Edition #002 – Friday Nov 17 2017

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This Week's Top Stories

From Pasture To Competition In 45 Days – I developed Human to Horse Sensing after working with horses for a long time, racing as a jockey, jumping, doing endurance, riding dressage and working without tack on the ground and in the saddle. H2H (Human To Horse) Sensing illuminates the roots of horse behavior…
The Cortisol Conundrum: Curious Questions Around the Quintessential Stress Hormone – Cortisol is widely thought of as a stress hormone because its levels rise during episodes of acute stress. It has been used as a measure of stress in many horse studies. However, its relationship to chronic stress is less clear. Researchers from the Animal and Human Ethics Laboratory at the University of Rennes 1 in France…
[AUDIO] – How Well Does Your Horse Understand Your Aids – Have you ever noticed how, sometimes, when you are riding it feels like you and your horse are having communication issues. You are asking – but he is just not understanding… It all comes back to the clarity of your aids and how well your horse can understand them…
Why Your Horse Needs Vitamin E – Hay is almost the perfect food for horses—most varieties offer the right balance of protein, fiber, nutrients and energy to keep the average horse healthy. The key word there is “almost.” One nutrient that hay may not provide in sufficient quantity is vitamin E…
Fat Options to Help Your Horse Hold Weight During the WinterQ. What is the best use of fats to help horses maintain weight during the cooler winter months? A. Fat sources are often used for weight gain because they’re significantly more calorie-dense than carbohydrates. There are numerous products that can add fat to a horse’s diet, including…
Dressage Leg vs. Jumping Leg: How To Use No-Stirrup November to Benefit Both – Biz Stamm presents some mounted and unmounted exercises for all disciplines! Your horse called. He said he has a monkey on his back. No, he wasn’t referring to his increasingly problematic peppermint addiction – he was referring to you and your seemingly aimless approach to No-Stirrup November…”

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“Gaining and keeping the trust of our horses, donkeys and mules seems to be one of the foundations to any equine human relationship.

So often over my 20 years of working with horses donkeys, mules and their humans, trust has been the one element that is common to all relationships, when it is strong the relationship has good foundations to build from and everything is calmer and safer.

When trust is missing or it is negative trust then the relationship can be stagnant and difficult. Understanding trust, how we get it, keep it and lose it becomes a vital element in enhancing our relationships and perhaps more importantly importantly it is what keeps us safe.” – Ben Hart

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Edition #001 – Friday Nov 10 2017

Horsemanship Network Radio on Anchor

Welcome To The New Newsletter!

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This Week's Top Stories

The Power Of Laughter – I have found that when interacting with horses, the less serious you are, and the more you maintain a sense of humor, the better things go. I used to be quite serious, in my life and in my interactions with my horses. However, about seven years ago, I decided to lighten up…
Rare Golden Zebra Zoe Dies at 19 – Hawaii’s golden zebra Zoe has died at the Three Ring Ranch Exotic Animal Sanctuary on the Big Island. Her golden coloring was because she had amelanosis, giving her golden stripes instead of the usual black. There had been reports of at least two other “white” zebras in captivity. One in Germany about 100 years ago and another at a zoo in Tokyo in the 1970s…
This Veteran Is Helping Others Fight PTSD With Horses – Sam Rhodes is no stranger to the toll that war can take on a person’s mental health. He has thought of taking his own life and has struggled with a sense of hopelessness since returning from combat in Iraq in 2005. In 2008, Rhodes found that working with horses helped him cope with these feelings and gave him a new sense of inner peace and purpose – and he wanted to share that with others affected by PTSD…
20 Years of Reuniting Horses and Owners – Stolen Horse International is celebrating its 20th anniversary as a leader in equine identification and all things associated with missing and stolen horses in the equine industry. Also known as NetPosse, has grown tremendously over two decades of helping people find their missing or stolen horses…
The Deforestation of America: Wild Horses Lose Out – The current trend in the deforestation across America is alarming considering the lack of the implementation of effective cost-efficient pre-fire management strategies. It turns out that there may be a plausible reason for the lackadaisical way that forests are managed and it has to do with money, lots of money…
Helping Old Horses Gain Weight Before WinterQuestion: “My 16-hand 22-year-old gelding has, in the past several weeks, lost some weight. I can see his ribs, and his spine has become more prominent as well. He’s in light work and lives in a stall with a run at a boarding facility, and I haven’t changed anything in his diet or routine. I’m concerned that with winter coming he needs to regain this weight, but I’m not sure the best way to go about it. Currently he gets good-quality grass hay and a ration balancer…”

Re-Invigorating Training: Variety is the Spice of Life

Re-Invigorating Training: Variety is the Spice of Life

Longe to the left: walk, trot, canter. Longe to the right: walk, trot, canter. Bored yet? Chances are, if you are tired of this common routine, so is your horse. In horse training, as in cuisine, travel and conversation, variety is the spice of life.

This does not diminish the benefits of some forms of routine. Horses enjoy routine around feeding times, turnout and owner visits. And longing is an effective tool to assess or improve your horse’s condition, and to help to burn off excess energy before riding. However, there can be two extremes: either being tuned out (I recently witnessed someone longing his horse while he was talking on his cell phone) or agenda-based (longing before riding, but reacting negatively if the horse does not perform as expected in the prescribed time frame).

But with ongoing training, to achieve true buy-in, both of you need to be inspired with new challenges and an continuing conversation. This philosophy is embraced by Frédéric Pignon, collaborator and trainer for the Cirque du Soleil show Cavalia, in his six foundational principles of training:

1. To foster an equal relationship with the horse based on trust and respect; something that each of you must learn from one another.

2. Never to adopt “standard” or inflexible methods of training and communication; you must recognize that each horse develops in his or her own way.

3. As a trainer, you are their partner. It is your job to reduce stress, as well as to become a safe, trusted “haven” for the horse.

4. Always to be patient with a horse; never push them too fast or too insistently. By varying the horses’ routine, you prevent them from getting bored or becoming unresponsive.

5. Never to use force or become angry; horses aren’t meant to be dominated or broken.

6. Work hard to establish more “natural” forms of communication; if you listen, your horse will tell you how to speak with him in subtle, almost invisible ways.

(Excerpted from http://macalawright.com/2013/01/cavalia-horse-training-interview-techniques/. Used by permission.)

Re-Invigorating Training: Variety is the Spice of LifeJoAnna Mendl Shaw, Director of The Equus Projects (http://www.equus-onsite.org), has been creating performance works with dancers and horses since 1999. She has found that “especially for horses that like to think, repetition becomes boring. The drilling becomes drudgery, and the horses become bored if tasks are done in the same order all the time.” She has witnessed a horse memorizing the choreographic sequence and skipping to the end, and that too much repetitive rehearsal leads to the anticipation of cues. Mixing things up keeps both the horse and the dancer engaged and curious, and can also lead to improvisation and a deeper connection in a performance.

Recently, my Morgan Cross Tango became arena sour and no amount of prompting or waving of the longe whip would get him truly involved with my requests. He would stand stock-still, telling me, “Is this fun for you? Because I don’t know why we are doing it.” This caused me to be introspective about my methods; why was I asking him to longe? He had already joined up with me and would follow me off-lead. He was living in pasture, so had plenty of room to move and did not need to burn off excess energy before riding. I was just following a regular routine practiced by many.

So instead of training in the arena, we went to the pasture and I started running freely. I did this every day for weeks. Sometimes he would walk over to where I had stopped to catch my breath, and sometimes he would just eat grass. Once in a while, he would jog for a few paces. And then one day, he came along for the run. And we have been running together ever since. This was fun, for the both of us. Now it was time to test if this had just been an anomaly, or if this had truly been training.

Re-entering the arena, I used the same body language and communication we had developed in the pasture. And he started running from the first step. I set up cavalettis in different patterns, and though it took some confidence-building on his part, he would eventually conquer them. Our connection has never been stronger, and he now gives me the look of “Are you ready to run? Because I am.”

When you approach training with a fresh perspective and a revised set of expectations, you will be amazed at the differences you will see in your horse. It is never too late to create a new starting point.

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In The Eyes of A Horse

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I was nervous. All I could think about were the many people he had hurt. Would I be next?

As he approached, I realized I was in his world now. My fate was literally up to him. Would he give any kind of a warning? Would he chase me off? Would he change his mind and attack? Whatever his decision, I was powerless to stop him.

Like so many mustangs, Charlie was taken from his home. Indiscriminately rounded up, he found himself in a holding pen. Waiting.

Perhaps he was there for weeks, months, maybe even years, the days bleeding together in a life of confinement. Until one day, he was rescued, given a second chance. His new life was to be as a trail horse and an example of what was possible, a partnership between human and mustang. Just one problem, no one told Charlie.

After years of training and many well-intentioned trainers, Charlie didn’t become the trail horse he was intended to be. Instead he was relegated to a small paddock. Alone. Many highly qualified horsemen had worked with him, some Charlie liked, some not so much. But he wasn’t interested in their new life. He had only one goal, freedom. He fought through his training, even hurt people along the way. The humans he faced weren’t always kind. Some had made progress with him, but his resistance was so intense and total that it was decided he was too unpredictable to be put on the string. So once again, he was in a holding pen of sorts… waiting.

I met him 2 years later, still in the holding pen. I was tasked with the responsibility of bringing him around as best I could. I began working with him, doing some basic exercises, just to get an idea of what I was working with. He seemed kind enough, willing, but when I pushed him just a little, asked him to do more than he desired, he turned towards me, squared up, ears forward, and charged.

Charlie wasn’t playing. He clearly showed me that, despite my best intentions, he didn’t trust me any more than all the other humans trying to shape him, trying to train him, trying to change him. He wanted me out and he wasn’t going to compromise. I dove out of the way, just avoiding getting trampled. Quickly I jumped to my feet, knees shaking. I wanted to leave the paddock, but knew for Charlie’s sake, I had to end on a good note. I regained my composure, slowly approached him, stroked his head for a brief moment, and then, feeling I had found some small but significant success, left him in peace.

I had heard all the stories about the infamous mustang that wouldn’t be tamed and was excited at the opportunity to work with him. But I realized, at that moment, if I really wanted to help him, more training wasn’t the answer. What he really needed was his freedom.

So I began a campaign to set Charlie free. It took 2 more years and a great deal of diligence and persistence, but I found him a home. Everyone was more than happy to let him go. I felt after all he had gone through, all he had fought for, he had earned his freedom and they agreed.

His release went smoothly and eventually he found his place in a new herd. After years of struggle and resilience he was free once again.

So there I was, only a few short months later, standing on a hill, in a field… his field. Charlie’s approach was rhythmic, confident, and deliberate. I didn’t know what he would do, but retreating was not the answer. I had to stay and face whatever he had in store for me.

He brought his nose to mine, smelled me at first, and then began sharing breath. Grateful, I returned the favor, spending a moment, cheek to cheek with this majestic being. Looking into his eye, I was surprised at what I found. I did not see the anger, the pain, the resentment, nor that for which he was so well known, revenge. Instead, I saw gentleness, gratitude, and peace.

Charlie wasn’t living in the past. He was completely present, living this moment, sharing the moment with me. It was a lesson I would never forget. I often hear people say they are attracted to horses for many reasons – the power, the beauty, the excitement, the freedom. But I think they are draw for much deeper reasons, reasons they might not even be aware of.

For me, gazing into the eye of the horse is looking into the eye of God. I am looking at the Divine Presence in us all and it is staring right back at me, asking nothing of me but simply to be. Expecting nothing of me but my authenticity; to put the burden of all my thoughts, feelings, fears, ambitions and distractions down and see who I truly am. This is an invitation to open my heart and be present in this moment.

The experience people have sought for eons through religion and spiritual practices I have in one moment with a horse. As the conduit of that Divine Spirit our equine partners can give a young girl the acceptance and partnership she longs for. It can heal a young child from the isolation of autism. It can give a felon hope, helping him to see a better way. It can revive the passions of a woman who has lived her entire life in quiet desperation. All of this without words, without demands, without persuasion. The true power of the horse is not in its hooves, its power and its speed, but its love and compassion, its presence and its unconditional acceptance.

I am often reminded of Charlie and that day on the hill. He could have done anything. He could have exacted his revenge, revenge for all the suffering he endured, revenge for the brothers and sisters he would never see again, revenge for the freedom and the life stripped from him. Instead, Charlie chose life. Charlie chose forgiveness…

Charlie chose love.

Bereavement in Horses

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Just how does death affect horses? This year, I’ve unfortunately had the opportunity to observe the herd when they lose one of their number. It’s quite strange to witness the different effect it has, depending on the horse.

The first we lost was Puppet, overnight colic and found dead in the morning. Cali was affected so much; she loved Puppet, which was odd, because she tends to not be much in love with the other horses in general, apart from Delphi, Puppet’s mum. Delphi seemed almost relieved when Puppet left us. Is that because Puppet was a youngster and in the wild would, by that age, have been making her way away from her dam? The saddest thing about the whole episode is when we buried her in the field. Little Pedro stood on her grave and didn’t move for two days. The whole herd was subdued.

It happened in early January, 2016, so the weather wasn’t doing much to give any cheer. But the general sadness was palpable, and I wondered if the horses felt it as much from me as I did from them. When a horse dies they’re so big that a certain amount of indignity is unavoidable. When the tractor picked up Puppet and took her to the grave it had just dug, the horses followed along with me, a group that was as aware of what was happening as any group of human mourners. It was the most funereal thing I had ever witnessed to be fair, and apart from Pedro, after the burial the horses just turned away, like they understood it was over.

Later in May when Delaney died, arguably the worst day of my life, the reaction was the same. He had a badly broken leg from a kick and had to be PTS. The vet came and as she did the deed and I held on to Delaney’s head as he fell, the other horses gathered in a circle and sniffed at him. Again, it was clear that they understood. As with Puppet, I left the body for 24 hours for the horses to come to terms with it. They stayed close to his body all night, and the next morning when the tractor came again they did exactly as they had with Puppet. They followed his body, with me, us all in a line, and the herd watched as he was covered with earth.

Delaney had always been the link between the Baywatch crew; Cali, Delphi, Puppet, and the reject, Raggy Dolls; Fray and Tycho. Smurf, Pedro and Trotsky also functioned as go betweens, Smurf, because he was an original, like Delaney, and Trotsky and Pedro, I suspect, because they were entire and liked hanging with the chicks. Delaney though was the true go between. He seemed to control the herd and have it all together. He never acted like herd leader, but it was so apparent after he died that he had been just that. The herd completely fragmented, and it took some time for order to be restored.

Eventually peace resumed, until the day before Christmas Eve, Trosky also succumbed to colic and we lost him too. The biggest impact was on Tycho. He completely regressed into his earlier madness, to the point that when people came to the field he would really kick off. I had to save the lady from the Woodland Trust from him, as he tried his best to eat her. It was difficult even for me to keep him talking as she legged it over the gate to safety. I had no idea that Trotsky had been so dominant in the herd. Either Tycho was feeling like suddenly the weight of the world was on his shoulders, or he was playing up because he had a chance to be boss again.

This behaviour continued for some weeks, and it was a good couple of months before he came back down to the point he was at before. When Trotsky was buried, everyone followed as they usually had, but everyone was very jumpy; getting a bit bucky and kicky, as though they were frustrated. Tycho went crazy all over the field; I was having to watch I didn’t get hurt. He seemed to suddenly hate everything; me, the others, the tractor…. And my guys love tractors because tractors bring hay. He was so disturbed, and it was, frankly, pretty terrible to watch.

We don’t give enough credit to the fact these animals have their families like we do. The whole family unit shifts when one passes, and the herd has to get over it and make do. It’s apparent to me that horses suffer bereavement at least as much as we do, and their feelings manifest themselves in different ways. I wonder if death is easier on them than separation; as in death they have the opportunity to understand what has happened. When they’re separated they don’t. We hurt as much from divorce or physical loss of a companion as we do from death, so it’s important to remember than horses do too, and give them time, and to understand.