Horsey Therapist

Saturday, October 28, 2006


My friend asked, "Do you like challenge in all creatures or just horses?"

I respond:

I like challenges less and less, though I doubt I'll ever get to zero tolerance of a challenge. I've had an adrenaline reaction tied into facing a challenge, and over the years, I've grown to enjoy life without adrenaline. A whole 'nother universe.

More often than not, I would chose a type of challenge that requires supporting the true nature of a being to surface when a being had chosen, consciously or unconsciously to shrink one's expressions, hide one's essence, in order to get along. In my clinical profession it was a preference for working with people with depression rather than people with actiing out behaviors like addictions, self mutilation, anger dyscontrol.

So it's a stretch for me to be dealing with horses who have little self control, little stop-and-think time between a thought and some impulsive and powerful activity. Give me a depressed horse, an insecure withdrawn horse, and I know just what to do.

And yes, I have kept passing up the opportunities to relate with bomb proof horses and mild, yielding humans in favor of developing relationships with those with some strong opinions and unstable connectedness. Of course, I do like to be silently in touch with the deep stillness within all creatures.

Some paradoxes and contradictions I guess. I mean really, LJB, how can you be married to RNB and say you don't like a big challenge?!!

Thursday, October 26, 2006


I met a pony the other day. He is not happy deep in his soul. How do I know? I heard enough of his history and shared some experiences with him and that is how I know.

But I have faith that he can change.

He was a stallion until 15 or so, and not helped to develope a willingness to get along with mares and geldings alike. That would have been a suitable thing for a handsome young fellow to do.

Shetland/Arab cross. Can you imagine? Brains, looks, build, athleticism, and a long time with major hormones driving his decisions. Poor fellow.

Hormonal compulsion is gone now. But his thoughts have not changed.

If he were mine (and admittedly I think about this), I would see about helping him change his mind about other horses as soon as possible. How can a horse be happy if he thinks about defending his space instead of having thoughts about sharing an acre or mutual grooming or such? How can a horse be happy when he's on the lookout, worried with a busy mind most of the time?

I've had fantasies about what I would do. I would definitely employ the help of my herd to socialize him. But first I might want to introduce him to a horse or two while I have some control, like with halter and lead in case I wanted to actively work at interrupting his thoughts to attack my horses. He needs help to have some new thoughts, to start trying to think differently when his chemical reaction kicks in.

I wonder, do horses get adrenaline rushes like humans do? And cortisol flooding the veins like humans do? When cortisol comes, there is no thinking. Only reacting on an emotional, survival level. I'm guessing the same biochemical activity occurs in horses as in humans.

I think of Harry Whitney and his passion about helping horses change how they are feeling. I can hear him say "Don't let his actions confirm his feelings." That would suggest that I could help when this pony's emotions are aroused and he starts moving toward another gelding with lots of bad feelings. I could help by interrupting his behavior and interrupting his thoughts. And giving him a moment to come up with a new thought. Then decide if that new thought warrants my allowing him to act on it (ears up, curiuos) or the thought warrants another effort to interrupt his likely behavior should it be a repeat of the thought to attack.

Interrupting without criticizing.

It would be interesting and challenging. Once the initial upheaval looked like it would have a safe outcome, I would let my opinionated and confident horses attend to the business of putting this pony in his right place in their heirarchy. They do a terrific job of that, so much more effective than I could ever be!

However when I'm thinking clearly, I remember I have more horses than I can ride right now anyway.

AHA! That is what is going on! This is the season when I don't ride much, so having some new horse(s) to mess around with on the ground is attractive. I am not drawn to do much ground work with the ones I have -- that would bore them or offend them unless I was particularly creative and inspired and managed to engage them as if they'd never done any ground work. Ok, that could be a Double Dare Me revelation. On the other hand, I truly enjoy the early changes that occur -- they can be so radical and rewarding. So if that's something I prefer, why deny myself the enjoyment?

I'll figure this out some day soon, and either go get one or two of these horses I'm thinking about, or not.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

What IS the attraction?

I went to see this Morgan gelding today. A horse I could take home if I chose. I am sort of looking for a solid riding horse for RNB. His current riding horse -- whom I love dearly -- had a foal injury that leaves his gait imbalanced. Happy and holding up well, but the odds are against his joints staying functional and painfree throughout his life.

This morgan is a handsome boy.

I am also mentally toying with the idea of taking in a lively pony I met today. I like a challenge and this pony would present a few.

So I wonder not so much about my attraction to some Morgan eye candy, but the attraction to a challenging horse.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


OK, today I could be introducing a diatribe about the amount of precipitation we're having. Or about the amount of flooding in the lower fields. However, this water is about what appeared where some sandy gravel was being moved from one part of our NH land to another part.

The first three pictures are within a few minutes of one swipe of the excavator. The last picture, same spot two days later. The dig site, uphill from the building site, is behind me where I stand looking down the roadway.

It sure looks like our dream of a gravity-fed water source for the barn if not the barn and the house.

Friday, October 20, 2006

An old porcupine story

I lifted this story (my story) from a website I partially created once upon a time. I remembered it when I saw the porcupine recently, waddling nonchalantly across the dirt road. I did, by the way, keep some quills as a reminder of this fine being, and incorporated them harmlessly into a hat band.


I have a drawing not a photograph of Porcupine [not transferable from other website], and a story to share, written in January 2001...

I've been visited by a dying animal, again. Last year it was a mouse that lay in my path and invited me to be with it while it died.

Today it's been a porcupine. And it's still dying. I've talked to him, sat with him, breathed with him, cried with him. I have never been near a porcupine before, and didn't want to risk the quills or else I would have picked him up and held him in my lap. When he was still able to crawl, he kept moving himself to face me, creeping close. I let him come within a couple feet then moved my upturned bucket back a little, apologizing with an explanation of my concern with his quills.

I called the police who sent word out to the game warden, but I didn't hear back from anyone. I was hoping they'd have a way to euthanize him.

I get the sense he's an old fellow, has enjoyed his life around here. I first saw him just before Christmas, waddling along the road that passes my house. I hadn't known they are nocturnal animals, or I would have been surprised that he was out in the day.

This afternoon his moving appeared difficult but he waddled from in front of the next house down, to in front of my drive, with a few criss-crosses along the way. And now, for the past few hours, he's been lying in the snow, breathing, occasionally moving his head or forearms. I feel so helpless. I'd still be out there sitting with him if I hadn't gotten so cold.

I keep going out to check on him and let him know it's okay. One time I find him still, totally still. I shine my flashlight and look closely. No breathing, no eye movement. He's gone. I wish him well and thank him for his efforts to be near me in this unusual way. And I cry.


No, I'm not writing poetry these days. I have in the past. Today, I share the blog address where you will find the poems of a dear friend.

She ponders the depths as I do, however my ponderings run circles around horses as my words expose my inner ticking, and hers... well, have a look if you like and allow yourself to go journeying where her words will take you.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Comfort Zone

My friend is wondering about her horse's comfort zone.

The more I pay attention to my horse's comfort zone, and stay within it, the better my ride today, and the better my ride tomorrow.

I'm thinking about my human relationships, too. There are some things required of me to be actively involved in a conscious marriage. One of those things is to know myself and to progressively know my spouse. One of those things to know about each of us is the parameters of our comfort zones.

And the variations of those parameters based on other stressors currently active.

So, one day life in general may feel calm and stable, and my comfort zone may be larger than a day when the car breaks down, the cows go on a walkabout, the fox gets my favorite hen... When other emotions in my life use up some of my moment's energetic and emotional and mental resources, my comfort zone shrinks. I have less attention and physical resources to deal with the requirements of stretching myself. My energies are needed for healing or dealing, some more contracted focus, not for expanding and trying new things, venturing into the unfamiliar.

I've been told by many trusted and wiser horsepeople to establish some communication habits and movement patterns with my horse in a calm, predictable setting. Once we both know we know how to do a few fun and relaxing things together, then head out to situations where more random events may occur.

Like preparing for a trail ride. My horse and I need confidence about our communication -- communicating about moving, stopping, turning left, turning right, bringing life up, dialing life down, all with mental availability and consequent softness through the whole body.

The learning process for those few things (FEW? Ha ha ha!), happens as a dance of tentative attempts with feedback about success or good try and try again, there that's more like it, thanks... Which, if I'm in my right mind, is how I will communicate when something less controllable occurs in a new setting to disturb our mutual focus and joint efforts to do something, go someplace...

Animal signs

I have heard several reports of moose wandering around our new property, as well as bear, deer, coyotes, and owl. All I've seen so far are footprints left by the mammals, damaged trees, and a porcupine.

Just after our cellar was created, I found two sets of moose prints next to it, obviously come to check out this strange new thing. I've left a waterproof camera with a worker there who will shoot (with camera) the next time he sights a moose, Big rack moose, little knob moose, and crooked little rack moose.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


Lots of talk lately about fear...

All the awareness I've cultivated for the past four decades, and I still can act counter to my best intentions because of fear.

Latest episode: barking a four letter swear word that starts with "s" when my mare scooted while we were on a well traveled roadway going under a highway underpass.

So what does that do to the horse? She is worried enough to try to flee, her closest buddy (me, on her back) is worried enough to call out with extreme tension in her voice, and yes, body froze in a 'hold on' posture... Not what I want to offer her. Although 90% of our ride I felt good about what I offered regarding support and direction. Does a horse balance the percentages? Is a horse capable of figuring 'oh, that's her again, she freezes when I do then relaxes. I won't take her reaction so seriously next time.'

I suspect not. Rather, the horse is worried, then I add to her worries, then why would she turn to me for help when she's worried? I'm not there -- I'm gone into my fear and survival routine. Gone.

I'm glad I don't get afraid like that very often. I'm glad my horses let me get on them anyway. I know they remember what it's like with me on their back. I figure they have a cumulative memory. At least, I like to think so. (And by the way, I'm making this up as I type.) I like to think that if I offer a supportive and fair ride for a few days, that leaves them thinking I'm OK. Then I have a fearful, constricted moment, and that lowers their opinion of my company. Then I have several hours of relaxed-go-with-the-flow-while-I-direct-the-flow type of riding, and that raises their opinion of my company. So at any time, I'm either improving or degrading their opinion of me, based on their overall multitude of experiences with me.

Now that I've spouted all that, I'll have to think about it...

Ok, some other thoughts...

Don't disregard fear -- it has important messages that help provide safety. But fear based on the past can cloud today's possibilities.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Arena in pieces

My arena arrived yesterday, in X number of pieces. No shipping invoice so no known number of pieces. Plenty of pieces is what I'm counting on! Stressful day!

A crew arrives next week to erect it. Then it will stand unused except for storage perhaps, until next spring or summer, when we move. I suppose I can trailer horses over there now and then and ride in it or on the trails surrounding the site.

What an adventure.

Preparing to unload truck #1.

Pieces safely on the ground.

Forklift and excavator working in sync to unload roofing sections.

Foundation site prep.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Flying changes

My dear Rusty...

He's offering me flying lead changes out on the trails now. This is a first! What does it say to me? It says he's feeling confident enough, balanced enough, and loose enough to change his diagonal at speed with me on his back. I can't really put into words how this affects me, that he can do this, but it does. Affects me in a good way. Like, I'm pleased as punch!

I even saw a chance to suggest a lead change as we cantered through this ancient overgrown hay field this afternoon. And there it was. Just following a change of thought and his body went with the change from head to tail.

I started noticing on this semi wild and very long trail ride last weekend, how he was offering a right lead canter pretty often on the latter part of the ride. Then finding him changing not only from right to left (previously seemed his preferred lead) but today changing from left to right!

Leslie Desmond and Harry Whitney have helped me think about this in ways that suit my lazy approach to horsemanship. (Not truly lazy but in some folks eyes it may look lazy.) If the horse is comfortable taking care of his balance, and if the horse is responsive to my suggestions of speed and direction, then he will initiate a flying lead change when flowing with my request to change direction at the canter. I just have to let him do it.

Mind you, I do not have aspirations of changing leads going down a straight line in an arena someplace. For that I might start wanting to manipulate his body with my seat and legs, etc. I'm pretty content these days to help his mind carry his body to some place of my liking. It can be sooooo sweet.

The Nightmare

No, not about a horse, not that sort of mare.

These are my notes written after I woke up from a nightmare. I was in Tennesse and it was the weekend break between two weeks of horsemanship camp.

Not the first time I've had this sort of nightmare -- though the content was new, the feeling was not. Uncovering some deep feelings and expectations has helped my horsemanship, strange as that may seem to some.

Nightmare last night. Crazy man with pipe wrench came out of nowhere when I was leading my horse somplace. I'd heard about him earlier in the dream -- someone who hurt women. I knew he was going to overpower me and hurt me, maybe kill me if I didn't get help, and that I had ONE chance to call out because he'd jump me once I did call out. (I've dreamt before about needing to call for help and nothing coming out of my mouth.)

I gathered all my energy and focus and put all my effort into the loudest "HELP" I could. I actually called out loud, woke myself up, woke up the others in the bunkhouse. Then went back to sleep.

Talking about it later with a friend, I started to cry. Fearful place. Relief place? Remembering the earlier repeated dreams and remembering Mom telling me about my older brother suffocating me with a pillow. They all tied together now. My deep fear of being overpowered, of dying, of not getting help, of being on the edge of giving up... (Repeat of birth experience, too? Nobody there when I feel like I"m dying and stuck?)

Remembering Harry Whitney's story of his fear of horses and how that has allowed him to know the fear that horses have. Remembering his wondering why so many people don't see how others feel inside.

I wonder if it's just this: if I'm blocking some fear in myself, then I can't see or empathize with that amount of fear in others. Fear -- a common denominator. It's real.


My friend wrote about childhood nightmares she recalled after realizing her horse acted as if he doesn't hear her.

I had them, too, nightmares about not being heard...

Most recently during the weekend break between my two weeks in TN with Harry Whitney. June 2006. No, I didn't include those journal notes on my clinic notes blog. I'll probably share them sometime. It was very relevant and important for me to have that nightmare as an adult. Especially because the outcome was different and someone heard me!

With horses, and yeah, with people, I think of 'being effective' as the ultimate feedback. If I am not effective, it doesn't matter that my intentions are good. Effective without relying on anger and fear. Effective now so I don't have to do this much next time.

I actually keep getting feedback from my horses that being effective now leaves them feeling better. There is meaning to what I do, and clarity, and that feels really, really good to horses.