Tuesday, May 25, 2010

So Much More Than Riding Lessons!

Yesterday, my new student, Ina came for her third lesson with the horses. She is new to horses and yet is obviously called to them. She is gentle and quiet and respectful. The horses respond to her beautifully. She told me that two lessons a week is 'not enough!'.

The horses were all sleeping, laying down for their afternoon siesta when she arrived. What to do? Go jostle them to get up? No, instead, we wandered over to where they lay to sit with them while they dozed. You can learn alot while just hanging out. For example, who feels compelled to get up and not lay there? Of course it was Ranger. Ranger feels he is the herd leader and must be in control and protect the others. Sometimes I can almost hear him say: "If you want to get something done right - you need to do it yourself!"  So even though Ranger is not the biggest or the smartest, he is the leader.

Ranger not only got up but went to greet Ina.  He is a very soft and careful horse, so I felt comfortable with Ina just waiting. Often being smaller than the horse gives them a chance to feel confident enough to be curious about you and gain confidence about your relationship.

So much respect with one another. Trust. That's what it's all about with horses, getting them to trust you and you trusting them. Walter Zettle says: "You must trust your horses!"  Imagine, they must trust us enough to let us straddle them and go where we tell them, and yet to sit still while on your knees takes courage for most.

 Such a blessing to wait, hang out and engage. A beautiful communication.

Then Rascal the curious came over and said hello. With horses on both sides, I encouraged Ina to get up quietly.

We are working on developing a 'soft feel'. Well, I don't  claim to be Tom Dorance but having a horse resond to you with the gentlest of suggestions is bliss. To be asked so gently to turn your head, with a light combing hand must feel so much better to a horse. So, Ina and Ranger worked on this.

Ranger has been very frightened about a rope over his butt, which he demostrated to Ina in a very clear way. So, I had her start with the rope at his withers and drew it back and forth across his withers ever go gently. A few inches at a time she moved the rope back towards his butt, pulling the rope from side to side. In the next few photos you can see, how it ended up around his butt and she gently pulled him in a circle away from her.

Here he is looking a bit uncertain, but Ina's quietness reassures him and gently she asks for more.

Ranger responds quietly and with confidence and turns in a circle.

Ina felt she had learned a big lesson with this exercise: that each horse, each individual has it's own rythym and if we can remain patient with their process, at their own pace they will learn and respond.

One of her gifts to me was saying; 'This is so much more than riding lessons! I could learn to ride anytime. I think about what I am learning here all week long."

So what do I call this? Horse lessons? Life Lessons?? The school of the Horse? You tell me!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Let Loose

Karen Rohlf who wrote Dressage Naturally talks about encouraging the horse to 'let loose'. She is a dressage rider who trained with Anne Gibbons and later went on to work with Pat and Linda Parelli. She says that dressage teaches a lot about the biomechanics of horses and some about the emotions of the horse. Parelli and Natural Horsemanship teaches a lot how horses feel, react and think. She combines the two, which is what I work towards as well.

In 'Letting Loose'  she is looking for is the horse stretching his top line, lifting his back and dropping his head. This is done in conjunction with the horse using his abdominal muscles. It relaxes and stretches and strengthens the horse. When a horse relaxes physically, he relaxes mentally and emotionally. Now you have a calm and thinking horse.

                       This is how he started out yesterday, slowly and somewhat relaxed.

I remember the first time I asked Rascal to do this. I couldn't believe how quickly he caught on to what I was asking. In no time at all he was all loosey-goosey and happy and calm. I bent over a bit while lunging him to give him an idea and that smart guy picked it up instantly by mimicking my body language.

Rascal loves moving in this relaxed frame and he will often stretch his nose all the way to the dirt. No pictures of that, as lunging and getting any photos at all was just about more than I could manage!

And a bit more forward.. and lifting his back...

After this warm up we had another fabulous ride. This time I asked him to just let loose while riding, collecting and letting loose.. each loop around the area was better and better. I got loose too!  My husband said he looked fabulous!  But alas, he did not have the camera. So the shot of Rascal cantering will have to do!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Perfect Ride

I just had the perfect ride! "Perfect" for where we are right now. Rascal is round, light, forward and on the bit! YA-HOO! He really understands lateral flexion! No fussing with the bit, just lifts his back, tucks his butt,  rounds his neck and goes forward!  I am so delighted! This has been a long road for my sweet mustang. He was awkward and unbalanced. When I first rode him it was the herky-jerky.. He was so afraid he'd fall over,  he'd get scared and stop. I think I had whip lash for the entire first year.

Since my fall before Christmas, I have been struggling to get back in shape. At about 6 weeks post injury, I could barely walk up the driveway. It's not that long.. although, there is a bit of a hill.. but still!  The progress was slow, and the chiropractor told me if I was in pain, to stop.. I was doing damage. So, it seemed to take forever.

Then I started Pilates at home.. 20 minutes or so.. then 30.. then 45. After about a month of that I was ready to go to class. Such a long upward struggle. This past month I have added the 3 mile hike from my home in Deer Harbor up Cardiac Hill, which goes through Spring Point.   Huffing and puffing.. I added music to keep me going.. I do arm exercises as I walk.. Oh, I look like an old woman!!

About three weeks ago I started riding. Wow, it hurt my back in about 10 minutes.. but a little progress every day..

The thing that made the biggest difference for Rascal was lunging him while I stood still in the center of the circle. Thank you Giddyup.. from 'Life On the Rough String/" who shared this insight from Mike Bridges clinic, she attended. See:  'A California Vaquero Style Horseman.' Mike said 30 days of PROPER lunging standing still was worth 90 days of work in the saddle. I am here to tell you it is true!

Prior to the broken ribs, Rascal and I were working on getting lateral flexion and on the bit. He was round some of the time, he was forward sometimes. I was following Jane Savoie's 'A Happy Horse' training in Dressage. We were moving in the right direction, but it was the lunging that  made all the difference. Rascal has gainned the necessary muscle memory to to carry himself.

Funny how when I look at my own photos, all I can see is how I need to improve my position!
Maybe my husband will lunge me!
5/13/10...OK, so now I have updated the photos!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Natural Horsemanship - For Horse-Lover's of All Ages!


Maybe you have always wanted a horse but don't know how to get started, or even if it's right for you? Maybe you were bold as a child with horses but kind of scared now. Maybe you have a horse but now it seems like the horse is the one calling the shots. Maybe you just need a bit of help, or a chance to 'try it on' or just some horse time for the good of your soul...Maybe you live on Orcas, or maybe you'd like to visit and spend a week or two learning about horses..
What ever your situation, I'd like to help.. drop me a line!

                                                       Horse Kisses...

Would you like to:
Build better communication with your horse?
Enhance your leadership skills?
Stay safe and honor your horses instincts?
Deepen the bond between you and your horse?
Learn kind ways to deal with challenging situations?
Learn how horses mirror other relationships?

                 Black Elk-One month after being adopted from the wild.

Do you need help:
Gentling your horse?
Teaching it ground manners?
Building a loving partnership?
Developing your horse's courage?
Developing a better seat?

                                  Kate and Rascal - Dressage Work

Using a combination of natural horsemanship, clicker training, and classical dressage, I can help you build a better partnership with your horse, from the ground up. I have extensive experience working with mustangs adopted from the wild, watching herd dynamics, learning their language, gentling and training. I have a lifetime of horse experience, years of teaching experience and a background in Psychology and Women's Health. 

                                Kate and Cody- Dressage Schoolmaster

Your horse being truly happy to see you!
Coming when you whistle!
Walking the trails together with your horse at liberty!

                                                Third ride on Black Elk

Work with your horses or mine...

It maybe that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work.