Author Archives: stablewomen

About stablewomen

The Stable Women Program brings horses and women together in a safe, peaceful environment where relationships are built and compassion fostered.

Falling…

We “fall” in love, we fall off of horses, we can “fall” into a situation, we are often falling for something that isn’t as it appears.

We are falling. (Tom Petty & “Free Falling” is now in my head!)

So falling has really good and really not so good implications. I recently had a student, who is a friend I care very much about, take a fall from one of the horses. It was no one’s fault. It was a series of circumstances that set the situation into motion too quickly. She was not harmed, but it hurt! And I know her confidence was shaken. It happens to each of us who ride horses. Sometimes we fall. But we hope fervently that those we instruct can be spared the experience. They cannot. And it isn’t fair to believe that not falling will build their confidence. Sometimes, it needs to happen to allow the student to move forward and let go of the dread – the wondering what it will be like. With helmets, safety stirrups and constant attention to the footing (soft place to land), I hope to set my students up for a protected ride and even a protected fall should it happen. That is common sense.

I know of horsemen and horsewomen who choose not to wear helmets when riding – I even used to be one! In the old days the “standard” was: riders under 18 years of age had to wear helmets, anyone jumping had to wear a helmet. I adhered to it in my schools. Now, no one rides at all at Dharmahorse without a proper helmet (all ages, all types of riding). Still there are gurus of horsemanship who even jump horses sans head protection and encourage others to choose that “freedom”. I don’t get it. When I see a precious student come off of a horse, I can at least know their brain is safe! There may be “road rash”, bruises, aches and pains – but a protected head means they will still be thinking and functioning – to be blunt.

Now, falling in love can be just as startling as falling off a horse! Loving another human is its own world – loving an animal, well, that is a gift and an honor that can expand into deep love for an entire species. I feel such love and admiration for each of these horses! They work so hard to help people and try so hard to understand the students who do not yet have control of their bodies and the signals they give! It is all a journey we take together. We just want to find rapport and be cherished – no matter our species.

Falling into a situation denotes something good has happened without effort or focus. I often find that, when people say “she just fell into that good fortune”, no one is aware of the work and attention that it took to “fall”! I firmly believe that the good stuff is attracted to us when we put our attention on it. It is a disciplined way of thinking and acting in life that creates the energy of the situation that manifests. Falling into it may happen, but the landing pad was likely being prepared well ahead of time.

And falling for something holds the image of being deceived or manipulated. “I can’t believe he fell for that!” is often the judgment leveled. We’ve all believed something we later found to be false or misrepresented – the best way to look at these experiences is as learning opportunities. And for me, a negative outcome strengthens my resolve – I hate the feeling of “I knew better” than to do something! No one ever gets me to agree to anything over the phone. I no longer give my power away to others to make them feel better.

So, falling asleep is good! Falling all over someone probably isn’t good. Falling through the cracks could go either way. Tonight, I’m thinking about all the beings I’ve fallen in love with so far in my life and I do not regret a single one. I’m thinking about all the falls I’ve had from horses… those I do regret to a degree, but I learned so much each time. And to all who read this, I strongly suggest that, if you ride horses, you wear a helmet. If you fall in love, I salute you! Love holds the world together, love heals us. My life is now more filled with love than it has ever been!

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At Dharmahorse tonight we are getting ready for sleep with little solar lights that look like stars sprinkled about the stable yard. Our weather has been odd, but this day was pleasant and I had the honor of bringing people and horses together to love and delight in each other. This is a good life. The love of my lives sits nearby, sharing this simple, joy filled time. I think I’m falling in love with this new, good life! “Free falling……….”

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In the presence of horses…

Time spent with horses is always time well spent. I remember my own childhood with horses and even when things went “wrong” for me and I was frustrated or angry – the horses taught me how totally nonproductive that was! As I work with new and young students in Horsemanship, I see how it takes them a while after first arriving, to settle and connect deeply not only with the horses, but with their own feelings and needs.

There is a great deal more to our Horsemanship than just riding. Being in the presence of horses helps us see our own issues in a new light. We can process problems while cleaning hooves and the horse will tell us if we are congruent or not – if he feels safe lifting a hoof for us; if he feels that we are clear and assertive; if he feels that we care or just do not!

Darj and Katharine

Our relationship with a horse is like a dance. It is based upon communication and mutual concern for the other. “Love is the active promotion of the well being of the love object” (E. Fromm) When we learn how to love a horse, we learn how to love. When we learn how to communicate with a horse, we are more clear in our communications with other people.

Horses need to know when they are successful and are pleasing us. We often let them know when they are “wrong”, but forget to tell them when they are “right”…

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Horses ARE light shining in our lives!

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Healthy “Neglect”

That was something my Mum used to talk about a lot… She watched people over water their house plants, over water gardens, over feed pets and buy everything their children wanted. She always let me know I would have everything that I needed. She would support my dreams. But, she would not submit to whining, begging or tantrums when I felt “deprived”.

Now, neglecting any being’s basic needs or health requirements is criminal. Caving in on whims or trying to win over someone else with bribery and indulgence is just poor judgement. These things end up biting us back in the bum because there will never be an end to the demands!

Our own minds and emotions can lead us astray… I’ve done it. When a starved horse arrives, the temptation is to just pour out delicious food and comfort them (and ourselves) with abundance. We all know that’s wrong. To swing the pendulum to the opposite side is equally detrimental to health, especially for horses. But, I have watched health and “flesh” return over the proper months’ time and just not quite backed off early enough… ending up with a chubby equine.

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Now, that’s not dangerous in our barn because we feed only hays and pelleted hay. For a horse getting hard feeds, the consequences can be debilitating. The middle way best serves the equine metabolism!

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Hooves of horses are another realm where “less is more” when it comes to manipulation. The unshod hoof has the best potential for long-term health while an injured or badly wearing hoof could best be served by applying boots or shoes. The problem for horses is when “how the hoof looks” becomes a priority over how the horse feels. If it takes 2 or 3 weeks for the horse to recover from a hoof trimming, something’s not right! If all hooves are shaped to a static and singular standard, something is very wrong. I have always found that leaving the hooves to find their own best shape over a 3 to 4 week period can often change much for the better.

All things with horses are best changed or rearranged over a gradual, calculated period of time. That “healthy neglect” factor can temper intentions and emotions with the common sense of  actual well-being. Horses like to get dirty. They like to interact with each other. They like to be horses.

hank and grits

I remember showing my Morgan and Arabian geldings Saddle Seat as a youngster. I knew a girl whose grooming of her mare was so important that she used “Nair” hair removal creme on her horse’s inner ears. She trimmed “split ends” on her main with a special razor… she shaved the mare’s muzzle and saved rain water to rinse away sweat (I’m not kidding!).

That mare lived in a box stall. She was beautiful, I’ll admit it. She was not happy, that was easy to perceive by all of us except for her owner/rider.

I want our horses to be happy as well as healthy and calm. I want the same things for them that I want for myself. We will never neglect a horse at Dharmahorse! We also will pause for thought in any situation where extremes are suggested, recommended or required. A little bit of restraint can be the difference between long-term damage and slowly correcting a situation. Patience is easy here.

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The Well of Experiences….

The Well of Our Experiences

AWARENESS

The first step in awareness is to examine the external world. We learn to cherish all that surrounds us. We learn to observe without judgment. We strive to not only preserve life, but to honor and enhance life. Horses do these things effortlessly when they live a natural life. We can learn from their example and we can support their natural awareness.

Horses need to feel that they are participating in life.

“The way horses live their lives is a metaphor for life’s priorities. It’s not always about winning or losing, it’s also about the quality of the experience, the journey itself, and putting your heart into what you do.” -Diane Lane actress, Secretariat

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Horses start their lives in one of three ways:

  1. Born into the wild with no initial contact with humans
  2. Born into a farm situation with human contact & other horses
  3. Orphaned early or at birth & raised by humans

Each situation creates unique perspectives and expectations in the horse. His language will be formed by the horses that raise him (#1), the horses & people that raise him (#2) or the humans that raise him (#3). This “language” becomes the first series of “drops” in the Well of Experiences for each horse.

We can add positive “drops”/experiences or negative ones to the lives of those around us.

As he matures, the horse’s experiences are positive and negative in nature and begin to fill that “Well”. According to the predominant type of experiences he has, he will learn to expect something positive or something negative with every new situation – if we wish to change this for him in some way, we must provide consistency in the things we bring to his awareness… we must flood a well of negativity with so many clear and compassionate positive experiences that the well no longer holds anything else.

The whole idea of struggle brings you

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The View From Above

Your horse is a prey animal. His eyes are set on the sides of his head to allow peripheral vision and depth perception – in front vision. This is how his ancestors detected the movement of predators even while grazing with heads down at ground level. To focus his eyes, the horse raises his head for distance and lowers his head for near objects. This explains why a Jumper needs to look straight at an obstacle with both eyes (depth perception) and without the head held high (looking past the jump). Because it takes time to focus (and that could turn him into a meal), the horse reacts to movement and checks out what was moving from a “safe” distance.

This pattern applies to most large prey animals – cattle, llamas, goats, sheep, etc. They may be totally safe in your barn, field or paddock, but their genetically coded responses can override their own life experiences. There is a common goal to NOT become a meal, even if it is totally not a possibility in this lifetime for that horse. Nature holds a power over all animals.

My beautiful picture

Your horse is a total herbivore. He should not be fed products that contain ingredients from animal sources. I am a vegetarian. I have total understanding of how ingestion of an unfamiliar animal flesh product can upset the digestive tract from one end to the other. Because I am a mammal and so is your horse, we can ingest things like yogurt without ill effect (of course, yogurt is very nourishing and health enhancing!) as long as it is free of things like artificial sweeteners, colors and the like.

Your horse cannot vomit, so everything he eats has to make it through a long and winding series of tubes that comprise the digestive tract. It really pays to be careful with everything that is fed to your horse.

The horse’s perspective is quite different than ours. We have eyes set at the front of our heads like predators and we do tend to move like predators. It can be unnerving to horses. To help him understand your intentions, move with steady, relaxed grace around your horse. Do not come up on him suddenly, unannounced (especially from behind!). Do not move crouched, slowly, stiffly as if you are “sneaking” up on him! Approach him as you do an old friend and talk to him.

The safest place for you to be positioned around a horse is at his shoulder (for your safety and his). He can see you (he has a blind spot directly in front of and below his nose and right behind his bottom) and he cannot strike, bite or kick you. Now, horses do not want to strike, bite or kick us unless they feel defensive and vulnerable (like when surprised from behind – for all they know, a tiger is about to leap onto them).

A horse can feel defensive because of past experiences (they have amazing memories) and you might trigger a response without realizing it. If you are having problems with your horse, try to figure out his perspective: does he feel confident that you are a kind and consistent leader? Horses look for a herd leader (or try to become one). Provide that leadership for him by CLEAR, CONSISTENT schooling. Make it easy for him to do the “right” things and difficult for him to do the “wrong” things. And be sure to consistently consider the same things “right” or “wrong”. You can drive a horse insane by rewarding him for doing something one day and punishing him for it the next.

You can develop your schooling program for your horse with a reward based system or a punishment based system. Either one will work. If you base your system on punishing each infraction, your horse will work to avoid punishment. He will only participate with you to keep from being corrected. If you use the reward based system, encouraging and praising and marking every “good” behavior, your horse will strive to find MORE good things to do for you and a RELATIONSHIP will form! It’s your choice.

Horses are mirrors for us. They truly do reflect our attitudes and emotions back to us. This is why they are such great teachers of patience, courage, compassion and self discipline. Horses excel in psychotherapy programs because of their pure, honest reactions to us. We cannot lie to horse, he will see right through us. A horse perceives much more than just the surface.

And horses are at our mercy. In the wild, without fences, a horse can find food and water. In the back paddock, he is totally dependent upon a human being for every life sustaining need. If you have the honor and responsibility of caring for a horse, always consider his viewpoint. His life is in your hands.

Your horse only knows what he is allowed or not allowed to do. He has no perception of Right or Wrong. If he comes from a life with other humans, he will have the imprint of their values in his data base. If you need to change him, do it GRADUALLY. You have to do things the way he knows at first, and then slowly teach him YOUR ways. I met a lady who came to this stable where I was training a stallion. She was to turn out and bring in the mares and foals. The horses were used to having their gates opened and they just ran out to the pasture! (This was not my barn, just a client’s) The lady, on her first day, decided she would catch each mare and lead her out. She nearly got killed … NOT because these were bad mares! It was because she tried to change their routine dramatically without any prior conditioning or interaction with the horses.

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Trail Riding clears out the cobwebs!

 

My beautiful picture

Andy Alee me

Malie First Trail Ride 2

 

My beautiful picture

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Water is Life

We have very much needed all the rain we received last night.

Grateful horses, plants and people at Dharmahorse today.

My beautiful picture

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Transceivers

 

In radio, you have transmitters and receivers and transceivers – horsewomen have to become “transceivers” to effectively connect with a horse.

My beautiful picture

Riding and teaching lessons yesterday and turning horses out today, I have been thinking about how we communicate our desires and directions to horses through the reins, lead, line, etc.

We must become light, consistent, clear and immediate with our language of the aids through these lines… we will really miss out, though, if we neglect to “hear the horses” through these same lines of communication. When I am leading a horse to the field, I don’t just pull him along like a red wagon, nor leave him floating in the breeze like a bobbing balloon at the end of a string. No. I keep a light feel of the lead rope and listen to every signal and pre-signal he communicates to me as we walk down the lane. This is why I prefer all cotton, long lead ropes with trigger snaps – they just feel right in my hands.

When riding, I stretch my outside rein, feeling what the horse is saying to me. I keep an elastic, massaging inside rein (barely perceptible, the nuance of a tiny vibration…), allowing the horse to ask me questions and tell me how he feels about his balance and his pace.

On the longe, I’m not sending the horse out on a circle like a model airplane to zoom about and possibly crash – I am “riding” with my body language and listening through that longe line to every signal conveyed by my equine partner.

It is more about a conversation than it is about a performance, and, if we think and act this way, our horses sigh a sigh of relief about finally being heard.

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