Saturday Afternoon With Grace

Grace has spent the week hanging over the fence watching me work clients’ horses.  “Am I next?” she seemed to ask continuously.  Despite the bitter chill, Mark and I brought her out today for some quality family time.

While I was getting organized, Grace went over to check out the mounting block.  She put her hoof on top. *Click!* Treat!  Operant conditioning at it’s finest! Operant conditioning is when you build on a behavior that is freely offered.

“I may end up regretting that one day,” I joked to Mark, but I was already thinking about the bridge, or Pirate’s plank as we call it,  he’d built recently for a training obstacle.  This was going to shortcut the process.  Clunk went the hoof on the block.  Click.  Treat.  Clunk.  Click.  Treat.

I got my gear in order and put the surcingle on Grace for the first time.   She moved on and felt the band around her belly, much tighter than her blanket.  She tossed her head and bucked once in protest, but responded to my request for more impulsion and soon forgot the annoying squeeze.

As she moved around the ring she swerved over to the mounting block.  Clunk went the foot.  “Now’s not the time Grace, move on!”  As important as developing her curiosity and initiative is teaching her context: how to figure out when things are appropriate.  Sometimes the block is a pedestal for her to stand on, sometimes a step for the rider to mount from, right now just ring clutter to be ignored.

Grace quickly made up for lost time. In short order she was ground driving for the first time, catching on quickly to voice commands and directional changes.  We swapped back to a single longe and headed out of the roundpen to explore the challenge course in our open riding field.

Remember the hoof on the mounting block?  Grace was initially intimidated by the Pirate’s plank sitting in the middle of the field. She sniffed -click! She touched it with her hoof-click! The lightbulb came on.  She remembered this game!  Before long she was walking that plank like an old salt-YARRR!

On the way back to the barn Grace learned to navigate raised cavaletti (no, you don’t step on it like the plank!) and jump a little crossrail.  Nothing was ever an issue.  Our attitude was let’s take a stroll… and oops! how did that get in the way?! Let’s figure it out!

Grace is fascinating to work with.  She is so CEREBRAL.  She needs to be continually questioned, challenged, engaged–and supported in those rare moments when she gets confused or scared.  Clicker training adds motivation to her innate laziness, as well as shapes her natural curiosity.

Mark snapped some pictures with his cell phone before we wrapped up for the day.

Walking the Plank:

Friesian on a bridge

on the plank

pirate plank sign

Gracie, modeling her new halter from the Expo!

Friesian Head


Remmelt Friesian Stallion

Thanks go out again to Tonya, our beloved Gracie’s breeder, for sending more photographs.

These are of Remmelt, Gracie’s Granddaddy on her mother’s side.


 Friesian Stallion Remmelt

 remmelt friesian stallion

Friesian Stallion Remmelt

Friesian Stallion Remmelt



Recent Anne 340 Photos

Tonia, Gracie’s breeder, is a wonderful correspondent! These photos of Grace’s sire Anne 340 greeted me from my inbox this morning.

Tonia bred Hillie, Grace’s mom, back to Anne 340 last spring. We agree it is a wonderful cross!

anne 340 friesian stallion

Anne 340 Friesian Stallion

anne 340 friesian stallion trot

Anne 340 Trotting Loose

anne 340 frisian stallion spanish walk in hand

Anne 340 Spanish Walk In Hand

anne 340 friesian stallion spanish walk

Anne 340 Spanish Walk Bareback

Gracie’s New Career



Gracie the Friesian and Maggie the Rescue Horse

The farm family grew again. Ginny found her perfect horse: a rescued coming two-year old Belgian cross filly. The filly came to be known as Magdalene. She arrived loose in the horse trailer–she was unapproachable, virtually feral. They could not get near her to halter her so they bribed her into the trailer with sweetfeed.


As Maggie adjusted to a whole new way of living, Grace stepped into a new career–Maggie’s mentor.


We humans began the journey of natural horsemanship: entering Maggie’s world and inviting her into ours. Gracie took her into the farm world and began showing her the ropes.

…We think it only fitting that Magdalene live with Grace 😉

Natural Friesian Beauty!

Our Friesian filly after a mud spa!


Gracie wasted no time in reveling in the natural life with a good mud spa! The morning after her arrival we chuckled at the contrast between the mud and the pretty blue ribbon Tonya loosely wove into her tail as an engagement gift 🙂