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Many of these blogs I wrote some time ago and appeared on my old website. Please ignore the date is says it was published. Enjoy. 

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  1. I often get asked to solve mounting issues. To cover mounting issues in depth is a book. Here in this interactive article I offer some insights, ideas, practical advice to prompt re-thinking your approach, encourage debate and discussion.   

    ruby at the mounting block 

    Firstly ensure your horse is healthy, physically comfortable and emotionally balanced. Regularly run your hands over your horse feeling for changes in heat, muscle texture, lumps and bumps and pain response. Watch how your horse moves and stands. Objection to being groomed and tacked up is another warning. Any health concerns should be checked by a vet. Invest in regular good foot balance and dental care. The saddle and bridle should be professionally fitted and regularly checked.  

    With emotional balance, you can’t convince me horses are not emotional. An emotionally unbalanced horse is at least unhappy, at worst emotionally traumatized and dangerous. A horse that is lacking these basic baselines has a right to say no to being ridden. What is easy to read is the horse saying no, listen! For a horse to travel from an emotional no it has to travel through a lot of maybe to get to yes.  

    Solving the problem starts with understanding why. Here are some examples:- Fear, anxiety, stress, a memory of pain, confusion, poor training, negative past experiences, nervous rider, lack of trust, poor partnership bond, lack of respectful leadership, no investment in quality time from the human with the horse, the horse sees being ridden as un-enjoyable, boring, drilling, or is ridden badly.…the list goes on…. Resistance is communication, observe and listen carefully.  Ask why the horse objects. Horsemanship is equine empathy and compassion to truly see the horse’s view point. Treat each horse as an individual. Take into account their character and personality, life experiences and levels of training etc. Half the picture is the horse the other half is the human. A huge element is the equine and human partnership and quality of the relationship. The training will depend on how best to help that individual partnership. One size does not fit all.  

    Emotionally unbalanced horses are complex. A few of them allow the rider to mount but then shoot forwards or explode. Other horses refuse or object to be mounted. Equine empathy allows you to read and understand fear and emotion. The intent must shift from mounting. Shift the intent to helping the horse to be balanced emotionally. Go at the pace your horse can cope with. Use a graded approach and retreat technique reinforced with targeted rewards. Allow the horse time to learn and reflect that things are ok. He must learn there is nothing to fear. Horsemanship is about building a strong relationship and confidence. An emotional, tense, anxious horse cannot effectively learn. Teach your horse to be calm and relaxed. Focus on slowing your breathing, lower your energy and be the safe still eye in the storm. Take time to show your horse it can relax before introducing relaxing by the mounting block. Reward the horse for being calm. Take each step slowly reading how your horse feels.  

    Eliminate discomfort, fear and address emotional balance then you can then start mounting training. Horsemanship ground games using positive reinforcement will enable you to request your horse to move in any direction backwards, sideways, forwards to pick up selected hooves and to place. Master this and you can position your horse easily and happily at the mounting block. This must be done ethically with positive reinforcement and the horse will be highly motivated to present and wait at the mounting block. Positive reinforcement is a very useful tool in ignition of motivation in horsemanship. You can read for FREE my series of published articles on Motivation that appeared in Horsemanship Magazine in the resources section of my website.

    Mounting block training I make very easy for horse and human to understand. It is as simple as yes or no. So firstly I teach a horse a noise = yes. Most people know this as clicker training. I don’t use a hand held clicker I use a click noise that I can make = yes. As I use this technique when I ride as well as in groundwork, so I don't want to carry a hand held clicker. How to start teaching your horse a noise = yes is to make a chosen yes noise (click) when you are giving a tasty treat. Do this over a number of days / weeks. Then test out if your horse has learnt the click noise = a reward. Stand minding your own business make the noise and if your horse turns his head expectantly towards you looking for a reward your horse has learnt noise = something good. This is an operant conditioning method you can use the noise to mark the desired behaviour which is then followed with reward. This is one positive reinforcement method, there are many more. The horse must first learn the selected bridge noise equals reward (a tasty treat) before you can use it to mark the sought behaviour. The noise must be prompt and precise to mark exactly the desired behaviour followed by the reward. My own experience of using positive reinforcement in horsemanship is that it encourages speedy learning, motivates horses to learn, makes learning fun and enjoyable. I believe training that focuses on positive interactions leads to lasting positive memories in horses and a happier horse usually leads to a happier human too. Research has shown that positive reinforcement training / clicker training method is highly effective. 

    So using positive reinforcement in mounting, I call this game the getting warmer or colder game. Here is how to play. What you need is a moveable mounting block ideally a round one so no sharp corners your horse can injure himself on. Place this in a space big enough so your horse can move around it. Stand on the block and don’t get off it. Ask your horse to move into position using your horsemanship ground games to move his feet. If he moves where you want click and treat and let him enjoy the praise and reward. If he moves away use your spare bit of long rope as if was an annoying fly, gently tickle it doesn’t matter which part you tickle. (This is a negative reinforcement, just like the annoying seat belt bleeper in your car to annoy you enough so you choose to do the right thing.) You are doing it to say you are getting colder. Many people try to correct the horse moving away and then can’t reach the quarters that have swung out. Using my technique it matters not which part you tickle the being like an annoying fly is what matters. As soon as the horse moves towards the desired position he is getting warmer so stop tickling, mark, praise and reward your horse. I want the horse to think how do I train the human to quit tickling and annoying me? How do I get the reward?….I know I stand here. Make it very pleasurable to stand by the mounting block, use the mounting block to access your horse’s sweet spots, massage and engage in partnership pair bond scratching. Once your horse has learnt to stand in the correct position, and knows you will reward, you can then move to the next step, pick up your reins as if you are going to mount. Often at this point the horse will move. Repeat the getting colder part of the game, tickle and annoy until the horse moves back into position then stop tickling and reward the horse. Once you can achieve gathering the reins go to put your foot into the stirrup. Again the horse may choose to move, if so return to annoying tickling and when the horse offers to stand correctly reward generously. Then pick up your reins, and place foot in the stirrup. Once your horse stands for this mount, and positively reinforce by a bridge noise and a treat. The treat is only earned by allowing him to be mounted. Then stroll around for a short while and dismount as the lesson for the day was mounting your horse needs time to reflect and absorb the learning. If you want a horse that is highly motivated in regard to mounting, be prepared to have industrial patience, time to repeat this training regularly and use highly perceived rewards. I invest in this training for my own horses, as you can extend the game to include coming over to collect you to mount.     

    Some final thoughts: Your horse has the right to say no to being ridden. Is your riding permissive? What is in it for the horse when we ride? Does the horse think being ridden is meaningful, enjoyable, rewarding and fun? What type of partner are you? Calm, confident, positive, thoughtful and communicating sensitively? Get this right and your horse will look forward to being ridden.    

    If you want help with mounting issues or any aspect of horsemanship please get in touch.

  2. When something is fun we are highly motivated to engage in the activity. It is the same for our horse. Horsemanship should be fun, rewarding and enjoyable for both horse and human. 

    • Are you and or your horse disinterested, indifferent and bored?
    • Do you and or your horse find training unenjoyable?
    • Do you find yourself having to work hard with your horse?
    • Is your horse lazy or fed up?
    • Do you want a happy motivated horse?
    • Do you want to feel motivated and enthused?
    • Would you like your horse to be more attentive?
    • How would you feel if your horse found training fun, satisfying, pleasurable and gratifying?

    If yes then you should try an approach that taps into a powerful inner force - Self-Motivation. If something is enjoyable, rewarding and fun it has the power to unlock potential. Many of my clients get in touch as they are getting little or no fun out of their horsemanship. I have a track record of turning things around. I give people the tools to ignite self-motivation in themselves and their horses. My ethos and approach tapping into motivation in horsemanship has been showcased in Horsemanship Magazine. You can read for FREE the Motivation series in the horsemanship resources section.

    Joy, fun, pleasure is what horsemanship should be for both you and your horse. If it is not it maybe time to ask why.  

    I canl teach you how to use motivation in horsemanship. My approach can be used with any horse of any age and stage of its’ training. It’s great for breaking out of old negative behaviour patterns. It will transform your relationship with your horse. Using ethical and compassionate training methods with positive reinforcement you will be able to unlock a powerful inner motivational force from within. Your horse will turn up motivated, tuned in and ready to engage in learning. Your horse will try more for you. Check in with you rather than react. You can teach your horse to time so he has time to think and be calm. It is a great way to get results faster as it is a very positive training method. You don’t need to be an experienced and confident horse handler or rider to use this approach. It opens up horsemanship to a new level. Communication becomes clearer. Activities and training become more fun. Your horse will look forward to hanging out with you as it builds a stronger relationship. It eliminates negative or undesirable behaviours. It motivates and encourages your horse which in turn improves performance. Research has shown that horses when trained using positive reinforcement learn faster. 

    Here are just a few examples of what my clients have to say about using my approach. 

    “Since rehoming Diego from World Horse Welfare in March 2014 he has always found the farrier visit stressful. Because he got worked up so did I and this made it a nightmare for all of us. He wouldn't pick his feet up. He wouldn't stand still and would bite anyone who was near him. Since finding Vicki she has helped our relationship and has made me much more confident about handling Diego. Also introduced us to clicker training which has made a huge difference.  With a combination of me being calmer and more confident, clicker training and a lick to distract him today he stood completely calm and relaxed to have his feet trimmed for the first time!  So a happy pony, owner and farrier. I can't thank you enough Vicki and I would highly recommend her.” Alison Coxon 

    “I contacted Vicki as I had totally lost my confidence when it came to riding my horse Bobs. Vicki's kind nature and way of teaching really helped me get to grips with my confidence issues and within just a few lessons I was feeling much happier. She also made our lessons fun for me and for Bobs and I could see a huge difference in my usually slow as a snail boy as he was willing to go forward and was definitely happier in his work!"  Serena Vegad  

    troy finished

    “Vicki has helped me with clicker-training my cob, Troy. Positive reinforcement has had so many benefits for us and we have used it for both groundwork and riding. It has helped Troy to soften in his head and neck which is something I struggled to achieve before, and he has learnt to stop on a voice command alone, making me feel much more confident in difficult situations. I am learning to ride in a way that is gentler and more in tune with my horse, and it feels brilliant. My lessons with Vicki are always enjoyable and Troy is so pleased with himself when he knows he has done what I want him to!  Vicki’s lessons inspire me, and Troy. We are both very glad she came into our lives. I cannot thank Vicki enough.” Sarah Greenway  

    “Clancy was a nervous and sensitive horse, having had a bad start in life. Despite me having made considerable progress with him over the past 7 years and gaining his trust, he had recently become very reluctant with school work and had started to totally shut down. I knew I had to change things. I had 8 lessons with Vicki and we worked together to build on greater trust and leadership, using lots of positive reinforcement, with intent and energy based on the language of the herd. Clancy became more willing and started to offer self-carriage and become soft in my hands, rather than bracing himself and resisting my aids, as he had done previously. He had even started to volunteer leading my other pony out on hacks, something he had never done before, due to his lack of confidence. Vicki’s methods really do work. She is an excellent instructor and is very compassionate with both horse and rider. She has reshaped my thinking and opened up my mind to horsemanship. Thank you Vicki”. Jayne Isaac 

    “My horse JJ and I really enjoy working with Vicki Jayne - she has helped us make huge progress - JJ has gone from a stroppy, very large horse to one who is enjoying life and going out jumping British Novice classes.” Clare G Thompson 

     “My horse Simba and I were stuck in a rut where we were both demotivated with me constantly having to nag him and work really hard to get him moving forward. Additionally we both hated schooling and avoided it like the plague. He was fed up, unwilling and getting little enjoyment out of our hacks. Oh how things have changed! Vicki has revamped my attitude and riding completely resulting in a horse that now strides out, ears forward, takes an interest in everything that's going on - sometimes a little too much! And all with the minimum amount of effort from me, no more tired legs and red face.  Even in the school he is willing, anticipating the next instruction from me and genuinely trying with anything new that is put his way, I may even try a dressage test at some point, something I would never even have considered. On hacks his schoolwork really comes through, I think he knows how amazing he looks so likes to show off - that's the only conclusion I can come to because I don't even ask, he just offers. Well I have had the most brilliant lesson today with Vicki Jayne. Cheesy grin. Minimum effort, maximum results and a very happy pony! Genuinely cannot recommend this woman enough.....feel free to share with anyone needing a good instructor! Excellent natural horsemanship instructor - even in howling wind and horizontal rain Simba worked a treat at the weekend, these methods absolutely work. I can't recommend Vicki highly enough, she has patience and understanding in industrial quantities.” Estelle Robinson  

    “Your teaching has transformed our riding and our relationship with Blossom and Hugo.” Alex Lockey

    If you are interested in giving this a try please get in touch. Call 07930605544. 

  3. First things first, before we go any further let’s discuss safety.

    • Basic ground handling skills practiced in the school or field are a must have before venturing out for a walk in hand with your horse. Your horse must stop to the word whoa. Be easy to lead and be mindful of your space so as not to step on you or push you over. You should be able to move your horse’s feet in any direction easily, forwards, backwards and sideways.  You should be able to read your horse and be able to be appropriate with your horse. So investing in some horsemanship ground skills is a great idea.
    • Equipment for the horse – You need a good fitting halter, headcollar or bridle. Ideally the one you have ground worked your horse in.  Make sure you have a lead rope that is in good working order. If you are going onto the roads an essential is hi viz for your horse. 
    • Equipment for you – Non slip, with good grip on the soles sturdy foot wear. Gloves are great for protecting your hands. And a hard hat is wise. If you are going onto the roads an essential is hi viz for you.  
    • Insurance – If you are venturing out it is essential to have adequate insurance cover, minimum is third party insurance.
    • Holding the rope – Folds in the rope not coils. If your horse pulls away and you have a loop or coil of spare rope it will quickly tighten around your fingers. And broken fingers are very painful.
    • Have your horse walk beside you. That way you are able to see what is going on. If your horse is behind you, you haven’t got eyes in the back of your head.

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    Taking your horse for walks in hand has many benefits these include:

    • It’s very natural for in the wild horses to walk and roam miles every day. So by going for a walk together you are doing something nature intended.
    • It’s an opportunity for you and your horse to have some special one to one time, just chilling and strolling along together. Bonding time.
    • It’s great for building horse and handler confidence as you will meet things on your travels that may worry or rattle your horse. These are golden gifts in crappy paper and training opportunities. 
    • When you come across scary things they will be either; things you can pick up and move or not. Here are some tips to help when you meet the horse eating scary things. If it is a lightweight portable item and it is ok to move it, pick it up and walk away with it. Predators never leave. Your horse will note that your arms have not become detatched, no blood is coming out and you are not bothered by the horse eating thingy that you are carrying. Your horse will re-evaluate and go from scared to curious. Once your horse is curious he will want to check out the horse eating thingy, at first very tentatively. When you get to this stage you can stop walking away with the horse eating thingy and go into graded approach and retreat. This is when you allow your horse to sniff it and then take it away. The taking away bit gives your horse time to think, reflect and consider things. You can then approach with the horse eating thingy and let him sniff for longer and then take it away. Reward your horse’s bravery. Once your horse is comfortable with his nose on the object if you wanted to carry on your walk simply return the object back to where you found it. For objects you can’t move.  If it is a safe place to use the scary object for training place yourself between the object and your horse. It is the safest place to be as scared horses don’t tend to run towards what scares them. Keep your energy low and reassure your horse talking gently and slowly. Show your horse it is safe by interacting with the object, if safe stand on it, touch it. Your horse will eventually work out it hasn’t eaten you, so it will get curious. At first very tentative and may only close the gap a little to get a better look. Reward this bravery.  And maybe that day this is as far as you want to go. Or if you feel comfortable to take the next step it is retreat a bit and give your horse time to think, reflect and relax. Then approach the horse eating thingy again as before taking your time. Then retreat as before. Repeat and repeat taking your time. It takes as long as it takes for a horse to be brave enough to trust your judgement on horse eating things.  
    • Some horse eating thingy can be replicated in the school before going out. You could practice the skills in helping your horse overcome fears. I regularly help people with these skills so they feel confident before venturing out.
    • Going for walks together you and your horse will learn to trust each other.
    • It’s great exercise for you and your horse. It’s proven to be good physically and mentally.
    • It establishes ground manners beyond the schooling environment.  

    Enjoy going out for happy walkies.  

  4. I am horsemanship tutor, artist, writer and Reiki healer. Reiki is a great tool enhancing the refinement of horsemanship. Horses are fine tuned to read intent and energy. (You can read for FREE my published article - Intent and Energy - that appeared in Western UK Magazine in the resources section of my website). Horse's evolution hard wired this into the language of the herd and to read this in other species. Survival was dependant on getting this right. I teach horsemanship along the principles of tapping into intent and energy before body language and touch. 

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    Reiki is Japanese for universal life energy. Reiki was founded by Dr Mikao Usui. Reiki is not a religion and is open to any belief system. It is natural healing using energy, gently balancing life energies and bringing health and wellbeing to the recipient. Energy is all around us, in all living things. To achieve balance and harmony energy needs to flow uninterrupted. Reiki removes energy blockages, adjusts the energy flow of the endocrine system bringing balance and harmony. It raises the vibrational frequency of the body clearing energy enabling clearer communication between horse and human. Reiki can help restore balance and harmony physically, emotionally or spiritually enabling well-being, helping horse and human to experience a shared close magical connection. 

    Reiki creates deep relaxation, aiding the body to release stress and tension. Triggering the body’s natural healing and accelerating the body’s self-healing abilities. It can help with injuries and chronic health problems. Helps relieve pain. It can assist the body with clearing toxins and reduce some of the side effects of medications. Reiki supports the immune system and increases vitality, providing additional energy required when recovering from illness. It can be used to complement and enhance health care a patient receives from other health care professionals. For behavioural issues such as nervousness or lack of confidence, Reiki helps creating relaxation, reducing stress, fear and anxiety. If your horse has emotional problems such as those due to a traumatic situation such as abuse, neglect, or a riding accident, Reiki can help release and heal those emotions. It is great for both horses and people that are struggling emotionally and spiritually. Therefore it is truly a system of attaining and promoting wholeness of Mind, Body, Spirit and Soul. 

    The method of receiving Reiki is enjoyable and non-intrusive. For you treatments can be given in the comfort of your own home remaining clothed and relaxed. For your horse treatments can be given where your horse feels comfortable and safe; in their herd, their field, stable, yard or a barn. It is common that when your horse receives Reiki your horse will want to share it with you. You can even share a Reiki treatment with your horse while in the saddle. 

    Each individual experiences Reiki differently. Benefits reported by recipients include deep relaxation promoting a calm, peaceful sense of well-being on all levels. Some sensations include heat, tingling, or experience seeing colours, whilst others can have an emotional response, indicating that shifts are taking place, allowing harmony to be restored. 

    Reiki in Refinement of Horsemanship

    For me there is a blurred line between horsemanship and healing. As horsemanship to me is all about sharing a close magical bond. I have written many times about this topic as for me the relationship between horse and human is special. It has the potential to change lives profoundly and influence personal development.

    I am passionate about helping people to learn how to apply intent and energy in their horsemanship. This is the doorway to refinement, finesse and dialogue with our equines. Once you can achieve inner calm and silence in your horsemanship you will hear your horse Telegraph In. Yes horses do communicate to us all the time. We have to step into their world of peace and calm and be receptive to listening. So many people discover through this approach a slower, calmer, softer way to be with their horse. They also comment on how theraputic it feels for them spending time with their horse.  

    I have been lucky enough to teach people to the point that they have beautiful harmony between them and their horse. And a few of these clients I have taken on to the next level with horsemanship fused with Reiki. Just an application of Reiki to a ridden session with no understanding will not achieve maximum benefits.

    The fusion of horsemanship and Reiki enables energy blocks of both horse and rider to start clearing allowing both bodies and minds to function more effectively. Riders experience a greater feel of the energy exchange between themselves and their horse.

    Communication becomes even clearer between horse and rider. Even closer bonding in their partnership has been reported. Therefore in turn a more effective lesson or schooling session is experienced.

    I am called in to help solve horsemanship problems in one shape or form. Enjoyment and relaxation is often just a dream. Good horsemanship requires relaxation. The fusion of Reiki into the horsemanship enables relaxation of horse and rider to a much deeper level.

    Horsemanship is about working in partnership to develop a connection that is soft. This softness should been seen on the outside and be felt on the inside. I teach people to achieve this connected softness with their horse. Blending with Reiki increases this softness.

    Horsemanship is about building a strong bond between horse and rider. Some people start out at the wrong end of this spectrum, not understanding their horse, confusion, fear, stress, anxiety, and calling me in as a last resort. I tutor people in gaining the skills, knowledge and understanding to develop a connection and bond with their horse. This work is beautifully complimented by Reiki as people report it enriches the bonding and the horsemanship partnership.

    Both horse and rider find the experience of the blend of horsemanship and Reiki enjoyable. Sometimes they are unaware of the subtle shifts taking place. It is only when they notice the distance they have travelled do they notice the difference. After several sessions the energy shift in both horse and human is usually noted by those around them. With comments such as, they appear more relaxed, confident, happy, etc... What has taken place is some healing within the horsemanship, within the relationship, within the self (be it the horse or the human).     

    An added benefit is that these changes to horse and rider continue outside of the horsemanship and Reiki fusion session. 

    Some Final Ponderings....How about trying to live by the Reiki principles every day:

    • Just for today, I will not be angry
    • Just for today, I will not worry
    • Just for today, I will be grateful
    • Just for today, I will do my work honestly
    • Just for today, I will be kind to every living thing.