Sunday, May 30, 2010
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
This week was the start of our first summer session. Monday set some records for heat. Tuesday, it was potentially dark and stormy. No dark, no storm, though, since we did have a few students who really don't like being in the pole barn when it is raining!
The beginning of the summer session is always so much fun! It is fun to see how the returning students have grown (some like weeds, I tell ya!) and matured. It is most amazing to see how they remember all the rules of riding and the games and the horses.....especially the horses!
Unfortunately, we lost some real fan favorite horses this past year. So there is always some explaining to do, especially our Miss Candi. She had many many fans and was such a big, loveable, gentle soul that her presence is definitely missed. Another student talked about how they rode JT last year and "JT was huge!" JT was huge...in heart!
But we have new horses and new students and it is all a fresh start for the students, horses and volunteers. And everyone had a great time and it will be a great session.
Monday, May 24, 2010
Anyway, he began the session with Jewel, 'our' compact 3 year old Morgan filly, otherwise known as spoiled Princess of the Pack. She's unbroke, affectionate as a kitten, and just as naughty as one. And we all love her to pieces. Alas, I digress.
Michael's presentation was straight forward in showing us how to use patience intelligence and consistency to create a relationship and scenario where the horse naturally gives the trainer their will as well as their attention. He'd never met Jewel before.
The following are some of the notes I took while he worked her alone in the arena from the ground. His goal was to control her actions through nothing more than pressure and release via his body language and a plastic bag on the end of a stick.
In the following, the male pronoun is Michael or us. The female pronoun is the horse in question, or any other being to be communicated with. Michael emphasized that we can take this lesson and apply it to other sectors of our lives outside of horsemanship.
--Keep educational sessions brief. Don't rush the steps towards the ultimate goal.
--He stays off the rail because it's a danger zone. Don't rely on how quick you are to get out of the enclosure. His secure place is the center of the arena.
--Picture in your mind the result that you want before you get it. Don't expect misbehavior.
--His emphasis is use the least amount possible to get the most amount needed. We strive for ounces in our hands, not pounds.
--The moment she even attempts to give what he wants, he releases the pressure he's putting on her, whether it be waving his arms, clapping his hands, or any other stimuli that induces action. It's the will/attempt that should be rewarded, not the action. So he's always watching and thinking ahead to what's going to happen next, to be ready for it the moment she gives in. AND if he is consistent without pressure, she will give in.
--When trainers refer to "your seat" the definition of seat in horsemanship is a section of muscles that includes the thighs as well as the whole pelvic region. One's seat communicates to the horse where to turn, what speed to travel, and when to stop. The reins are practically just ornamentation to the knowledgeable rider.
--Our tools are just an extention of us. All stimulation given from his hand is "good." He doesn't hit a horse with his hand. If he wants them to run, he'd slap his own thigh first to make noise, not their rump. Direct with your free hand to tell her where she should go.
--He makes her think it's her idea to come to him, inspect the ball or tarp, follow, etc. Any time he can convey something as if it is her idea, it's a powerful tool towards further training opportunities. And he does get her to do things, relatively quickly, with his persistence.
--Horses are honest. They tell you when they get it and when they don't. So in return, be the same, don't blow smoke. Don't do something because everyone else does it. We can't control what's going on outside of the round pen/our heart, mind or body. We can only control ourselves.
--Lowering her head and licking her lips are signs of submission.
--He often moves at 45 degree angles towards her in his work, forward but not too forward. He watches for the yielding of her hip, her attempt to make space in a safe way around him.
--He disagrees with the idea of fatiguing a horse to get their attention.
--It doesn't matter that she's never seen him before, because animals live in the now. It's not a matter of reprogramming. Take what's there and develop it.
But most of all, the most important quote I retained from Michael this day was this:
"Our disability or perspective is not what defines us. It's
what we do with that defines who we are."
So it is with Michael, so it is with all of us.
Sunday, May 23, 2010
we only need to remember: keep it real, no BS and patience. We got to see a great demostration and I'm hoping one of our many competent volunteers (Marisa...hint hint) to write a blog about working with Michael and his wife Tiffany (check out their website http://www.brokenrranch.com/).
Those lessons came in handy on Sunday, when Janet, Nancy and I decided to take a nice early (ha!) Sunday morning ride.
Before a ride they look so clean!
We left the barn with Janet on DeeDee, Nancy on Hannah and me on Soleil. We came back to the barn with me on DeeDee, Nancy on Hannah and Janet on Soleil. DeeDee had some other ideas about going for a ride (she either didn't want to go or she wanted me to ride her...I'm flattered).
Thankfully, Janet only has a minor injury and got to ride on an ATV; and DeeDee made it back to familiar territory without hurting herself. But what is best for naughty horses, turning right around and going back out. Janet and I traded horses and the rest of the ride was uneventful. I made sure to thank Janet for wearing DeeDee out for me! Ha! Those of you that are familiar with Hannah on a trail ride...yes, she stalled for the first mile thinking Nancy would give up, but it wasn't to be so.
We practiced Michael's lessons: Janet knows the ground is real hard, DeeDee knows that I tolerate no BS and Hannah knows that Nancy has patience!
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Around sunset, Promised Meadows is a slice of heaven,
impossible to replicate adequately in words or photos.
Nevertheless, I'll say that some evenings are of an extra
magical quality. As the clouds sport peepholes for the
setting sun beams, the rolling green hills, shimmering trees
and painted sky break out in hymns of God's grace. A well
rehearsed aria couldn't compete with its breath taking
beauty. The only thing surpassing the glowing landscape at
dusk is the cloudscape, with flourescent and pastel
masterpieces reaching ever upward.
For horse lovers, the opportunity just to inhale their
horsey odor and tend to their needs is a great oasis from
life's troubles and salve for the soul. Once there, one's
daily woes fade into the background as this glorious animal
demands one's undivided attention. There's grooming to be
done, training to reinforce, and praise to give. To witness
the laughter of two non-verbal students interacting across
the arena as they ride warms the hearts of all present. They
are SOOOO happy, and in turn so are we!
This week, I did something new. Having failed miserably at
creating horse fever in my own family, I adopted a friend's
teen to volunteer at RA. At 13, she is fresh to task and
full of enthusiasm for the work at hand. Though I may be
seen as the gift giver, experiencing horses through her
young eyes is a chance to gift myself vicariously the
girlhood memories I wished I had.
The crash course seems endless at first, there is so much to
learn. But it's sweet study, even in learning the basics of
horse care. I was so grateful for the other veteran
volunteers present Thursday night, who were willing to
overlap my mini-lessons with their own to insure we don't
miss a beat.
Often, something comical occurs to accentuate the evening,
and this one was no different. Pasture mates that didn't
want to be separated made me think that the getting them
apart was going to be the most note-worthy event of the day.
However that scene was quickly trumped. WHILE I was telling
that very tale to someone, a visiting corgi peed on my
boots...while I was wearing them. Most times, one would
consider this an offense. But given the standard mucky state
of my barn boots, it was practically a blessing. At least
now one of them LOOKS clean. Remember, looks can be
So on that note, if ever you drive by a humble little farm
nestled in the hills on county 5, with multiple tires
hanging from one tree, four stumps painted purple, little
bridges leading to nowhere and sheep grazing all about,
realize that, maybe, just maybe, you are passing the gates
of heaven. Come back at sunset and see for yourself.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Friday, May 7, 2010
We had a fun night this week. We tried the noodles with some of the horses. The fjords, of course, took no notice of being whacked with noodles. Soliel was not so fond of noodle madness...her back would just quiver when we put the noodle on her back. Travis just stood there and took it like a quarter horse.
Of course, the noodle war between The Volunteer in Charge and the Flightless Fowl was won, of course, by the Volunteer in Charge. No big surprise!