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Natural Horse Training Updates

Autumn has officially begun, and we celebrate the end of an exciting, successful summer!   We are taking the horses in training on many adventures off the farm, including trail rides, horse shows and medieval reenactments.  We firmly believe that consistent training in a surprising variety of situations creates brave, smart, obedient horses at horse shows, on trail rides, and in any situation.

Check out our natural horse training adventures and the horses’ progress at our blogsite, http://www.natural-horse-training-methods.com/

We welcome Cricket to our family.  Cricket is a 6 year old appendix Quarter Horse mare.  She is a granddaughter to the great Secretariat!  We look forward to her giving the young horses confidence on their first trail rides.  Cricket will also be available for riding lessons with our certified riding instructor, and possibly a half-lease to just the right horse person!  Please contact us- you may be the one!

My Favorite West Virginia Horse Trainer

It never ceases to amaze me the twists and turns life takes when you least expect it. Who would have thought that I would be where I am now? If you had told me two years ago that I’d be living in the West Virginia Panhandle, married to the best natural dressage, natural hunter-jumper, natural horsemanship trainer, and all around incredibly talented wife Kirsten, I’d have laughed at you and gone about my business.

But then, here I am. Now, I’m getting valuable hands-on experience as a natural horseman and learning to ride while learning to teach my horse curiosity, friendliness, and courage. Dolly Madison and I are taking every opportunity to ride in our large grass arena, and are frequent visitors to the pole bending/Saracen head game row where we weave in and out of the poles like champs. That is an amazing feat of horsemanship for a guy with such a late start.

I’m also really blessed to be a part of the turnout board operation. Daily walks amongst the pastures are relaxing and fun, and watching the play of horse politics at feeding time is the source of endless hours of amusement and discussion. I’ve had the opportunity to turn an open field into structured pastures, creating order out of emptiness.

I’ve been gifted with watching new horses arrive unsure and uncertain of themselves and their surroundings, and be completely transformed by the open fields, good grazing, and natural environment we have here in the wv panhandle. And I’ve been blessed by seeing horses riding through farm lanes and trails that have existed since the Civil War, on land granted before the founding of our Country. Our horses graze on the very same grass grazed on by Stuart’s, Jackson’s, and Lee’s horses. How cool is that?

But best of all, is the time I get to spend with Kirsten working with the Horses. They’re a part of our daily lives. So many major operations, the people you speak to are not the person who manages the barn, who stays up all night with the sick horses, or shovels out the barn after the horses. Here, on this farm, we’re it. We’re as close to the animals on a daily basis as possible and horsemanship and horse care is integrated fully into our daily lives. I’ve learned so much in so little time, and she is the best horsemanship teacher I’ve ever met. It’s an honor to board my own horse here, and a privilege to learn from her teaching.

And it’s a privilege to be 15 days older than she is :=) Happy Birthday, my Love!

New Trails, New Partnership

Suzi invited us trail riding at Stoney Creek Farm when we first met Mikey, our large, lovely TB gelding. Today needed to bring home Cricket, the 6 year old appendix Quarter Horse mare. We used the extra trailer space to transform this task into an adventure! I had the tack loaded in the horse trailer when Mark got home from work. In loaded Dolly and Gideon, and off we went.

What a ride we had! The sudden crispness in the air out Dolly on edge. Natural horse training methods put a variety of tools in our mental tack trunk to quickly engage her mind and her movement. Clicker training speeds the process and enhances results even more.

Gideon, on the other hand, sauntered off the trailer and down the trail like the pro he is rapidly becoming. Suzi was out of town, but Phyllis joined us riding Cricket.

We couldn’t have asked for a nicer ride! The beautifully mown trails meandered through thick forest. The horses wound through the trees and scaled strength-building hills.

New experiences in new places builds precious confidence in our young horses. Today’s gorgeous scenery kept us humans oohing and ahhing and thoroughly enjoying every new twist in the trail! We got to see Cricket doing what she does best: happily moving down the trail and showing the less experienced horses how it’s done. Cricket has enjoyed success in the horse show ring, but truly loves the trails. We’re excited to welcome her into the family!

We gave Phyllis a thank-you bottle of Monavie. Monavie gave Mark and I relief from the constant pain of back issues, overuse, and old injuries. We feel Monavie is the biggest gift we can share!

Tomorrow I’ll post Cricket’s pedigree and pictures. Tonight she grazes peacefully under a full autumn moon.

We-show Horse Show

We woke before the sun to groom and load the horses. Ours was the first trailer to roll into the horse show grounds. I hopped on Gideon first, determined to give him the slow warm-up he responds so well to– and to avoid my mistakes from the county fair horse show. Lucy and Angus practiced waiting patiently at the trailer for their turns.
Gideon schooled beautifully. Natural horse training methods let us lay a solid foundation at home and speed up success in the horse show ring. A game of “touch it with your nose” chased away Gideon’s initial apprehension at the gaily painted barrels around the grounds and in the arena.

The groundskeeper appeared and started shaking new garbage cans into the metal barrels around the ring. Gideon ignored the commotion and gave his most balanced canter yet.

By this time I was getting a little concerned. We still had the showgrounds to ourselves! I introduced myself to the groundskeeper and asked if we had the right weekend. He replied, just as puzzled, “yep, today’s the day of the horse show. They’ve usually started by now!”

There’s no such thing as a no-show. Clearly it was a We-Show! We were there…with a trailer full of promising young horses to school! And school we did, making full use of every opportunity we could create. Angus and then Lucy had their training sessions in the arena. Monavie kept my blood sugar level and my energy up as the heat and humidity skyrocketed.

Eventually another couple arrived with a lovely, half-Connemara yearling out for her first show exposure. We watched from a distance as the power of natural horsemanship –or lack thereof– became clearer and clearer. The filly’s handler held her tightly on a chain shank and walked her in small circles. The filly just got more and more wound up.

Natural horsemanship offers a toolbox to access when trouble kicks up. With a few basic communications in place, that filly could be handled in a way that would help her find harmony with her handlers and her surroundings. Her nervous energy could be channeled in a positive direction.  Instead, her frustration level mounted, along with her misbehavior.

A few more trailers pulled in with well-dressed riders. Cell phones hummed, new shows were found and the tiny crowd dispersed. We finally learned that the horse show had been cancelled earlier that week due to hurricane warnings, but no one bothered to tell the public!

No worries! Our horses were unloaded, hosed off and grazing in their pastures before worst of the day’s heat, after a thoroughly successful we-show horse show!

Gideon and Angus chillin' at the horse show

Natural Horsemanship at the MPHSC Horse Show

Despite visiting family, we managed to work in a quick trip to the Maryland/Pennsylvania Horse Show Circuit show. We brought along Angus, Lucy and Gideon. The show grounds offered an indoor and outdoor arena, and a large field to play in. We left Angus and Lucy contentedly munching hay at the trailer. We set off with Gideon in search of adventure and horse training success. Mark generously joined us with the camera.

Natural Horsemanship challenges us to work with our surroundings to create original and effective ways to train our horses. Yesterday’s heavy rains left a long 4 foot wide pool of water that called to my imagination. While other riders avoided the “icky field” and crowded into the outdoor ring to warm up, Gideon and I took the trail less traveled by. What a perfect opportunity to focus Gideon’s mind away from the nervous chaos of the horse show and towards deeper partnership and communication with his person!

At first Gideon was nervous, but obedient. He responded to my request to cross the water with a willing and careful jump:

Natural Horsemanship Jumping Water

 

Despite his overzealous effort, I rewarded his try with a click and a treat. Success builds confidence and soon Gideon was splashing calmly through the water:

 

Natural Horsemanship Crossing Water

The water crossing exercise engaged Gideon’s mind and brought about obedience and relaxation far more effectively than endless circles around the warm up ring. I mounted up and together Gideon and I wound through the hustle and bustle of the in-gate and along the road. My goal was to seek out every “challenge” the show grounds offered and turn them into games to increase Gideon’s brains and bravery.

 

Horse in Traffic

 

We made our way to the gaming arena. The speed events were over, so Gideon had to be comfortable by himself in this unknown arena. Opportunities like this leave no excuse for buddy sour or barn sour horses! We played around with the barrels and the poles, then did a typical “hunter show warm up” just to prove there were no holes left in his foundation.

Natural Horsemanship Bravery with Barrels

Natural Horsemanship Pole Bending

 

The horse show folks were wonderful but the class schedule was chaotic. We were looking to show in the hunter classes or the pleasure classes. I even packed along western tack just in case that was our only option!

Our possible classes were pushed far later than we intended to stay. As it was we decided leave without schooling Angus and Lucy. They have both become so calm and consistent at horse shows and other field trips, and we had family to visit with!

Antietam Battlefield Ride

I had the horse trailer hooked up and loaded by the time Mark got home from work. We grabbed the horses and a chilled bottle of Monavie and headed down the road to meet Scott and Noel at the Antietam battlefield for an afternoon trail ride.

I brought Lucy. We believe so firmly in building a solid foundation in our horses through a variety of cross-training. Even though this phenomenal Thoroughbred mare has the mind, talent and movement for the show hunter arena, she needs to be a horse first and foremost. I looked forward to seeing how she would handle the traffic, pedestrians, and ever-present monuments, placards and cannons around the battlefield.

What an amazing trail ride! The reality of the bloodiest battle of the civil war entwined with the sun-soaked afternoon and the joy of riding wonderful horses with great friends. The horses were champs. Lucy soaked in all the new sights like a sponge. She has such an incredible mind!

We explored a corner of Antietam we’d never seen. The wide, well-kept verges welcomed long, fitness-building trots. Dolly the Belgian even gave Mark his first triumphant steps of canter! Our loop covered paved roads, grassy verges and mown paths. The battlefield monuments provided plenty of fodder for creative training challenges.

The four humans joined in a refreshing Monavie toast as the sun set and horses happily munched hay. That Lucy just impresses me more and more all the time!

Thanks, Scott, for this great shot of Mark, Dolly, Lucy and I!

Trail Ride at Antietam Battlefield

Journey to Revel Grove Joust

The usual suspects traveled eastward to Revel Grove for the MD Renaissance Festival.   The spirit of merriment and adventure conquered the blistering heat.  We ran into old friends, swooned over exotic goods, and sampled delicious food and drink.  The highlight, as ever, were the jousts.

The opening ceremonies for the noon joust:

 

Enjoy the full Galleries of the noon joust here and the evening joust here