We were in her stable to do some soft gentle bodywork. Starting just behind the poll and moving down her mane. Softly massaging and a little bit of rocking. She responded, told me where work was needed and relaxing deeply. The wither area was tight and I worked my way around the top of her shoulder blades. Moving to the back I needed to switch to pure TTOUCH circles, because she was overly reactive to start with. Taking my time she slowly became soft in her back. When I felt she needed to move and take time of I stepped away. Molly took one step forward and stretched her right hind leg. Showing how everything is connected and how the work up front het released all the way thru her body to her hind legs.
Now I moved to her hind end and because she can be really particular and reactive I started stroking her with a firm whip. Neck, front legs, back, hindquarters, hind legs, tapping on her hoofs. Then I started gently vibrating her big muscle groups with my hands and she was totally fine. After I had worked on both her hind legs we were done. And Molly stretched her left hind leg while releasing tension.
To have her lean into the treatment so fully and staying with me the whole time is so beautiful to see. Her confidence, trust and enjoyment were profound.
Wednesday 5 October 2022
Team work in training a horse
How to get a happy healthy horse often is team work. So I will share the journey I had with Hudson to give you an example of how teamwork can really make a lasting change. It took us more than three years.
When I met Hudson he was not happy and not healthy and very difficult to ride. He did not want to be lunged but he loved jumping. On and off unsound and very flat sensitive feet. But a lovely horse and I started to work with him, because for my own mental health I needed a horse in my life! I rode and worked with him three times a week and I also taught the owner. He was not in a good place physically, mentally and emotionally.
Riding him showed how “on the forehand” he was, all his weight on his front legs. This made it difficult to accelerate, turn and slowdown. Together with this he had no vertical balance, he always fell into a turn, he often veered to left or right when without a fence or wall next to him. These issues often occur when there are physical problems.
* A chiropractor helped for almost 2 years on a regular basis to make sure he could use his hind quarters and back properly and that he could take more weight there.
* Training from the ground in lateral work helped him get the strength and flexibility to properly work from behind. To get him off being “on the forehand” and getting a good horizontal balance.
* The owner changed his diet and changed yards to give him more time in the field all year round and 24/7 in the summer. This cleared up his is gut issues. Imagine having an upset tummy and asked to run around, that does not make you happy!
After two years we got stuck. I knew with all the work we had put in he should be making more progress into collection work. But he could not do it. He was also still standing with his face in a corner when in a stable and could be reluctant to start to move. I could not find the root cause of his “problem” because clearly he still was not a happy horse. Healthy yes but not happy ….
* A craniosacral therapist who had worked on me was brought in. She found and worked on a very old injury high up in his neck. Effecting his skull and jaw. The almost immediate change in Hudson was remarkable. It took two session! We believe Hudson might have suffered with headaches his whole life, hence the standing with his face in corner not willing to move.
* The training now changed since he could finally just relax into my hands when I asked him to collect more from behind. The issue in his neck had been stopping that!
Last Friday Hudson left on his way to Cork to join his owner as a very happy, healthy horse. Over the years the owner has gained more knowledge in understanding his behaviour and helping him stay healthy and happy. So I am a little bit sad that my buddy is going away, but I am so happy that we have been able to turn his life around. It was not a quick fix but it will give him a new lease on life.
Thursday 23 June 2022
Working with a herd
Working with a herd
My first experience with horses living in herds was during my stay in Mongolia. I was following herds of Prezwalski horses or Tahki’s ,as they are called over there. We were staying in a base camp in the Hustai Nuruu nature reserve. Every day we would track down a herd and just follow it around and note down their behaviour. Although sometimes I would walk all day without finding any of the herds.
The oldest of the herds was quite used to people following it around and had their patterns: they would drink in the morning from a stream in the valley and then they would move to some “pancake rocks” higher up where they would hang out during midday, breezy and shaded. This was a big herd, with several mares and foals and a very scarred stallion ‘Kahn’, always standing alone and alert. Scarred from the many fights he had been in over the years.
The herd of ‘Patron’ was also well established in their territory, but not always easy to track down. This was a smaller herd and this year the only foal had died and the yearling of that mare did not have play companions. So one day I observed him trying to play with his grazing mother. She sort of ignored him jumping against her or biting her legs. But after 15 minutes she got fed up with this behaviour and told him off, teeth bared and half rearing up against him. She actually knocked him over and he ended up in a bit of a dip in the land. Both got really worried then and when he got himself out of his predicament he turned from bolshie boy into a foal and started drinking from her. Having just lost a foal meant she did have milk. For me it was just fantastic to see how the behaviour changed in the young one and also how the mother dealt with the bolshie boy.
Northern Ireland (2022)
To have the opportunity to not only observe but to work with a herd is so lovely. You really have to become one of them, still and in tune with all the horses. First I introduce myself to the heard leader and make clear what my intentions are: I am not taking one of his herd members away, I will not harm anybody, I do have my personal space he/she needs to respect. How long it takes to establish this, to gain the trust that I am OK depends. Depends on the horses in the herd, depends on what is going on around us. Most importantly it is not something I can direct or speed up, not if I want to integrate.
Here in Northern Ireland I just worked with a herd of two horses: Lady and Mollie. Lady is a coloured horse who has appointed herself as the leader and protector over Molly, the chestnut. Molly is totally fine with this arrangement. Molly knows me well from the ground work and bodywork I do with her. So I start out with observing them and move into the field. Both are curious and approach me and I extend my fist so they can sniff while I keep my distance. After the introduction Lady goes into her protector role and pins her ears at me, I immediately flick a rope I am carrying at her, to explain my space and that I will not be herded around by her. So she backs away taking Molly with her in a trot/gallop down the field.
I give them some time before I stroll down the field into their vicinity. Showing I am not going to catch or chase anybody. We move around a bit and I end up close to Molly. For a while Lady stands guard, but after 10 minutes decides I am OK, and starts grazing a few steps away. Up till now I needed to keep an eye on both horses, reading their body language, to stay safe. Now I can fully focus on Molly. She has had a bout of laminitis and has very stiff and sore shoulders. Her being so sore and with her reactive background I just hang the end of the rope over her neck for my safety. Also I started from a distance doing energy work before I actually put a hand on her. Now when my hand goes to her chest there is lots of teeth barring, but she does not move her feet! Then finally she lets go of loads of tension, becomes soft and starts to yawn big time. I stay with my hand in place and she takes a deep breath. So I step way, leaving a much happier horse. Together with vet, farrier and herbal medicines she will get through this.
Monday 14 February 2022
Introduction to training in liberty VIDEO
So I have been working with this lady for over a year now. Molly is a 30 year old thoroughbred with Cushing. She was volatile and needed careful handling. Also she was not one to be touched with out her full consent and she hardly ever gave that.
But we have been making major progress and she has mellowed down and can appreciate a hug now. Physically she has also become softer, the tension and rigidness have gone.
So today we thought lets see if she would like to do some work in liberty with us. Her owner has never done it before. The object of this first session was just to follow her lead and see what that would bring us. And she loved it! (as did her owner who was videoing us)