A New Experience

Yesterday I had a profound, new experience with Riley. I walked up into the back pasture where the herd was nibbling some late winter grass. I checked in with a couple of the horses and then stopped about 30′ from Riley. I just stood quietly, breathing and relaxed, hoping that he would come up to me. He stood looking at me, but didn’t move. After a few moments the young Morgan named Night came over to say hello. I greeted him and then asked him gently to move off as he is a bit of a trouble maker. Next Mike, the old QH/Percheron came over to check in with me. I greeted him and then moved away, returning my attention back to Riley. I was then about about 20′ away and once again stood quietly with relaxed posture, just breathing deeply. Riley kept his eyes focused on me and then proceeded in my direction. However, as he approached I noticed that his ears were laid back, which was uncharacteristic for him. As he got closer they became even more expressive. I just maintained the same relaxed posture and did not react. Riley proceeded to walk right past me, just brushing by my right side. He was after Mike! He drove pretty hard at Mike who spun away. However, Mike is actually higher in the pecking order and turned right back around stating “oh no you don’t!” When Riley stood his ground Mike spun his hind end and began to back up towards him. I intervened calmly but clearly, asking Mike to quit, which he did. Riley then walked right up to me, stopping when his back was aligned with my body. He was now in a position between Mike and I. He stood quietly while I got the shedding blade out of my back pocket and went to work on some of his winter coat. I spent a few minutes at this, rubbed some sweet spots and inhaled deeply at his neck, full of gratitude. As I walked back to the barn I realized that this was a huge change for a horse that a year ago may have just walked away from me. The change was in me and this was proof that I was getting it right. Wow! I am so grateful for this horse who has sent me back to the drawing board time and time again. How lucky I am to be able to share my lessons with other horses and their humans. I am blessed to be on this rewarding and magical journey!


When You Know You’ve Done It Right

A couple weeks ago Mother Nature blessed us and I was able to spend a couple hours playing with my Cheval Canadien horse Riley. When we were done I returned him to his paddock and 4 pasture mates. After removing his halter I took a moment to just breath and share space standing next to him. I did a couple “go  away faces” and moved the front end over a step when he inquired about treats. I remained there, took a few more breaths, sniffed his yummy neck, turned, gently swishing my “tail” and left. The amazing thing to me was that Riley stood rooted to this spot for nearly 15 minutes.

Our time together had included some liberty play, a couple new and slightly challenging training exercises, riding up and down the hills of our driveway, practicing some lateral work, a few circles, walk, trot, canter transitions and a couple of new tricks taught with clicker training and treats. We finished up with a bit of grooming and some stretches. We had done quite alot and yes, there was even some sweat involved:) What was the most rewarding for me about the whole experience was that once released Riley didn’t run off to join the herd. He simply stood there and kept his attention on me, watching until I had almost reached my house up on a hill. The fact that he stood in that spot for so long, along with his body language, told me that I had done it right. I had shared quality time with him. We had conversations about what he wanted and what I wanted. I balanced out work with fun, learning and some positive reinforcement training. I always try to strike a balance because it is a partnership, not a dictatorship. Done right they should want to linger a bit, not immediately run off the moment they are released.   

As the pictures illustrate, Riley licked and chewed, shook his head to release and relax, then rubbed his nose on his knee, displaying that he had learned something. I just love experiencing how our relationship continues to grow and improve. If you are looking to improve your interactions with horses then take a look at the brand new clinic “Creating Harmony with Horse Speak” that I am co-teaching with Horse Speak founder and author Sharon, Wilsie. This April clinic is being hosted by High Horses TRC in Sharon, Vermont. Horses are provided so you need only to bring yourself and an open mind. This weekend promises to forever change the relationship you share with horses. Click on “Events” to learn more. Hope to see you there!


Developing “Feel” & “Connection”

“Your arms and hands, from the shoulder joints to the tips of the fingers and through the reins, belong to the horse.” Sally Swift

Riding is like tapping your head and rubbing your belly, on steroids! Different body parts must be doing different things all at the same time, and all without disturbing the horse. This is no easy task. Luckily for us, and for the horse, Centered Riding founder Sally Swift developed exercises and techniques that offer us the opportunity to “feel” of each other. I personally take a feel of each rider’s hands when I get to the “developing a soft, clear connection” part of my clinics. This exchange of energy and movement gives me great insight into how they might feel to their horse. After helping things go a little smoother I have participants be each other’s horses. They experience how small changes can drastically impact the message and feel that goes through to the horse. These exercises are challenging and sometimes cause distress because nobody wants to be the rider who pulls or troubles their horses mouth. Riding is not about the mouth, it’s about the feet and body of the horse. First as riders we need to focus on our energy, our balance, our clear intent and carrying ourselves, then we can complete the pretty picture with subtle support through our hands to the horses head. These pictures illustrate some of the exercises we do in a clinic. They always serve as one of the most enlightening and effective teaching tools.  Whenever we can experience something from the horse’s perspective things always improve. Check out the event page for a list of clinics near you and experience it for yourself. I guarantee that you will find them fun, educational and inspirational! Your horse will  you for it! 


Stay Tuned

Check out the action at New England Center for Horsemanship this winter.  Two of our boarders, 28 year old Mike (gray Percheron cross) and 6 year old Night (Morgan), love to play! And watching it never gets old!