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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. Success with horses requires us to be ethical in our interactions. To use logical training based on the language of the horse, which is enjoyable, rewarding and fun. However without commitment and consistency all will be lost. When folk invest in learning and development of their horsemanship and are committed and consistent nothing will hold them back and progress will be made. What in practice often happens for many reasons is sessions with their horse get cancelled, other things in life get prioritised and what has been gained melts away. Or they chop from one path to another looking for that fix it method. Forgetting the progress they have previously made before they lacked consistent commitment to see it through. 

    riding

    The modern world is fast paced, throw away, gadget fix, and want it now. If what you truly want is a magical connection and bond with your horse you won’t find it in that thinking. You will find it in patience and dedication to the horse along with a commitment to quality consistent practice. People get 100% commitment from me when I work with them and their horse. I am more than willing to go the extra mile and not measure financial gain against the clock.

    I have clients who don’t commit to me, for many reasons. It doesn’t change how I feel about what I offer. I always give people and horses I work with 100% commitment from me. The horse needs it, and the horse’s owner needs to learn commitment more than anything else I could teach them. So people who leave and take a different path and return they are always welcome.

    If I could change the horse world for the better it would be for people to really understand their horse. To see the world as the horse sees it. Be committed to using consistent ethical horsemanship. Only using the qualities such as patience, kindness and love embedded into every interaction. With results gained through trust, bond and partnership.

    So how many of us make a pledge to our horse to strive to better our best? How many of us are dedicated to our horse? Or are we dedicated to what we want from horse ownership? These can be very difficult and uncomfortable questions. We all own horses for very personal reasons and it doesn't make one reason right and another wrong. It is hard when your personal dream and the reality of what is in front of you are miles apart. This is when some serious soul searching has to be done. At times there will be ethical choices that require us to put our own wants, needs and desires to one side for what is best for our horse.

    • A Horse with Medical Conditions. This can be very emotionally painful; especially when the horse in question was purchased with a dream and purpose in mind. Some of these horses have the truth of underlying conditions hidden. Here we have to decide are we committed to this horse? Or are we committed to our equine dream? It is expensive to fix a broken horse or cure medical conditions, often with no guarantee of success. Some horses cannot be mended. The bills can run into thousands very quickly. That road is an emotional roller-coaster. Even when you get the green light go from the vet, physio, etc....to start working on the road to rehab a horse it's never an easy road. There will be ups and downs and sometimes the going is so slow and with very little progress. Some horses are not just physically damaged they carry the emotional damage too. So for some horses it can take industrial amounts of unpacking to get the job done. Some of these horses never return to being ridden, some do. If these horses with physical and or emotional limitations can no longer match the original dreams and aspirations then ethically it is wrong to try to push the horse to bridge the gap. If we are committed to this horse we must grieve our dreams and aspirations and pack them away. We have to make the very best of what we can with this horse. If we are committed to our equine dream then we must be honest and ethical look for a new equine partner that can easily help us live this dream. It is then a question of what happens to the horse that cannot give you your dream. Ethically you should ensure this horse has a good quality of life. Either with you or if you decide to part with this horse some very difficult decisions need to be carefully considered.  If you sell the horse on with full disclosure of all medical conditions it will not guarantee the new owner won’t either ignore them or sell the horse on with the truth hidden. And so the suffering cycle continues.     
    • Being Over Horsed. It is very common for people find themselves over horsed, if this is you are not alone. The result is dreams lay shattered at their feet.  Here the person needs to be brutally honest and decide if they are committed to consistent horsemanship input from a professional to grow into their horse. Half measures of wishy washy stop start will do nothing for bridging the gap or building confidence. This is an opportunity for growth, learning and being a better horseman. Yes there will be set backs too and the relationship with your horsemanship practitioner really matters. As there will be times you feel like giving up, that is part of the course. This is when you must be honest and talk it through with your trainer. If someone is not committed to this journey or feels the gap is too big then for the sake of the horse it is best the person is 100% committed to finding a brilliant new home for their horse.  This is not failing the horse, this is being honest, kind and caring.  
    • Being Under Horsed. Yes this can happen, some horses have limits physically and emotionally and if this doesn’t match your level of horsemanship it is very unfair and unethical to push a horse to bridge the gap. Here if we are committed to the horse we must notch back our aspirations and be very mindful not to ask too much. If we are committed to our dream maybe a new equine partner which is better matched is the way forward. Again we must ethically do what is right for the other horse.
    • Building Confidence. If you suffer from a loss of confidence, fear, anxiety, the what ifs, negative inner dialogue, etc….it can seriously damage the relationship between you and your horse. It can stop you enjoying your horse or doing the things you once found easy. It will even stop you from giving it a try. Horses too suffer from fear, anxiety, stress and loss of confidence. Here the blame game adds to the problem; don’t blame yourself or your horse. The answer here is to be committed to consistently working on this. There are no short cuts, no magic bullet to banish anxiety, or quick fix to conquer confidence issues. What will get you there is a determination to better your best. If you are not committed to consistently working on this you will never live your dream.

    Whatever the cause we will grieve the loss of the dream we started with, and that is part of the journey before we can see the new path open up before us. They say while you are looking at the door of what has passed, you will not see the door of the future.

    Riding is often the main reason for horse ownership. However not all horses can be ridden, not all horses should be ridden. Some have complex emotional problems, some physical medical conditions and this brings with it so many things to consider. Riding for me must be permissive and enjoyable for any horse. This is what I teach folk, no matter the horse. So when a horse presents with issues it is essential to be extra mindful of permissive riding. If we ignore the boundaries of permission and step over that line we could be causing discomfort, pain or emotional distress. Horses will telegraph this out to us, firstly in gentle messages, if ignored the messages get louder and really serious behavioural issues surface. Sometimes when ignored the human gets hurt. (This is when I get the telephone call, sometimes as a last resort before the horse is put to sleep).   

    Remind yourself there are lots of things you can enjoy with your horse that have nothing to do with riding. That is a human agenda, not a horse agenda. They are not born with saddles and bridles. They don't care if we never ride them. There is plenty we can enjoy by stepping into the world of our horses agendas. Remind yourself too that horse ownership is also not about riding, you may have a horse that is rideable but you don’t want to ride. That is ok too. If horse ownership for you is about your heart to heart connection and emotional enjoyment from the relationship, friendship, bond and enjoying time together that is a very valid reason for horse ownership. 

    If you are struggling with your horse, it is so personal and only each of us can decide what feels right. This is why you must tune into intuition, it is your compass. (You can read for free my published articles on my resources section of the website). We are the guardians for our horses and sometimes we have to make hard choices and very difficult decisions. Commitment for the best for our equines is never an easy road. As it requires a willingness to give of ourselves, dedicate our time and energy to the horse. To believe in our horse, to not only make a promise but keep it with our horse and a firm commitment to make the right decision and take action in making that happen. 

     Kez Catherine Slade

    Above is our boy Kez. We purchased Kez as a riding horse. Sadly after purchase we discovered he has serious conditions which mean he cannot be ridden. I grieved badly the loss of my riding dreams and aspirations. These have been packed away. I am 100% committed to ensuring our boy Kez has the best quality of life possible. There are so many daily opportunities for myself and my husband to enjoy Kez.  

  2. Science studies are catching up with what we as horse owners have known about our horses. Yes they are intelligent, smart and clever. They are able to learn and cognitively process information. Horses can problem solve too. All this along with a great memory: Especially in relation to events in life, people, other horses and places. However we cannot measure equine intelligence against other species. Horses think differently to us or to any other species. And so they should. Their intelligence is shaped by their evolution as equines and their long history at man’s side. 

     kez fav photo

    The horse is a social animal the relationship with its’ human friends really matters to the horse. A great relationship with another soul is a wonderful thing to experience. And unlike friendships with other humans a friendship with a horse could be one of your most loyal, dependable and enduring if you treat your horse right.  

    Now consider this; horses have a great understanding of our emotional state, thoughts and feelings that shape our intent, they read our energy state, body tension or relaxation, body language and breathing patterns too. Recent research has also discovered that horses understand a good number of different words too. Your authentic self really matters to the horse any incongruence from you will rattle the horse. 

    What is being noted with scientific studies is the importance of positive reinforcement in interactions with equines. It has been proven that horses learn and memorize better when positive reinforcement or positive association is connected to the learning. Here is something I have discovered with my own horses, they are brilliant at learning words and or noises to indicate a request or meaning in our conversations. So I include with intent, energy, breathing, body language use of vocal cues in my horsemanship. 

    So how about thinking about things from your horse’s view point? Do they know if we are knowledgeable or ignorant? Personally I think they know. Personally I think they try really hard to guide us, teach us and show us the lessons we need to learn. Today there is a movement away from the thinking of training a horse based on monologue with the human telling the horse and the horse expected to comply. To one of communication being dialogue, a two way street. To me a horse will be telegraphing out to us, the skill is to learn how to listen to understand and to learn their language. My belief is horses have great minds, they are thinkers and really do try their best to engage with us. Their patience and forgiving nature is humbling.

    So next time you are considering what activities you want to enjoy with your horse, stop and reflect on the intelligence of your equine partner. What will be the ignition for joy, fun and mental stimulation for your horse? What is a meaningful accomplishment in your horse’s eyes? What is your horse thinking? Or feeling? How do you want to engage his mind? What memories do you want to create together?

  3. Being an effective horse person is like being a great chairman at a partnership meeting.  We can think of the parallels between the two to learn how to be a great equestrian chairman with all the meetings we have with our horses.

    herd watching 

    Before Meetings

    A great chairman will know who is attending the meeting: know their objectives, view points, strengths, skill sets, motivations, what is in attending for them etc… How about thinking of developing your horsemanship skills along these lines? Below are some questions that may stimulate your thoughts, prompt discussion and debate. Hopefully they will lead you to ask questions and give you focus for finding out answers.    

    Questions to prompt thinking, discussion and debate:

    • How well do you know your horse?
    • Do you know his preferred learning style? How to maximise it in your training sessions?  
    • Do you understand the language of the herd? Do you utilise this?  
    • Do you relate to your horse with equine compassion?
    • Does your horse exhibit behaviour that puzzles you?
    • What are your horse’s objectives?
    • How does your horse view the world and the sessions you have together?
    • What are your horse’s strengths?
    • Do you know what your horse is confident and skilled at?
    • Can you tap into what motivates your horse?
    • Do you know how to make sessions fun and rewarding for your horse?
    • What is in it for your horse?
    • Do you know if there are gaps in your knowledge? 

    Development Opportunities

    If you struggle to know the answers to these questions here are some horsemanship development opportunities. Wow how exciting a chance to learn about the passion you feel about your own horse and horsemanship. Not knowing is not a failing, failing to ask the right questions and to then seek out answers is failing. Remember for all of us horsemanship is a journey not a destination, there is always so much to learn, different view points to consider and many different ways to work with our equine partners. Think of it like this if you never considered the above questions how much could you be missing? What opportunities are passing you by?      

    Before Meetings

    A great chairman will contact each individual invited to attend for their contributions for the meeting agenda. How about thinking of developing your horsemanship skills along these lines? 

    Questions to prompt thinking, discussion and debate:

    • Do you allow your horse to contribute to the training / schooling agenda?
    • How effective are you in listening to your horse?
    • On the agenda how high up do you prioritise your horse’s agenda items? 

    Before Meetings

    A great chairman will carefully consider the information gathered in order to select appropriate topics in relation to the partnership’s development. Plus structure the agenda to have a flow and still allow the agenda flexibility to respond to views expressed during the meeting.

    Questions to prompt thinking, discussion and debate:

    • Before you start training or schooling with your horse do you have a planned agenda?
    • Are you aware of how the partnership with your horse has developed?
    • How each session can have flow from one to another?
    • Are you flexible enough to allow your horse to change the agenda? 

    At the Meeting

    A chairman will review and recap with all attending on the previous meeting by recapping on the minutes, encourage feedback, evaluation and check that all is correct before moving forward.    

    Questions to prompt thinking, discussion and debate:

    • At the start of your training / schooling session do you review with your horse previous progress from the previous sessions?
    • Do you look for feedback from your horse?
    • Do you check your and your horse’s knowledge is correct before moving onto your planned agenda?  

    At the Meeting

    A great chairman will guide participation from all at the meeting. By encouraging input, sharing of information, with open communication, expression of view points on agenda items. A chairman will also question, probe, with the aim to stimulate all in discussion and debate. Encourage collective reviewing the collected information to pull together conclusions and for future action. The chairman will guide and steer attendees at the meeting through the agenda items to keep the meeting on track.  

    Questions to prompt thinking, discussion and debate:

    • Are you able to guide your horse through the agenda items while encouraging your horse to communicate his opinions and views?
    • How effectively do you listen to your horse and understand him?
    • Do you see agenda items / training sessions as an opportunity to explore with your horse finding answers to questions through open discussion and debate with your horse?
    • Do you take on board your horse’s input?
    • Are you able to review the session to shape up future action? 
    • How do you use your horse’s input to shape future sessions?
    • Are you stepping up to the role of a good chairman to keep the meeting on track? Or do you hand this responsibility over to your horse? 

    At the Meeting

    A great chairman will always make sure actions for the future are listed with who is responsible. They leave space for any other business and note items to be taken forward to the next meeting. A chairman will always appreciate, acknowledge and thank participation. And set the date for the next meeting.  

    Questions to prompt thinking, discussion and debate:

    • Are you aware of what actions arise out of training / schooling sessions?
    • And who is responsible for achievement of these actions? And how?
    • Do you leave space for your horse for any other business?
    • Do you note any future agenda items that have arisen with your horse?
    • Has your horse been appreciated for his contributions?
    • Do you acknowledge and thank your horse?
    • Do you plan ahead your next schooling / training session? 

    After the Meeting

    A great chairman will evaluate the minutes, circulate minutes to participants and be open to feedback. Then the cycle begins again, a new agenda can be put together for the next meeting. 

    Do you spend time to evaluate your training / schooling sessions?

    • After the session do you work with your horse to reflect / practice what you have learnt / achieved? (Go over the minutes together)
    • Are you open to feedback from your horse?
    • Do you find yourself struggling to move forward?
    • Are you open minded and willing to try different approaches? 
  4. We all own horses for different reasons. It doesn’t make one reason right and another wrong. However the equine world is a tricky place to thrive if your equine dream is different to those around you. I often hear how people suffer peer pressure to be doing stuff with their horses that isn’t their bag. They feel uncomfortable and struggle to justify what they want to get out of horse ownership. Some feel guilt for not wanting to engage in traditional equine activities, riding, driving, dressage, jumping, hacking etc…. Others feel judged by the horsey people around them. A few have been led to believe they are letting their horse down by not conforming. As a result of this pressure, more than once, I have had people tell me they have considered selling their horse. This is when I ask them fundamental questions – Why did you decide to get a horse? What do you love about horse ownership? Then they reflect on their very personal reasons for getting a horse and their personal equine dream.

     healing

    No horse is born with tack. Equestrianism is a human agenda. When I say to clients a horse won’t miss being ridden, some are surprized. What horses may miss is meaningful, rewarding interactions with their humans. For me what matters are permissive, empathetic and ethical interactions; with no compromise on physical and emotional welfare. This topic is vast, and often a hot bed for passionate debate. Some folk’s thinking maybe entrenched in a particular direction which is opposite to your direction. Each of us is on our own personal journey. What should fuel us all is the constant desire to learn and evolve. For me it is the pursuit of finding a better, kinder and gentler way and never losing sight that the only opinion that matters is that of the horse. This opens the door to interactions and activities that mutually you and your horse enjoy. So yes, with this outlook it is ok to own horses for other reasons than mainstream equestrianism. 

    The relationship between a horse and human can be magical. For so many of us it is the number one reason we own horses. Horses offer us the opportunity to connect mentally, spiritually and physically. What horses need from us make us better people. Horses need us to listen to understand, be trustworthy, respectful and engage in a relationship that provides safety. Horses are highly attuned to our emotional feelings and energy. To engage in a meaningful relationship with a horse they desire us to be in a calm balanced energy. Being calm and relaxed is the polar opposite to stressed and anxious. Too many people lead fast paced and stressful lives, being with a horse provides opportunities for our emotional wellbeing. They see if we are masking issues and our incongruence rattles them. They reflect to us the issues we need to address from within. Horsemanship is a journey of self-development.  Horses have the ability to influence us in profound life changing ways. Horses are amazing teachers and healers. Importantly we all crave love and affection and horsemanship can provide mutual unconditional love. Horses have the drive to pair bond and form lifelong bonds, as do humans. People will often have lifetime bond with their horse that outlasts those with other people. Horse ownership provides us with stability in an uncertain world, consistency, a routine, something to look forward to each day. Owning a horse can be therapeutic and for some life changing.  

    Caring for a horse keeps us physically active. Day to day care of a horse requires you to keep moving and to burn calories. Wheel barrows of muck, lifting hay, filling water buckets, carrying equipment, etc… Exercise is essential for bone and muscle health. Like me if you are getting on, strong bones are the best defence against osteoporosis. Exercise is good for digestion, something as simple as walking with our horse stimulates our internal organs. Being outdoors, when the sun is shining is great way of getting natural vitamin d, something that many of the population is deficient in. Engaging in some fun, physical exercise has been proven scientifically to reduce stress as the feel good as hormones such a serotonin and dopamine are released. 

    Horsemanship is a bridge to cross the species divide. True horsemanship is dialogue, a partnership with so many benefits. Listen to your horse, together you can grow in confidence by engaging in fun and rewarding activities. Horses have the ability to shape our character as horses love to pose us questions. You learn about looking at problems from outside your own perspective. You get creative about solutions. They teach us to listen to understand, with patience and commitment. True horsemanship is taking on the full responsibility of care, being prepared to make hard and difficult decisions, putting aside our own selfish wishes and desires. Horses also give us opportunities to practice just being, not doing, to slow down, relax and live more peacefully. Horses provide us with social opportunities, we meet like-minded people with a shared passion and lifelong friendships develop. The benefits list goes on and on….      

    I know plenty of people who have chosen not to ride and own horses for lots of other reasons. Non mainstream horse owners have not failed their horses and often peer pressure makes them feel guilty. They are not eccentrics; mavericks maybe. They should not have to justify the value of owning their horse. Their horses are not pasture ornaments that they have little or no interaction with. These horses have rich rewarding lives, with plenty of meaningful and rewarding stimulation, with shared fun adventures. They are part of a family, loved, treasured and cherished. These people deeply connect with their equines. Horses can be soul companions and earth angels that give us so much for so little in return. Horses as pets, friends, companions? Why not?