Four secrets to happiness as taught to me by my horses:
1) Nature: Pay attention to the small things in nature. Nature is fascinating. I love watching the ants on an ant hill, the bees on a flower, how the plants change through the season and my horses grazing, carefully choosing which grass to eat and which to spit out.
2) Curiosity: Be curious and learn something new every day. Horses are very curious. Allowing them to be so without telling them no is the trick to being a great horseman. Horses that are curious are playful and silly. They learn to be brave by first being curious.
Never knock the curiosity out of a young horse. – Tom Dorrance
3) Compassion: Have compassion for all living things. Horses living in a herd will have compassion for each other, but they also have rules. The rules are to be respected and are there for everyone’s safety. Keeping in mind that horses have feelings too will only help you be a better partner for your horse.
4) Joy: The joy in caring and loving something or someone. My horses have taught me this through caring for them. I always make sure my horses are happy and well cared for before I care for myself. When my horses are happy, then I’m happy!
The girls and I had a lovely walk today. It was a hot one and they both worked up a sweat, as did I! Sky was so funny because she kept trying to turn around and go home, but Bonnie was happy as a clam to be out walking. She had her ears up and trotted up the road without a hitch!
They both wanted to stop and take a break at the canal. They took a few minutes to talk to each other and look at the big horses that were following us up the road.
Then we went on our way.
We walked four miles today and did a little off roading as well! Both of their boots stayed on even though we were breaking through some very tough terrain. That sage brush is tall and really grabs you as you try to walk through it! We climbed a few big rocks and made our way through the field back to the road. There was no way I could handle both girls, watch where I was going and manage the camera so I’ll share this little video that I took when we were still on the two track road…
When we had a minute to stop and taste a bit of the grass growing I took a pretty picture of Bonnie.
Then a classic shot of Sky…
She is always begging for cookies or kisses!
I’m so happy with how the girls did today. I haven’t taken them on a walk since we got back from Alaska on the 31st of August. They both listened well and didn’t miss a beat! It’s almost time for Sky to start pulling the travois… I can’t wait!!
As I watch Bonnie go from scared to confident I’ve been thinking about her feelings. Natural horsemanship programs talk a lot about how the horse feels about what we are doing. Are they engaged, connected and responsive or do they feel like we are doing things TO them? That is the question I ask myself every time I DO anything with Bonnie.
Don’t get me wrong. There are times I just have to do something to her so we can get something done. For instance if we are walking and she starts to have a little temper tantrum about the walking, then I will show her that her temper tantrum takes more energy than the walking. If you were watching this exchange I’m sure it would look like I’m doing something to her and not with her. And I know that she feels that way sometimes, but when she finds neutral again she immediately calms, finds relaxation, licks and chews and will even trot out and lead us down the road.
However there are many more times that I can help her through an issue by listening to how she is feeling and then waiting. Every single time I wait she will calm down and I can continue on. That did not happen at first! She gave me very few green lights. I started to get frustrated and knew that wasn’t going to help either one of us so I contacted my favorite Parelli Instructor and in so doing found out that we had actually moved forward by leaps and bounds! It’s funny how things can look so different when you are standing in the middle of it all. Obviously she had made changes and so had I… I just couldn’t see them until I made a video!
Today I gave the girls a bath. This was Bonnie’s second bath with me. Her first bath was all drama, running around in circles, snorting and striking at the water, spreading her legs wide and trying to leap away, sometimes leaping on ME! I would wait and give her time to think, but as soon as the water came near again she was on the move! That day I did not get frustrated and just took my time, but didn’t feel that we made any head way by the end. She did not get on board with my idea at all! Today everything was different! She stood quietly… not always calmly but she was actively searching for that calm feeling. She did not try to run away, she did not walk on me, she did not leap around. She. was. awesome. I swear I nearly burst with pride for her! She let me spray and spray her, I sprayed her legs, her belly, her girly area, her back, her butt, high up on her neck by her face and her chest. Everything. She took it all in stride.
As I was bathing her I was thinking about how I’m sure she has had other baths in her life, before me. But the difference between those baths and the two she has had with me is that I was thinking about her feelings the whole time. I was trying to help her find peace and calmness within the bath. I was rewarding every try and every time she was calm. When you go about these simple tasks with that in mind it’s amazing how the horse will change and how much faster you can get through these simple tasks!! It’s so much easier to help a horse find calmness than to argue with them every time you need to give them a bath. Or spray them with fly spray. By the way. She stands perfectly every time I spray her with fly spray. I can spray her legs, her belly, her back, her neck… every where!!
Bonnie came to me in seemingly good shape. She wasn’t fat at all. Her feet were not great and needed some TLC, but to just glance at her you would have thought she was healthy.
Now that she has been on the Crypto Aero feed for 75 days (2 months and 15 days) I can see that she wasn’t as healthy as I originally thought. I like my driving horses to have some body on them. She was thin, but didn’t have any muscle tone at all. After packing on some pounds (she’s a little fat!) she is starting to develop some muscle tone and is looking much healthier for it! It’s my opinion that people tend to keep their minis either too skinny or too fat. There are very few in the middle. Those that seriously drive their minis tend to keep them in better health. Because a thin mini can’t drive very far. Neither can a fat one!
I choose to manage weight with exercise instead of the starvation feeding program. So all of my minis are on the heavier side. However I believe this gives them a great place to start building muscle. The two girls and I walk 3-6 miles nearly every day right now. When I get Sky in cart we will trot 4-6 miles a day and both will slim down a bit but keep that round, blossoming look that I love so much!
Sometimes we have to look a bit deeper and be willing to think outside of the box to understand just what makes a healthy horse. I write often about how I have my horses on 24/7 forage and just 1/2 a cup of Crypto Aero once a day. I truly feel I’m doing the best I can for my horses, keeping things as natural and close to nature as I can. And in so doing, I believe my horses reflect great health!
Tonight Bonnie and I had a lovely play session. It was short and sweet, just the way we like them!
I focused on staying very calm and centered in my body first and foremost. I’ve noticed that Bonnie really doesn’t like to be touched so I figured the Friendly Game was a good place to start. If my hand offends her, I thought I would start with the stick and give her a little more room. She responded beautifully to this! Her ears were forward most of the time and she was really thinking and responding. Most importantly she was not REACTING!! I was so thrilled.
We moved onto playing with the bridge. Bless her, she thought I wanted her to jump it, so I kept it positive and didn’t reward for the jump, but kept smiling and using my “bridge” word which is “Good.” I decided to get her to look at the bridge a bit and placed a bunch of carrots there. I also wanted to work on getting her to see me pointing and begin to understand that when I point something is going to happen and it’s always good. Finally with lots of encouragement she began to understand that there were carrots ON the bridge and all she had to do was eat them. It was fascinating how long it took her to understand this! Sky understood immediately and ate many of the carrots. So funny! Once Bonnie started to look for my pointing finger she started to crunch up the carrots quickly. When she had this we walked away from the bridge and went to jump a log a few times.
I started to introduce her to the driving game and with a bit of encouragement she was starting to understand my intention of moving away from the pressure versus when I was playing the friendly game and she could just hang out. This pony is SMART.
When we went back to the bridge, she tried to jump it once and then I saw the light bulb come on and she put a foot on it instead! Whoot Whoot!! I asked her to get off the bridge and then to come back up and in a short time she offered BOTH front feet all by herself. JACKPOT! She got a handful of cookies for that.
We walked away from the bridge and I took off her halter. She politely turned her head for a couple of carrots. I put the halter and stick on the ground and went to move the bridge as I noticed there was a lot of grass growing under it, Bonnie was standing with the halter and stick and string, just investigating them. She nibbled on the stick some and nudged the halter around. She walked on all of it with her front feet and then finally came to see what I was doing with the bridge. Talk about a happy ending!!! I love when my horse stays with my and the equipment instead of hurrying away at the end of a session.