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May 29, 2017
The hidden horse

I’ve told this story before over the years but it is still one of my favourites. It was very early on in my teaching career and I was called to a yard to give someone a lesson. The client told me that someone else also wanted help and could I see them too? I agreed and after we had finished with the first horse, the owner of the second horse came out, half-leading, half-dragging a big bay horse with this weird look on his face. As she stood and told me how this horse wouldn’t do anything she wanted him to do, I looked at this horse and could see that he was completely shut down. His eye looked dull and he was ‘in his shell’. After a lengthy explanation of all this horse’s problems, the owner stopped and looked at me. I was slightly dumb-founded as to me, it was fairly obvious that these two were driving each other nuts. The only diplomatic thing I could think to say was ‘It sounds like you are quite frustrated by your horse?’ The owner laughed and agreed.

Without really knowing where to start, I asked her to just rub him all over to see if there were any places he didn’t like being touched. It didn’t take her very long to find a no-go area on him, which was his chest, but there were places all over his body where he would just pin his ears and threaten to bite. I set about helping this lady slow everything down and read the feedback the horse was giving. After 40 minutes, the horse started yawning and blowing out, although he didn’t move his feet once. After an hour, all this lady had done was stroke her horse and responded to its feedback. I left the yard thinking that I would probably never get called back and they must have thought I was completely crazy.

Well, I did get called back, a month later. The next time the owner led the horse up to me, his ears were pricked, he had a twinkle in his eyes and he had apparently been causing all sorts of cheeky chaos. His owner was over the moon. I still go and see the horse to this day and he is a right clown. It was a huge lesson to me that sometimes the smallest, seemingly insignificant things to us can mean a huge amount to a horse. 

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May 25, 2017
Smiling Shaun
This time last year I was really worried about Shaun. He was very grumpy, seemed to want to pin his ears even if I did the simplest things such as touch him and generally didn't want to engage with me. I did alot of soul searching and questioning whether I had done something fundamentally wrong in his training but I couldn't figure it out. I even stopped taking him to clinics because he didn't seem himself. Obviously, then he lost his long time buddy Taz in January, and it turns out that Taz was alot sicker than he had us all believing. I cannot really describe the transformation in Shaun in the last few months. He is genuinely happy, just like he always used to be. Hugo has certainly played a part in that but I also believe that he must have been holding onto deep concern for Taz for some while. This explains his behaviour lasy summer because it just wasn't like him. Just goes to show we can't always know these things. I'm just glad I have my boy back - time for some more fun!

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May 11, 2017
Learning is like a river

For some while, I have been seeking more information that would give me an answer to some things I had been mulling over in my mind. It was all related to softness, lightness and feel. I couldn't get my head around what I was looking for or where to find the answers. I have been working towards a coaching qualification as well so this distracted my mind for a fair while. In the last 7 days, the answer was presented to me in the form of a clinic I attended by Joe Wolter and a couple of books I listened to by Buck Brannaman and Mark Rashid. I have already been applying these learnings to my teaching and the results have been very positive.

I look at my knowledge pool like a riverbed. At the bottom there are big pebbles. These are the fundamentals of knowledge. I should say that when I started my second horsemanship journey 10 years ago, I actually had to start a new riverbed! So on top of the pebbles we have gravel. Some bits of gravel will fall down between the cracks and fill in gaps in the pebbles. As we go further up the riverbed floor, the deposits of knowledge get smaller and smaller but they still fill in the voids all the way down to the pebbles. In terms of a river, the lightest particles of sediment are carried along by the river until the current slows and they can be deposited. In other words, you have to wait for that information. You are ready for it when you are ready for it.

What I'm trying to say is that if you have had a good or bad experience with a teacher, bits of knowledge will still trickle through. You might not realise or even appreciate it now but at some point, when more tiny grains of information are deposited, things will make more sense right down to the base of your pebbles.

ps I knew my Geography degree would come in handy one day

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