Sunday, January 29, 2012

Robin Gates Clinic

Our trip off island with Shaman to the Robin Gates Clinic, in our trailer was calm and uneventful. He loaded in about one minute, looking confident and relaxed and off we went to the ferry. Sometimes it's best to pay attention to the flow of things and the road blocks as well! I certainly had had some things standing in my way of taking Rascal and Black Elk.

When we unloaded Shaman at the farm, he was well behaved and contained himself, until  he saw the terrifying red and green horses in the adjoining pen! Having always lived 'au natural' he had never seen a horse in a blanket. Off he blasted - fortunately I had long since learned to release a rope easily, so he raced around, snorted and eventually realized, oh, they are just horses!

I could write in depth about the clinic, but it's really something that should be experienced, and it's hard to tell about. Robin's message was: I Am Just Telling You What You Already Know. It's about connection, not force, it's about meeting the horse where the horse is, not demanding he meet you where you want to be, it's about listening to the horse, it's about being loving and compassionate, it's truly about making your relationship with the horse the most important part of being with the horse. It's about just being with the horse!

It's NOT about performance, or dominance or tricks. It's heart opening and fosters self realization. It's spiritual - connecting your spirit with the horse and with yourself. It's magic!

In the video you will see Robin meet Shaman where he was that day. Where he was emotionally - and spiritually. She became like him: you could almost hear him say ' you are just like me!' and then he joined her,  and in finding a leader, relaxed. It truly was amazing.

People at the clinic were surprised at how nice a mustang can be; a woman with a very elegant (and expensive)  warmblood said she'd be looking at the BLM next time she was horse hunting. A vet said it was such a pleasure to see a horse move so correctly and without any pain. Many commented on his correct conformation, perfect feet, sweet disposition and respect.  I felt like a representative sent from the BLM!

This video was on the first day and he was frightened by all the eyes on him. Quite a new experience, except for when he was in the corrals at the BLM in Burns, Oregon.  The next day, I made sure I was in the arena with him, as people wandered in, we met each person and I had many offer him a treat, soon he was no longer worried about all those new folks.

I was the last one at the clinic, waiting for my husband to come with the truck. He had been overloaded on the ferry and was running late. I loaded Shaman easily, took off his halter and then in backing out of the trailer he came out with me. Brilliant!  Now it was dusk and he was free.

He ran over to see a horse in a pasture down by the driveway. I have to admit, I was thinking Oh boy.... now what!  Would he listen to me in this place that was still so new, would he come to me as he does so happily at home, would he be frightened and run? But, all went well, and I walked over to him quietly, waited a moment for him to offer his head and slipped the rope over his neck and put on the halter. Little did I know that I had an audience who were also holding their breath for me! Again, we loaded, this time I was careful to keep him in the trailer!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Buying your First Horse - Part 2

 This is a continuation of the letter from yesterday. My student wanted to know what I thought of a horse she had gone to see, and this was my response to the video she sent me.
Shaman, Rascal, Ranger, Black Elk

This horse is a really pretty guy, very flashy. At 5 years of age you can be sure he is very green.  Parelli says green and green results in black and blue. I think he's right. I also know it's hard to find a good solid citizen that we could all hope for,  to learn from. The perfect horse would be closer to 10 and maybe even 18! Lots more hours on an older horse. Parelli says 2000 hours are needed on a horse for a beginner. Yes, that's a lot. If you figure 2 hours a day/ 5 days a week, that would be about 4 years. Some horses are quiet, unflappable and just cope. Quarter horses are bred for that quality. Those QH/Halflinger mares that I trained were more like that, especially Sadie, it's not that they were smarter, but they were so much less fearful that they progressed with out much fuss.

My style is to ask the horse only a bit more each day, my goal is NO DUST and NO BLOWUPS! I rarely have any. My training can look like grass growing, but you end up with a happy and confident horse who is delighted to see you and willing to participate. 

All this to say that temperament is paramount. There is a difference between temperament and spirit. Think about that!

This horse was not so happy being ridden. Did you notice his tail? Wringing, swatting about, either his back hurt or he didn't like what he was doing. You want to see a horse's tail relaxed and swaying, it's an extension of his back. He also seemed rather dominant and I think he could be pushy. (not terrible but you'd need to be firm with your boundaries)

He was not relaxed or happy in the arena doing ground work either.  He was much more relaxed on the road. I think you'd find him a lot to start with. That being said, if you are not in a rush to ride, if you are willing to spend time hanging out, doing ground work, walking the trails, working at liberty, knowing riding could be a year or more in the future for you, knowing the journey will be slow as you are both green, then find out more about him, if you like him.

Gotta go make dinner,

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Shaman comes to me in a Dream!

Shaman and Student Laura
This weekend was my second Robin Gates Clinic. I had intended to take Rascal as he was the most trained of my horses, and really ready for a new place. Lynn's farm is calm and feels  safe and I felt it would be a good beginning for new experiences.

Naturally three days prior to the clinic Rascal turned up sore. I did Jin Shin with about 50% improvement, but felt the ride in the trailer was likely to bring up the issue again. So, I deceided to take Black Elk, as it had been Black Elk who I'd worked with the most of late, and who was the most mysterious to me!

Since I had planned on trailering with a friend, this meant now I only had a few days to get him ready. He happily loaded on my trailer and off we went to my friend's. He was pretty full of himself over at her place and I saw a part of him that I did not expect - he acted bold and in charge! Whew - wish I had a camera when he climbed on top of the hay box to prove his point that he was top dog! Her horse, very kind, laid back and younger than Black Elk, was OK with his showing off, and they had a quiet night.

Once there, I realized I was totally unprepared for having Black Elk travel with another horse, tied with side panels and not loose. By the next morning,  the goal I had set for myself that day was to play with my horse in a new place - if we got into the new trailer and could stand tied - great!  We played around trees and through new gates and up and down the hills and eventually, I gave it a half-hearted go at getting him in my friend's trailer.

Loading, tieing, being confined by the side pannels,  and then trailering to a strange place via boat and highway. Frankly, I was questioning why I wanted to do this at all! Why would I risk my lovely, loving horse by draggind him down the busy highway, away from his home, his herd and his security to have him participate in a clinic? What was in it for him? Not much that I could see.... it was all about me. And for me... I didn't really know why I had wanted to do this so much either!

When he wasn't willing to put more than his front feet in my friends trailer and she suggested that it was time for some pressure, I made the decission to take him home. This wasn't the right time for this horse to be pressured and I needed to be in control of his well being. So, we quietly went to our trailer and he loaded up without a pause.

The night I came home from my first Clinic with Robin Gates, Shaman had come to me in a dream. In the dream he said: "Why is it always about Rascal and Black Elk, why are they always first string with you? Why not me?" That dream made me feel so sad for Shaman, as it was true in many ways.

So, I had thought about taking Shaman - first of all as he had come to me in that dream, and because he loves Liberty Work - often offering things like rolling barrels, getting up on mounting blocks, backing up when I stand behind him.   He allso has a boldness and sense of self that is stronger than either Black Elk or Rascal. I felt he could deal with the newness most easily and in fact he loves showing off, and he'd done the most trailering.

With 16 hours left, I decieded to take Shaman, in our own trailer to meet Robin and crew.

Buying Your First Horse!

Shaman and the boys
I have been writing back and forth with a student who is looking to buy her first horse, and my husband read the letter and exclaimed, this is a blog!  So here you go! Names have been changed to protect the innocent!

In preparation for getting your horse - 
Rascal and Kate
I would love to get into a lesson routine with you. I would suggest twice a week and to add in some 'hang out' time with that. (like an hour lesson and grooming/hand walking for another hour). I don't leave my horses unsupervised with anyone because every interaction is training, but for you to have time to groom Shaman and learn about pressure and release, while he's a liberty in a round pen, would be excellent for you, as would walking with him.   I would be around, but not instructing during that time. I might be grooming or working with another horse.  I am thinking that we could consider a monthly 'package'.

Shaman and Kate

You will benefit greatly by working with a trained horse. What is so unique about Shaman is his generosity of spirit. You can experience what it's like to have a connection with a horse, without having put the time and work into creating that connection in the first place. Shaman in particular is so willing to offer it to you. I think it's like learning dressage from a schoolmaster, the horse teaches you what the movements feel like. Sometimes Shaman is the teacher and I act as guide/translator, sometimes I am the teacher/educator and he is there so you can practice - when you get it right- he'll respond by doing what you want. It's quite different than teaching the horse. I would like for you to have that experience as well, but it's best to learn first from schooled horses! 

The more you know about how to handle a horse the better able you will be to evaluate the horses you are looking at. If you fully understand the 7 games, for example, you can use all of them when looking at a horse, and each will tell you something about that horse.

As for the woman with the Percheron, who sent you a video,  I would ask her for a better and larger formatted video. She can load it to Youtube. I'd ask for her to demonstrate his ground skills. Show him being haltered, brushed, his feet being picked up and cleaned, how  stands for grooming and harnessing.  I'd pay a lot of attention to his willingness - does he go up to the trainer/owner and willingly put his head in a halter, does he stand quietly and contentedly, is it easy for her to lift his feet?

Snow Angel!

Then I'd ask for a video of him pulling the forcart/wagon and being saddled, mounted, walk/trot/canter both directions, standing while mounted, how he handles with another horse in the corral would be good too. If he's had Parelli training, have her do a video of the 7 games with him as well. Find out how many hours of riding has he had. How many hours of pulling a cart? What happens when he's stressed and upset. Is he easy to read? On a scale of 1-10 what is his temperament and how would she describe it. Would she consider him a seasoned horse good for a novice? ( I could go on.... !)

The rest of this letter will be tomorrow's post. So, come back tomorrow!


Monday, January 23, 2012

Shaman At Liberty

All my mustangs love the snow! Here is Shaman hanging out with me at Liberty in the middle of a snowstorm. He loves to walk with me, matching every footfall, stopping as I stop, trotting when I jog, being cute up on the stump. No matter what I ask of him, he is willing. Why is that?

It's all about Connection. It is the result of many, many hours of playing with Shaman and making it fun for him. It's about developing a language that is subtle and kind, and a relationship that puts the horse first.

Shouldn't all our relationships be that way? Full of focus, kindness, play? Thinking about how the other one feels. Is it fun for you too?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Black Elk Companion Walking 1 12

This video shows us walking together, but I am not leading him. While walking beside him, it is more like riding, and the horse has to take greater responsibility for himself. It develops his bravery and self-confidence. He also has to listen to me and stay with me, stop when I stop and back up when I back up, turning both directions. To ask him to walk I have several cues, such as some pressure in his ribs, the word walk, or pointing. He understands them all. He is free to leave me at any time, but mostly he stays connected.

Jin Shin on My Horse Rascal

Rascal had a very different issue. But the great thing about Jin Shin is that it works on many levels: physical, emotional and spiritual. Of course, the issue might show up on all those levels - or just one. Rascal's presenting issue was a persistant soreness in his right hip, so Pam and I worked on his back and his hips. It is interesting to see his expressions, so I have included lots of photos in this blog. He was not as expressive as Black Elk, but I don't think the issue was nearly as deep either.
 While it is best to have your horse loose while doing Jin Shin, Rascal is like his name and he's into everything, so I tied him to the trailer, so he'd stay more in one place. You can see that some energy is beginning to move by his pawing and the arch in his neck in the next photo.
 Like folks who smoke or eat all the time, Rascal works out his displaced feelings with his mouth, so here he's eating the trailer.
 I was working on the hip that was stiff, and Pam was working on the opposite hip. Even on her side there was very little energy.

 By now, he seems to have some release and is feeling better.

 Usually at the end of the session the horse seems to say 'thank you'!
As for me, I want to thank my Jin Shin Peeps.. Pam Frye and Teri Murrey! They are pure magic!

Jin Shin with my Horse Black Elk

On my birthday, January 5, my Jin Shin friends came over to share Sushi and Jin Shin. I had just come in from a lesson that focused on 'relaxation in movement' with Black Elk. I was in a feeling mode, not in my head and very clear about what I felt about Black Elk. He tries so hard to please. He wants to do it perfectly, so perfectly that he has a terrible time relaxing into the movements, even though we have done them many times and he's really very good at each of them.

My fellow Jin Shin Practictioner's were listening and as I heard myself talk about Black Elk, I heard the words too. Perfectionism, trying too hard or as Mary Burmister says: Pre-tense.

We all agreed that he needed the heart flow. 
Kate and Pam work on Black Elk

In the lesson, we worked on asking for a movement and then not releasing or letting him quit until he showed signs of relaxation. (He was familiar with all these movments, but he tended to relax only AFTER he stopped) We wanted him to learn he could relax WHILE  he was moving. What I found during the lesson was that unless I slowed things down a lot, he would go and go but not relax, until he got to walk or stop. I felt if he could learn to relax while moving we'd both be happier.

So, Pam Frye, my Jin Shin teacher and I went out to work on Black Elk. He's an introvert, which means among other things that he's shy, and has trouble showing what he's feeling.  It also means he'll stand still while you work on him, which is great.

I did the heart flow on him while Pam worked on the 12's - which is all about unloading garbage from the past- releasing. Why we didn't have the camera going is beyond me. It was amazing. He dropped his head and began yawning and yawning, opening his mouth so widely he looked as if he wanted to vomit. (Horses can't vomit, by the way)  He twisted his tongue so it was sideways in his mouth, he stuck it out - untill about 8 inches of tongue was showing, he continued to yawn, stretching his neck down, shaking his neck, pawing, rolling his eyes, chewing, mouthing, sticking his tongue out again and again. Deep breathing, sighs. This went on for 10 minutes or more. Until he was quiet. He looked back at me with a big quiet eye.

His actions reminded me so much of some very intense therapy I had done on a very painful childhood issue. At times I felt as if I would vomit, and I would often dream of vomiting. In Elena Avila's book: "Woman Who Glows in the Dark" (a Çurandera) she says that naseau and vomiting are always signs of brining a soul back into the body, back to earth, to ground, to recapture that lost part of ourselves, it is a true spiritual cleansing. (see page 211)

I think this happened for Black Elk. For the past two weeks I have seen him come out more and more, playing with toys, with the other horses, acting like a big kid, cantering in lovely small circles.

And in our work together, he is learning to relax while moving.. but more about that later.