Horsey Therapist

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Ongoing flow of changes

I have been connecting with friends from the past and finding moments of solace and moments of elation and inspiration through these renewed contacts.

I have been practicing my best horsemanship and studying more with my most favorite teachers. My horses continue to thank me.

I have been working more away from home, spending my at-home moments checking in on Facebook, and making trails through the brambly fields here at home. Work still includes teaching at High Horses Therapeutic Riding Program, and I've been hired back to do some work for a local mental health agency again. And most exciting, I'm teaching from home now.

More later. I promise. Just can't tell you when 'later' is. Best wishes to all.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Maddie is here

I took in a new and free horse on Friday. A young mare who has the potential of being the horse who carries me into my 80s.

One of her first gifts to me is an increased appreciation of the horses I already have here. We have worked out space and boundaries and have pretty clear communication about what's expected. Maddie on the other hand comes with some determined ideas about what she can and cannot do. Most of those ideas are about what she can do and leaves her questioning -- sometimes ignoring -- my ideas.

She, being a Morgan, is a quick learner. Ok, all horses are quick learners under the right conditions, but I like to brag on my favorite breed so please ignore or forgive my self-indulgence.

She quickly told me she did not like things touching her hind legs. We have many dried vines curling around the ground and it bothered her just the act of being led to her paddock. I envisioned some serious stomping on trail rides and decided I'd help her feel better about stuff around her hind legs. We figured this out nicely with the help of a soft rope and a patient, determined human.

Today we reviewed my expectation that she stand still and quiet-minded while I mounted her. She picked up on the still while I'm mounting her, but struggled with the quiet-minded and staying still until I asked her to walk off once mounted. We made good progress with this today as well.

I love coming back the next day and seeing how much she retained from the last time together. So far so good. In fact, excellent to the point where I feel 85% confident she would not run me over in the herd should another horse crowd her. So I remain on hyperalert status when feeding hay for example, and will do what I can to help that 85% grow to 100%.

Meanwhile my appreciation of the horses I already have here ... especially thinking about little Riza. I am ready to resume getting her started under saddle now that I realize she is already a quiet minded, attentive, ready-to-do-things-with-me horse. Maddie came to me with some saddle hours on her. With Riza I will be the one putting those saddle hours on. And we started this weekend where I proceeded from mounting and dismounting to mounting and walking and halting and dismounting. A good next step for both of us.

I have started other horses in years past without really, really noticing how OK the horse was feeling deep inside about the new things I was introducing. With Riza I am practicing making sure she's ok with each step. So instead of 'colt starting' in three days, it's 'colt starting' in three years. Even if I'm not addressing the riding part of our relationship with her every day or every month, I'm daily addressing our feeling good together and her comfort and readiness to let go of her thoughts and follow my direction.

We're doing well. Life is good. And I can say that with certainty after spending a few hours with my equine buddies here at Fine Fettle Farm.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Winter horse activities

It's fully winter here in New England. Snow. Cold. Sun. Clouds. Cold. Mild. Really, really cold.

I am grateful that my dear RNB takes good care of the woodpile and the furnace and I have easy access to a warm home.

The horses are settling after their move to our new place. I love seeing them out the window in the morning. They know where to stand as they wait, and they can see our activity through some windows and patiently stand there until I come out to feed.

I'm getting more cardiovascular exercise since we moved. The hay is stored up top of a fairly steep, snow covered incline, and the gate to the horses' paddock as a bit of a walk as well. My body gets stronger and I find myself stopping between carrying bales to practice some Aikido, all decked out in my construction suit and sheepskin hat, there at the end of the indoor where the hay is stored.

It feels like I am endowing the indoor with some special energy each time I do it. I will make a small altar to properly acknowledge the spiritual side of my horsemanship.

My winter activity is developing my centering and connectibility through what I've been learning about Aikido. I suspect I will ride soon enough now that my horses and I are both in the same place as our indoor arena. But until I get mounted, there is so much I can do to practice -- paying attention, carrying myself properly, gaining emotional and physical strength, and integrating into my everyday life activities the wonderful morsels I gain each time I meditate and each time I invest in a clinic where my horsemanship and personal growth are the focus.

Life is good. There are moments when my emotions rear up and try to convince me that life is a struggle, but I don't believe that anymore. Sure, there are painful moments, energetic moments, tired moments, busy moments, quiet moments. But through it all runs a thread of increasing calm and acceptance. And I love bringing this to my horses.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Formula training

A recent online discussion of horsemanship prompted me to put a few things into words. People were talking about formula training, formula trainers, and what they found valuable or not with some of the current 'name brand' formula trainers. One noted that some students want formulas and formula programs are good for those folks.

My thoughts reflect my opinion about formulas. Please read on...

Because I know from my own experience how valuable it is to have something to hang on to when I'm trying to figure out a half a kazillion things about horses and myself at the same time, I like to give some simple 'formula' stuff to my students.

However my formula is not about technique. It is about awareness and intent.

It is not written in black and white, but basically includes:

1. Become more and more aware of and well managing of your body, thoughts, and emotions.

2. Become more and more aware of and able to rightly interpret the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors of the horse.

So it's not about do this to make the horse do that. It is about learning and paying attention and having a two-way respectful and effective interaction with the horse as a living, thinking, feeling sentient being so all involved have the best chance to feel connected and proud of their relationship.

I will add that practicing #1 and #2 will lead eventually to a deep sense of interconnectedness and harmony. But in case anyone isn't clear about that possibility, I'll add that my 'formula' includes practicing withness. Doing things with the horse, not to the horse. Doing things together, now, connected, unified. It may start as a concept, but cradling the idea and the possibility will create opportunities for it to happen. And there is nothing better than withness.

So yeah, someone wants a formula? I'll give them one. :-) It's going to be one that encourages a commitment to developing mindfulness. And one that frees the student to be an active learner with the horses rather than learning from me.

Happy Holidays, everyone. May your days be full of insight and joyous surprises.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Rusty as barometer

Today Rusty told me I'm on the right track with my exercise regime and attention to using my core and releasing my back muscles. After all, if I want him to move with ease and release his topline, then I need to do the same. He's always been a horse who reflects the minute details of my presentation. And today we cantered both directions (haha, not at the same time!) without a hitch. And by hitch, I mean that literally. Nice even tempo set by me and no need for him to hop around with his hindquarters trying to match my tight back. Because my back was relaxed! Hooray!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Equine Affaire in Springfield, MA

I plan to be there on Saturday and Sunday, drawn to an opportunity to spend more time with my friends and teachers, Mark Rashid and Crissi McDonald. Please say hello if you are there. And for heaven's sake, please watch one or more of Mark's presentations! LOL

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Intention through the reins

A friend asked me if there was anything I'd been working on prior to this latest clinic with Mark Rashid and Crissi McDonald that they helped me with.


Sending intention through the reins is one thing I've been playing with. I got the feel of that last spring with Mark's help, actually Mark helped me feel this before last spring but I keep reviewing it. What I experienced this time is the connection from my center, not just the feeling in the reins. Hmm, my first experience was feeling this with my hands. Last spring, I recall it was feeling it through my hands and arms up into my torso. This time it was feeling it from my center, connecting through my torso, shoulders, arms, hands and with the horse. The parts become the one!

It really is 'doing things together' and it really is 'with a thought'.

So subject line is inaccurate. This is intention through connecting being to being. Reins aren't required.

And gosh oh golly, I really can't describe what I learned because it was experiential and required a knowing body/mind to demonstrate and guide a learning body/mind to find it. It's not that it's personal or private or anything. How would you describe the sound of the wind to someone who was born deaf? How would you describe the taste of a strawberry to someone without the sense of taste or smell? Maybe you know this, in which case I don't need to put words to it. I had heard about it and thought I knew what was being talked about. And partially experienced it in past clinics. I didn't know what I was missing except that my horses would reflect that togetherness in action was here and gone again.

Other things I've been working on? Using only the muscles needed and letting loose all other muscles. I'm making progress and learned clearly that I'm using my back muscles more than my core muscles (especially obvious when we canter), and using my back muscles even when I'm engaging my core muscles. So I'm bringing my awareness to that as often as I remember -- walking, sitting, riding, driving in the car, doing dishes, wherever I am, whatever I'm doing... My core muscles are a bit sore!

I also learned that when I was ground driving, I used my body for the turns to the right, and my left arm for my turns to the left. Oops! That was an easy fix. Then added to that using connection and intention and wow -- fluid transitions of rhythm and direction. Then I brought this to my riding on the last morning, on my been-there-done-that Morgan mare. She likes the new me!