be useful to your horse, and WII-for you? The joy of seeing those curled lips, the outstretched neck, the expression that says, 'oooooh yeahhhhhhh'. I've yet to see a horse lover who doesn't enjoy such a moment!!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Friend in Need

Two months after my little mini stallion Cisco went to the great pasture in the sky, I've been reminded daily of how animals grieve for each other when separated after a long friendship. Cisco's lifelong buddy Poncho has moped about every day, struggling with laminitis when he's in with the herd (too much new grass) and struggling with confused loneliness when I confine him to the dog yard ("Why am I here all alone?"). Even the playful and affectionate antics of my beagle don't bring out his play drive. Disney brings him the Jolly Ball, offers him a chew on his bone, pulls the pony's tail and jumps on his back!
Hour after hour, the little fella would stand in the corner, head down, refusing to eat unless I sat there with him. He whinnied now and again, his voice sounding weaker than it used to, a far cry from when he barrelled around the paddock with his young nemesis. I already knew that horses are emotional, and develop strong feelings of attachment to their herd buddies and special friends, but this has given me an even greater insight into horse psychology.
So you can imagine how happy I was today when in the first warm sunny rays of spring, Poncho decided to chase Disney and engage in some mutual face nuzzling and licking!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Dreams Can Come True!

Of course I've always loved horses (like you!) and can remember running around the school play yard pretending to gallop on my white steed. I rode my bike up and down the road in my Annie Oakley outfit, pigtails swinging under my cowgirl hat, and imagined I was riding my beautiful horse! Being a city girl, this was a long way from reality! This dream began early (I was under 10) and proves the immense power of imagination and visualisation!
You may be smiling at this picture, having one in your memory just like it ... or you may still have a dream that is yet to come to reality ... a dream that includes a wonderful relationship with your horse, based on mutual trust, confidence and respect.
You've heard the phrase, Without A Dream Inside Of You, There Is No Dream To Come True ... so don't give up on your dreams ... visualise what it is you would love, and watch opportunities unfold that give you choices to follow a path to your dreams.
Sometimes it can take years, and many detours to reach your dreams (and that's Ok!) - with me it wasn't until many years later that I became a 'country girl' and met the horses of my dreams, Olé and Fez, two grey-white arabians who I fell in love with and who I started my journey of natural horsemanship with ... and I learned an important thing:
Opportunities come in guises that we may not recognise at first - and in roundabout ways! Follow your instincts and your heart and be open to the world around you!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Learning Journey

Any teacher will tell you that the most precious, priceless moments are those when the student does well, overcomes a difficulty, and loves the learning journey! Cristel, this young thoroughbred filly, is yet to be weaned from mum, and was exceedingly nervous and scared of humans (and everything else!). Of course, in Wild Horse Kingdom, these are excellent survival traits, but not so beneficial to a domestic horse! Early (natural) handling of young horses is so valuable - my own arab stallion was imprinted by me and is a delight: trusting, confident and respectful - in sharp contrast to this scared filly who was acting entirely on instinct! This was a beautiful moment, when she chose to stand with me, and I'm taking a well-earned breather! Smile says it all ...

Friday, July 30, 2010

Attitudes are Contagious!

Just a little bit of personal motivation today! Having a positive attitude means a positive expectancy - where you expect good things from your relationship with your horse! Avoid agistment property tea-room 'pity parties' or 'gloom rooms' - this only perpetuates what you don't want! It all starts with a positive attitude, looking for the good in situations, being a bit of a Pollyanna never hurt anyone! Concentrate on what you do want your relationship and abilities to be ... what you focus on you attract, remember! And remember too: Attitudes are Contagious, is yours worth catching?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Getting to the bottom of things!

Handling your horse's legs and hooves may be something you take for granted (it's easy!) or something you aspire to (you have a horse that doesn't give you confidence!)
Either way, it's all about safety, confidence and respect.
I see many horses that snap! their foot up the moment you go to touch their legs. It's a lot safer if you can teach your horse* to follow a specific request when you'd like to do something with their hoof. If your horse snaps their foot up, thinking you want it, or trying to avoid a pull on their fetlock feathers, then it's a lot more difficult to treat a wound, brush their legs or anything else!
Using the chestnuts as your specific request works well. It's a clear request that isn't easily confused with something else. I spend a lot of time around my horses' legs, ensuring that their manners are good, along with their hooves!
Young horses benefit too from this early education - here I am with young TB filly Cristel who is allowing me for the first time to stroke her legs - creating a solid foundation for the future.
(*included on my training DVDs)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Rowdy Little Cisco 2005 - 2010

Falling in love with a mini horse or a pony is an easy thing to do ... their cuddliness, their sweet faces, their cuteness, their funny antics, their curiosity, their irresistible charm ... no wonder we adore them! Thing about so many of them too is their friendliness - they are usually more confident and sociable than the bigger guys, making them easier to include in our day-to-day lives (who hasn't had their mini in the house, after all!!?)
Today's post is dedicated to Cisco (Rowdy Little Cisco) who was born on my front doorstep and into my arms 5 years ago this October. He died cradled in my arms a few days ago, on July 2. A tragic loss of a spunky beautiful, trusting and gentle little stallion - whom everyone who visited the ranch came to know and love. Hard to believe that this healthy little horse of boundless energy, enthusiasm and zest for living is no longer with us. Yet, his big strong spirit and heart permeate the ranch still ... and when I glance up quickly from my computer to look at the herd, I see him just fleetingly, with those unmistakable brown and white markings, his tail swishing, his tiny hooves carrying him on joyous gallops, to leave footprints on our hearts .... thank you Cisco, for everything you brought to our lives. Rest in Peace, my precious boy.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Zorro! Load Up!

There was a time when Zorro, (my arabian gelding who is featured on my website float loading demo) was very afraid of the float! He would rear, pull back, trip and fall, spin, run sideways and bolt off if led up to the scary cave on wheels! Although it was many years ago, I still remember it clearly ... and from that day I had a strong desire to help him overcome that awful terror he must have felt! No point in analysing the 'whys' - I just vowed that I'd work on my abilities to where I could get him to understand the float was ok! I wanted to work on myself to where I would be able to call out the kitchen window: "Zorro, Load Up" - and in he would go! Now, yes, he will do that, and we have fun with the float, having turned it into a game. Being able to 'play' with your float, and using your dominant playmate skills will get you there, if you enough Heart and Desire! Have a look at Zorro Loading Up here!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Grand Old Lady

If you've had horses in your life and been caring for them for a number of years, the chances are that you may have lost one - through old age or illness or a tragic event. While I'm not going to get all sad here ... these lovely friends we've said goodbye to will never be forgotten - for all that they were and everything they brought into our lives. I'm remembering the sweet old mare, Susie, who came into my life not so long ago, and graced it with her lessons of trust and love. She died, quite tragically,nearly two weeks ago, and is missed very much. Her story is an inspirational one ... and causes me to encourage all horse people to give their older horses special care and loving. Just look in their eyes and you'll see the love and trust that they deserve in return. Rest in Peace, Susie ... and Thank You.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Joy of Freeplay

Freeplay with your horse is an awesome feeling! The human and horse that play together Stay Together! For those who have experienced it, the invisible connection to your horse during freeplay is a true joy. How do you get to that stage of your relationship? It isn't as difficult as you might at first think! In my groundskills clinics, we are exploring Freeplay during the first day ... testing the bond by taking those first few steps toward developing communication with heart, not with ropes. What you need is a few skills first - nothing fancy - just a some moves you can use to establish yourself as your horse's dominant playmate. Once they see that, you are on your way to mutual understanding. Then, using assertive body language (and as much self-belief as you can muster!) you show your horse that you 'speak their language'. Get the moves right first, of course, online. Then take those baby steps slowly and you'll see big results!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Being a Good Clinic Attendee

Horsemanship Clinics are a great way to meet other like-minded people, get inspiration, education and experience in handling your horse in different environments! Even if you are a spectator, you'll learn plenty! My own clinics are small, personal and friendly. Being a good clinic attendee and getting the most out of your investment of time and money involves asking questions, writing down ideas, and having an open mind. If you plan to bring your horse along, ensure that you have practiced your float loading, including a trip in the float and an uneventful unload. If you would like me to come to your area, then ask me about Hosting a Clinic - Great Benefits for Host and a fantastic learning experience.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Going Forward: No Kicking!

It's no surprise to me when I see people kick their horse to go - after all, that's what most people have been taught to do - in traditional riding lessons, pony club and by most advisors! However, there IS a better way to ask your horse to go forward, and to learn it is quite simple, with patience and focus and sensitivity! When teaching people to ride in a way that doesn't involve kicking (or any contact with your heels at all) I often ask them to take their boots off, to ride in their socks, so they are more fully aware of what their feet are doing. While a horse that is used to being 'kicked or nudged' might take a few times to understand a new (softer) cue, once learned, they will be much lighter and develop a a greater capacity to 'listen' to the rider. Riding with your whole body is the secret here!

Friday, April 9, 2010

S-t-r-e-t-c-h your Comfort Zone!

Stepping outside our comfort zones can reap some wonderful rewards! Stretching yourself to expand your horsemanship skills and understanding is a good thing - just be aware of never compromising a horse's dignity for the sake of your goals. A horse has his/her comfort zones too ... and might be reluctant at first to explore options with you ... so take it slow, as tiny changes in habits can ultimately create big growth. Imagine if you were to take a tiny progressive step for 30 days straight - in a month's time you would probably look back and realise how far you've come! Whether it's with your riding, your ground play, your confidence or your knowledge, a good stretch to expand our comfort zones is healthy and natural! And confidence comes from experience, and experience comes from practice, so practice, Practice, PRACTICE! (Just make sure you're practicing correctly!)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Talk to the Animals!

A day at the Pet Expo means that an assortment of pets show up to be part of the fun and games! Arriba and I did 3 demonstrations for a mixed audience (see sheep at bottom left of photo!) and scarey spider next to her! My sociable arabian met a pig for the first time, along with a goat! He'd already met sheep and llamas at previous pet expos! When we were given directions to our booth, the instruction was: park next to the Big Shark! (Great, I thought!) So there it was, in all its' giant grey glory, waving about in the wind. After a cursory glance, Arriba kept his focus on me as he waited for his cue on what to do next. Brings to mind the importance of Preparation, Preparation, Preparation!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

News from the Ranch

It's been a busy week here, with lessons every day, preparation for the weekend's Expo and the re-education/rehabilitation of an elderly mare (follow the story on my Facebook profile and pages if interested). The mornings are dark until after 7am and nights are getting colder - which means friskier horses with more energy! Feed rations have just been raised, part of the property been sprayed for capeweed (gotta do it) and checking hooves for thrush and seedy toe as the humidity increases. Having fun developing Bonanza for his role as a clinic partner and teaching little Cisco some new tricks along with putting Arriba through his paces in preparation for the weekend!

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Good Gallop

Having a herd of 10 means Action! Benefits of a group this size - all running together - is of course lots of physical movement, healthy emotional interractions and mental stimulus. All this contributing to a horse having his mental, emotional and physical needs met. Another upside is you get to see all the herd politics and behaviours exhibited so there's lots of opportunity to 'learn from the herd' - and herd-watching can become a major addiction! In my herd, Spirit the brumby is the self-appointed 'guardian of the little ones' (meaning Cisco, miniature horse stallion and his partner in crime, Poncho, shetland-mini horse) and will herd them away from the others ... here is a fun shot of Spirit and Cisco neck to neck, with arabian stallion, Jebel keeping an eye on things!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Recipe for a Great Day!

Starting each day with love in your heart is a powerful recipe for a great day! Seeing your horses at first light if you are fortunate enough to have them living with you is a wonderful way to begin the day! And when you rise early, you may get to see the sun come up and have that special time where you can plan your day or do something 'just for you' before the household stirs. It's a great opportunity to read up on hoofcare; polish up your knowledge of horse psychology; find out more about feeding, herbs or homeopathy; and even watch the Horsemanship with Heart DVDs - when your mind is fresh and you are rested. Even if you get up just 30 minutes earlier, and devote that time to YOUR own development, it will make a difference!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Autumn is Here!

Yippee! Cool nights and mornings, warm (not hot) days - it's all perfect for horsing around! The horses have renewed energy and enthusiasm for playing more athletically and are more sprightly on a ride. Less flies means more comfort outdoors making it a great time of year!
Now is the time to make time to get out there and enjoy your horses! Every morning I'm met by the herd at the fence, whinnying, coming up for scratches and generally asking for attention! I like mornings and evenings best, and having lots of WERPs (Walk Eat Ride Play) which the horses and I love! Even on a walk out or a short ride, it's good to be practicing your skills and observing your horse's responses in different environments. All part of my program's Trust, Confidence and Respect.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Lying down on the Job!

We seem to be equally delighted to see our horses galloping around and lying around! Of course, the first represents that sense of freedom and spirit that we so love to see, and the latter represents a sense of relaxation, trust and comfort that we so love to see as well! Horses can lie down in favorite spots, funny spots and even on the front door mat! - as my little miniature colt used to do! Lying down with your horse is particularly heartwarming and feels wonderful. Lying on them while they are lying down is fun too! Shows trust, confidence and respect - on both sides! Here Corbello waits patiently for 'the bus'.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Through your horse's eyes

If you were your horse, how would you feel about so many of the things that your human (you) subjects you to? Would you like your human, respect your human, look forward to seeing your human? How would you feel about the places you go, the float you travel in, the things you were asked (told) to do? To truly do this exercise, without placing your human values and perspectives on your horse (anthropomorphising) you need to understand something of horse psychology! Make it a goal this year to learn more about your horses' mental and emotional needs, not just the physical needs!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Is your horse hungry?

You know what it's like when a child, toddler or baby is hungry! They let you know it, loud and clear - they become irritable, their concentration span lessens and they can be difficult to soothe. I often liken horses to children (you wouldn't yell at your child or strike them or punish them when they didn't understand something!) when talking about patience, kindness and understanding.
So, like a child, a hungry horse can be a challenge to teach and they can show anxious, disrespectful and fidgety behaviour. During clinics I encourage people to bring plenty of hay for their horses as I know that around the 90 minute mark they start to look for food and lose concentration (this is all the reason to keep your learning sessions short and take frequent snack breaks).
I say there are no 'naughty' horses ... they are only doing the thing that makes most sense to them at any given time!
Driving around to lessons this past week, I've seen many horses standing in bleached paddocks with hardly a stem of decent forage. What is there, is sour and lacking in nutrition and the horses have a vague, hopeful look about them when they see me stop to have a look. Horses need about 2% of their bodyweight in forage (grass,hay) a day, so weigh your horse (use a weight tape) and calculate what he/she needs.
Crankiness can be plain old hunger ... so make sure your horses' daily food needs are being met before you blame him/her for being cranky!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Using your Imagination

When it comes to horses, it can be challenging for some people to come up with imaginative ways to keep themselves and their horses interested ... sometimes it can be a good idea to sit down and brainstorm a little, write down some ideas for creative play! Doing the same old thing the same old way can get boring for everyone! Being an instructor keeps my imagination sharp ... I exercise it a lot as I plan clinics, lessons and ways to keep myself and my horses keen! This week was filled with creativity ... going outside the box to help scared horses, to develop the human's confidence and ask horses to do something special! When asking Arriba to learn new 'tricks' for demonstrations, I always consider his point of view and aim to make the learning experience as fun for him as I can. If he's feeling good about things, he'll try harder! Remembering the 'What's In It For Me?' phrase helps you to think laterally ... and there's nothing wrong with a bit of fun (I prefer a lot of fun!) Exercising your imagination is like exercising your body .... the more you do it, the easier it becomes!

Monday, January 18, 2010

It's not what happens, it's how you take it!

Yesterday's wild and definitely unseasonal weather brought an icy blast to the two charity events the Horsemanship with Heart team attended outside Melbourne. Heavy rain, strong wind and chilly temperatures saw us donning our coats and Steph and I even rugged Arriba, who stood shivering, looking hopefully at his cosy float which stood next to our booth! He always does a great job 'meeting and greeting' and was a real trooper, travelling for a total of 6 hours to attend the event. The day brought to mind that we sometimes need to be ready to change our strategy or our plan to fit the circumstances - and to be professional and cheerful no matter what! We had loads of fun and Disney even entered the friendliest pet competition (beaten by a cat!) It's not what happens, it's how you take it! And to be able to laugh at things you cannot change ... such as the weather! A good day had by all, and the hot shower at the end of it absolutely divine!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Almost as hot as Arizona!

Walking out the door of the house today is like walking into an oven! Searing, almost burning, heat, the sort of intensity I remember from living in Scottsdale, Arizona (the desert). On days like this, the only horsing around anyone wants to do involves water! Most of the herd got their hose-down this morning, and are now snoozing under the pine trees up the hill, where they can catch a slight breeze (and keep an eye on the mares next door!) Want to do some horsing around on a hot, hot day? My advice is not to heat-stress your horse - play in water if you have it, hang together in the shade and sit in their horse-trough! And what a great time to watch some of my training DVDs with your favorite icy drink! (Try pineapple, canteloupe and fig juice for delicious health.)

Monday, January 4, 2010

Go For It!

At the beginning of a new year, many of us write lists, make plans, resolutions etc ... (I'm an expert at writing lists: at the beginning of the day, the end of the day, start of a new week, start of the new year etc!) however it's true that all the lists in the world will not make something happen ... it's only Action that makes something happen! So this year is the Year of Going For It, just like Disney (pictured here) who never made a list in his life, yet always dives right into whatever it is he wants!