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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. The relationship with any horse requires good foundations. In an ideal world these are laid down right from the start, the right way using the language of the herd.  To engage in a true horsemanship partnership the opinion of our horse really matters. 

    Sadly this is not the experience for many horses that I meet. And the starting point with their new owner can be from a negative starting point. Some have been discarded by their previous owners, sold cheaply and as quickly as possible. Some are labelled as naughty. Some have passed through many hands. Some are misunderstood. Some dislike humans because of prior abuse or trauma.  

    What we all share is a personal equine dream. That’s why we want horses in our lives. Many people seek a close magical bond and partnership. The road to success is paved with interspecies communication. When you use horsemanship training based on the language of the herd with the relationship coming first you can be a winner in your horse’s eyes and heart. This fuels passion and unlocks potential. The five interlinked foundation elements of horsemanship are: - Bond, Trust, Respect, Time and Focus, Enjoyment. Sadly many horse’s point of view on these five elements are shattered with a very negative view. 

     

    Bond. Horses are herd animals that require companionship that makes them feel safe, provides meaningful social interactions and a sense of belonging. It is our responsibility to provide this for our horses. Sadly many horses suffer at the hands of man. They develop survival strategies, some have learnt helplessness; other horses have behaviours that clearly ask humans to keep their distance. Some are sceptical as prior experience has given them no positive reasons for try to bond with humans. The scales of bad experience can weigh heavy with an unpleasant past. 

    These horses need a fair chance, someone to listen carefully and understand. Time and patience in industrial quantities, along with a sharp eye for the smallest of try which is rewarded lavishly. These horses need to know what kindness and respect feel like. You need acceptance that change will take time, sometimes a very long time.  As to move from a negative mind set of no to yes there is a lot of maybe travel through. You need to forgive behaviour instantly and not take it personally. No matter the circumstances you must be loyal, dependable and consistently tell the truth.  Plus ignore the unconstructive, hurtful and negative comments from other people who are always ready to point out the “naughty horse”. 

    These horses must learn nothing bad will happen. A great starting point is being. For many people it is an eye opener to just be with their horse. To just be with a horse is to put aside our agendas. We can easily get hung up on doing stuff with our horses. Have a go at quietly watching, observing him interacting within the herd and his environment. From simply being you can extend into simple interactions that form the basis of observation to meaningful conversation. With deeply held trauma we must place a value on showing every interaction holds no pain or fear.  Then you will see the horse start to evaluate things differently, and see you differently from the previous humans he had known.

    Trust. Trust is an emotional and logical act. Emotionally it exposes vulnerabilities because there is a feeling of safety and belief in another that they will not take advantage or cause damage. Logically, it is assessing the person in question will behave in a predictable and in a trustworthy manner. It is also about faith in another. There are strong emotions associated with trust these include companionship, friendship, love, agreement, relaxation, comfort. Horses and humans have a natural disposition to trust and to judge trustworthiness. Once trust has been lost it can be very hard to regain. Therefore when looking at trust it is just as important to be trustworthy as this is the only way to build and maintain a trust with another. For us to win our horses trust we must be trustworthy. Our horses must believe we have their best interests at heart. We have to honour the horse and demonstrate being truthful, authentic and keep our promises. Building trust requires us to act with integrity and to be consistent.  Empathy and equine compassion enable effective listening skills so we can respectfully understand our horse this an essential skill in building trust. 

    Sadly the hand of man can cause huge trust issues for the horse. Horrific pasts can shatter trust for the horse in humans, and damage their confidence, self-worth and self-esteem. Naturally the herd is held together with trust, in the inter-relationships within the herd, without it the herd would be in chaos. Consider what type of human your horse had in the past. I have known horses that have suffered with toxic intimidation and punishment. These horses can demonstrate emotional behaviours such as resentment, anger, frustration and fear. These horses do not trust humans or enjoy the human interactions. 

    Trust is a two way street. Boy this isn’t easy to trust a horse that is damaged by a bad past that exhibits tricky or dangerous behaviour. To trust, you have to look beyond the behaviour, understand why and not take it personally. You have to forgive freely on the spot and bear no ill-feelings. You have to have 100% trust in yourself, and your methods. Your conviction has to be non-wavering, as some small minded people will be all too ready to unfairly criticise, pick fault and enjoy creating pointless drama. They will be ready to judge without the knowledge or understanding the reasons behind your choices and actions. Select your human company well. Let others have their opinion and calmly walk away. This is not blindly carrying on regardless. I urge you to have an open mind and seeking out like-minded people and learn from inspirational horsemanship practitioners.   

    Every interaction with a horse is an opportunity to build trust. Your horse needs you to be calm, consistent, and know you provide safety and the interactions will be rewarding, enjoyable and fun. There are hundreds of opportunities to show your horse you can be trusted. It is about listening to what your horse is struggling with and stepping up to show them it is ok, there is nothing to be worried about. Horsemanship is about mutual trust. So we have to demonstrate our trustworthiness as much as trust our horse. Learning their communication, their language and etiquette opens up two way dialogue. This enables us to hear our horses, tune in, and engage in an authentic relationship.         

    Respect. Horsemanship is about mutual respect for each other. Again many horses suffer at the hand of man a great deal of disrespect. It is obvious that beating a horse is a clear act of violence, and is hugely disrespectful. Violence never solves problems. However time and time again I see the results of what has happened to horses that have suffered disrespect in many shapes and forms by mankind such as intimidation and fear.  Too many times horses are pressured to do something they don't want to do or are uncomfortable doing. They are then labelled offering a resistance or as naughty. Another form of lower grade disrespect horses experience from humans is nit-picking, constant criticism over little things or a constant negative reinforcement approach to training which can be demeaning. These series of seemingly trivial actions, added up over time, constitutes disrespect. It is easy for people to hang on to old style thinking and long held beliefs and prejudices and these can fuel disrespect.  Think about how it feels to be disrespected – Have you ever experienced the unfeeling or uncaring actions or words from another? Have you ever been unfairly judged by another person? How did it make you feel towards the other person? 

    You only have to observe horses and you will see they thrive in calm, harmonious groups that have herd etiquette and rituals, these are honoured and respected. So horses understand respect for each other. Tap into this and you can have a relationship with your horse that thrives on clear respectful boundaries for you both. 

    To gain respect you have to be respectful. Respect is about understanding, valuing and considering another’s feelings and perspectives on life. For us to have a respectful relationship with our horse we have to understand and honour their equine reality and have equine compassion. Respect is about appreciating the separate realities we exist in. Using the language of the herd you can communicate with a horse thoughtfully, politely and respectfully. It is seeing your horse as a unique and valued individual not a stereotype. It is about honouring the horse’s dignity and self-worth along with being sensitive to their needs. You must attentively listen to what they have to say, and work to make communication between you comfortable. We all desire to be treated with dignity, respect, courtesy, politeness, and kindness. To be heard and understood with the freedom to express our opinions and ideas. It is no different for our horses. The way forward is to look for the try, no matter how small, and show your horse how much you value them and their contribution. Use praise and positive reinforcement training methods to encourage faster learning. Plus social herd niceties must be observed at all times.  

    Then there is respect we have for ourselves. You have to set appropriate boundaries with disrespectful people and horses. The way I personally deal with people who disrespect me is to allow them to their opinions and calmly walk away. This is because my life is too short, my energy limited and I have no desire to change the world. I know is not the best way as I should transfer my approach of working with horses to the disrespectful humans. However there is only one of me and my time I feel is better spent with horses and humans who are looking for a better way to be with their horse. The best way I know when working with horses in regards to respect is by using the language of the herd along with calm assertive energy. 

    The most important thing to remember is a horse must be allowed self-respect, his dignity and self-worth must never be compromised. You must always respect the rights and boundaries of the horse. The communication must be appropriate, direct, honest and respectful. Communication must be two way, horsemanship is not monologue it is open honest dialogue. You need a clearly thought out plan, that you work through at the pace the horse can cope with step by step. Pay particular attention to your and the horse’s emotions and how they impact upon the relationship. Respond to criticism from your horse positively see it as an opportunity to grow and develop. Horses thrive with boundaries or the herd would be in chaos without them. Setting and observing healthy boundaries enables respectful meaningful communication. They allow horse and human to reach a comfortable understanding as to what is acceptable and unacceptable. It provides physically and emotionally a safe place as each knows what is expected. The language of the herd teaches you the boundaries horses have with each other and in turn teaches you to respect your horse’s boundaries. 

    Time and Focus. One of the things we are all pressured with is time, there are only twenty-four hours in a day, and for many of us to afford a horse we have to work, often long hours. Many horse owners work and also have family commitments to balance. Time is often in short supply. Plus we live in a fast paced world, and this can lead people to look for fast results. There is no quick fix or short cuts. When working with our horse to form a strong relationship we need to dedicate time, and recognise that our concept of time and a horse’s are very different. You need to dedicate regular quality time. This needs to be free from distractions and 100% of your attention. Consider this your horse may only see you for a few hours each day. If the rest are spent in a herd he is lucky. If you want your horse to bond, trust, respect and enjoy hanging out with you have to put in quality, meaningful and focused time with your horse. We all want our horse to be pleased to see us to look forward to time spent together. This will not happen if you are not willing to see relationship building as a priority. 

    Enjoyment. Discover what makes your horse tick and you will tap into a powerful internal motivational tool. You can read for FREE a series of articles I wrote for Horsemanship Magazine on Motivation - start by reading Panning for Gold then check out the motivation articles. You will find them on the Horsemanship Resources page. Natural horsemanship is a great way to find out what makes your horse tick, along with offering him opportunities to try out different experiences. Play with your horse is another great route into unlocking enjoyment in interactions with you. You can read for FREE my published articles the Art of Play. It is food for thought - Does your horse think the interactions with you are fun and enjoyable?   

    If you use horsemanship that focuses on these five elements you will win your horse’s heart and be a winner in their eyes. Establishing this relationship is the foundation to building success, harmony and the magical light connection we seek. There are life lessons to be taken from horsemanship. Take a look at the five interlinked elements: - Bond, Trust, Respect, Time and Focus, Enjoyment in relation to any relationship. When one element is missing or damaged the relationship will suffer. Recognize which ring is weak or broken and you can work to repair and strengthen it. Treat others how you would like to be treated. We all want to feel a bond within a relationship, to trust our spirit and soul will not be damaged or compromised, to be treated with respect and dignity, to know that we are given quality time with undivided attention doing something we enjoy. If you want to be a winner, try using the five element approach in all relationships, with your horse, people you interact with, your other pets and notice the many benefits. 

    You will note I have spoken about what underpins the natural horsemanship techniques not on the techniques themselves. All techniques that focus on the language of the horse work the key to applying them is what I am sharing with you. If you did not understand these underpinning horsemanship guiding principles you may well try to copy a natural horsemanship technique you saw at a demonstration, on the television or read in a book and find it did not work as expected. 

    My horse Merlot was my once in a lifetime horse that taught me many guiding principles, I feel lucky to have had such a horse enter my life and give me these horsemanship and life lessons. He was the one who showed me the way, opened the door and there was no turning back. This article is just one example of the many lessons, the tip of the ice-burg of what he taught me. They say when the student is ready the teacher will arrive. My Merlot was my most profound teacher. I share so much in writing these articles in the hope it will inspire, spark discussion or debate. It may even challenge you to think about how you want to change your horsemanship.   

    merlot p finished

    My Merlot

  2. People have said to me how lucky our horse Kez is. Just so you can decide if he is lucky here is some background on Kez. My husband and I purchased Kez in late November 2015 to share as a riding horse. He was purchased from a friend who is also a dealer. We paid the going market price for Kez as a horse suitable for riding activities. November passed settling him in, followed quickly by the run up to Christmas, and the wintery weather. Plus in the new year I badly injured my foot so riding and groundwork went out the window for several months at the start of 2016. When the spring of 2016 arrived and we had more opportunities to start doing things with Kez. Fairly soon we discovered Kez with some activities. So our good friend Kathryn Welland from Oaklands Physiotherapy was called out. She gave us plenty to add into our programme. Our programme had been very carefully planned, gentle, no rushing. It was a mixture of horsemanship groundwork, physio exercises, short gentle hacks mostly in walk (max 30 mins). The second physio visit noted some improvements, however the treatment resulted in it was clear there was something wrong. So the vet was called. During the summer 2016 Kez underwent lots of tests with our local vet. The local vets struggled to get a diagnosis. So autumn 2016 Kez was referred to Newmarket Equine Hospital. Kez was at Newmarket for a week and finally we got a diagnosis of inter-spinal ligament damage on the left plus he has hock problems. The conditions cannot be cured, only managed. So under discussion with the specialist vet at Newmarket and our local vet my husband and I retired Kez from ridden activities. We will continue to work with our vet and other health care providers in management of his conditions and will do so for the rest of his life.

    Kez isn’t lucky to have dreadful conditions.

    However Kez Maybe Lucky Because We Promise Him:

    • To listen and understand. We know Kez and other horses are genuine souls. Kez always tries hard to please. So we knew he was finding certain things difficult. We listened and got the right professionals on board early on.  
    • To live free from pain, injury and disease. This should be a promise to every horse. When things go wrong bills can get very expensive very quickly. For us it was essential for Kez to have an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.  We are committed to ensuring Kez’s conditions are managed carefully. We aim to keep Kez pain free and to manage the discomfort of his conditions by following the professional support and advice from our vet. Plus invest in regular complimentary therapies that greatly enhance Kez’s quality of life.
    • Freedom from distress. Our pledge is to give Kez the best opportunity to be physically as well as he can be and to be emotionally happy. However when the time comes that his conditions cannot be managed and it causes him distress we will not shy away from the last kindness.
    • Put his needs above our desires. We have given up our riding dreams and aspirations. We have grieved and shed tears. However when push comes to shove we are 100% committed to our horse not to our original equine dream. So now we must look in a different direction for a new equine dream, one in which our horse shapes it's agenda and path. 
    • Write off the costs in purchase. We purchased and paid market value for a riding horse and paid as such. What we in effect we got was a horse we could have had from a rescue centre. Yes it can leave a bitter taste in your mouth. However none of this was Kez's doing and he doesn't owe us anything.
    • Not to pass him on. Lots of other horses like Kez get passed on with the truth hidden onto an unsuspecting new owner. Many like Kez are sold with the truth hidden so people can recoup money or to make a profit.  Others get passed through a noisy auction.  
    • To give him a loving home. We know there are hundreds like Kez who are non-ridden equines are waiting in rescue centres in slim hope for a loving one to one home. Yet they have so much to give. 
    • To ensure his needs are met. We will make sure he has the correct management, provide him with an appropriate diet, equine friendship, a shelter for him to relax and rest.
    • Value and cherish him. Sadly we all see how little value is placed on horses like Kez. We are in the grip of a dreadful equine crisis in the UK. Horses like Kez are dumped and left to die.
    • To do our best. Will strive to do the best we can with the resources we have. We will look for ways to enrich Kez’s life so he can enjoy activities within his physical limitations. We want Kez to be able to enjoy his life to the full.    

    I have seen inside Kez's soul. Kez is a sentient soul; we value him and treasure him. With us Kez is safe, loved, cared for and cherished. He shows me the lessons I must learn. He is inspiration to shine a light for the thousands of others like him. I will learn from Kez as I have from all my horses.

    So is Kez lucky?

    How lucky are other horses?

    kez finished 2016

  3. It is a myth that relaxed people cannot achieve their dreams. It is the thinking which equates being hurried, competitive and being able to handle more and more stress is the sign of an achiever. Relaxed people and horses can be achievers. Enormous amounts of energy are used being hurried, competitive and stressed. It prevents you connecting with inner peace, which is magnetic to horses.

     merlot and vj bridleless

    Horses are drawn to relaxed, peaceful people who demonstrate calm assertive horsemanship. They need a calm partner especially when stressed, fearful, anxious or tense. You can learn the art of relaxation with techniques that tap into the language of the herd. If the art of relaxation is mastered you can teach your horse to relax and look to you for guidance, be calm and think rather than react.

    What inhibits relaxation? Answer: It is some personal inner struggle. For others it is high levels of anxiety, fear, stress or depression. The barriers that prevent you relaxing can be linked to life events, some are deep rooted, cultural or health related. Often people cannot identify what is the root cause and see the effects with their horse, as horses are divine mirrors to our energy state. A horse can reflect back at you what is going on in your life. Some folk have lost touch with what relaxation feels like. Some people find it hard to switch off from their fast paced lives, heavy responsibilities, never ending to do list, etc…. They feel the urge to be doing. We are human beings not human doings. Some of us have lost touch with simply being, slowing down, doing nothing, relaxing, being calm and finding inner peace. Try just being with your horse. Not as easy as it sounds. This inner struggle is a sign that things need to change. 

    As a culture we don’t place much value on relaxing. We are raised to take on more and more pressure, and live fast paced lives. Stress, anxiety, worry are so common in this world. Fact - It is impossible to be tense, worried, and anxious or stressed at the same time as being relaxed. They are polar opposites. Naturally horses don’t sign up to stress, anxiety in the herd, they value harmony, relaxation and calmness. Yet horses do suffer from stress, anxiety, fear, tension because of modern management practices and training approaches to the horse. There are so many benefits relaxation brings; here I have listed just a few: 

    • Higher achievement and better communication
    • Open mindedness and creativity
    • Faster, clearer learning plus easier problem solving
    • Control of situations, it takes the drama out
    • Better understanding, control of emotions, and a balanced state of mind
    • Increase in calmness
    • Reduction of anxiety and stress
    • Decrease muscle tension
    • Lower blood pressure
    • A better quality of life
    • An awareness of everything around you
    • It is great for physical and mental health and wellbeing

    The key to success is learning to value relaxation, and see the positive impact it can bring to your life. Then you need to actively incorporate relaxation into your daily life. Yes relaxation can be practiced anywhere, anytime and in any situation. There are techniques you can do that are invisible to those around you. In horsemanship it can be practiced on your journey to the yard, during yard duties, on the ground with your horse and in the saddle.      

    Relaxation is a technique to learn and master. There are many techniques: meditation, breathing, visualisation, yoga, exercise, etc.… Many cross the species divide. I teach people many different relaxation techniques that are also embedded into the language of the herd. I  provide one to one tutoring and workshops. It is great to fully explore different techniques. Some you may find easier than others, as it's a skill that needs practice. Practice makes perfect. Once you are able to tap into relaxation you can actively choose that as a tool to compliment your horsemanship communication. 

    Turn up with a relaxed inner peace and your horse will notice. If this is a huge change your horse may be puzzled. Where did the high energy, buzzy, stressed, anxious person go? Keep test driving being a relaxed calm assertive partner to your horse. Tap into using relaxation, intent, balanced energy and calm assertiveness and take your horsemanship to another level. Notice how other areas of your life will benefit too.  

  4. It depends on your view point as to if you see the word ornament as a term for ridicule or a compliment in terms of a non ridden equine. Personally I love the word ornament. I for one think any field is greatly improved by the addition of a beautiful horse. I think us owners of non ridden equines should champion the word ornament and embrace it. If we do the word ornament cannot be used to ridicule the non ridden equine or folk who choose not to ride. It is a beautiful wonderful word.

    herd watching

    For me the definition of ornament when applied to an equine is:-

    Ornament can be one of cherishing and treasuring. As ornaments are used throughout history for religion, ceremony and worship and are often precious, held in high esteem and seen as sacred. And there is a tide of change that now many see the horse for the horse not what it can do for man. And these equines are cherished and treasured.   

    Ornament can be to describe beauty and equines are incredibly beautiful. There is that magical blend of beauty, nature, power, gentleness, soul, spirit and more.

    Ornament can be an equine that brings to us humans lessons and they are to be credited to our understanding, our personal development and the good of society, and era, etc. The horse has been by man’s side throughout history and shaped us and is continuing to shape our thinking. A thought to ponder: horses have always had a place by man’s side of adorning and being adorned.  

    Ornament can mean a quality or ability to add grace, beauty, or honour to something. I personally think this sits so well with equines. Our equine’s qualities and virtues can shape people in profound and life changing ways. They bring way more than a shine and lustre to a place or society.  

    Ornament can be about counterbalancing plainness or ugliness. And there is plenty of plainness and ugliness in the equine world. So I have no problem if my pasture ornament brings something different that contributes to the joy of horse ownership. And my non ridden Kez every day is an inspiration for me.  

    Next time your horse is referred to as a pasture or field ornament again, it can only be seen as ridicule if your perception of the word ornament allows it. For me it is a compliment. Maybe the person using the term is not educated? As for sure there are many rich and diverse meaning of the word and how it can be applied in so many contexts.