Monthly Archives: May 2011

Friday with Mas

On Friday I spent the day at The Center doing a few odds and ends around the property before getting a chance to spend time with Mas.  After scooping a couple of wheelbarrows full of horse shit out of the lower arena, I decided it was time to catch Mas before the day got away from me or it rained.

As I was setting up a small round pen to play with Mas in a woman pulled up and got out of her car.  At first she thought I was Stephanie.  She introduced herself as Cherisse and said that she had the day off from work and decided to stop in and help out if she was needed.  After setting up the temporary round pen together and eating lunch with Destiny–she was in the round corral that we moved onto the grass and I thought she could use the company–Cherisse and I walked down to the lower pasture and caught Pete and Mas.

Destiny in the round pen

On Parelli Connect I have a list of tasks that I can print out and complete with Mas.  Even though Mas is trained to Level 2 natural horsemanship, I selected Starting Out tasks for myself, since I am a beginner after all!

We brought the horses up to the sandy area and the round pen, and I started out with Mas inside the round pen in case he was nervous or afraid.  Stephanie told me to keep him near the area that he is familiar with to keep him from losing his confidence or from being afraid if I took him down to the lower arena.  That is definitely something that I have to keep in mind–the horse’s prey instincts.  Even though Mas is a big, strong horse with a lot of confidence over his herd of mares, he can still become very afraid and lose his confidence easily.  I need to be a leader that keeps him safe so that he has confidence in me.

Yo-Yo Game with Mas

Some of the tasks on my list included the following:

-I can massage my horse’s front legs

-I can play the Friendly Game on my horse’s back legs with my Carrot Stick (the Carrot Stick is the orange thing in my hand, it’s like an extension of my arm)

-I can squeeze my horse between me and a fence and wait 7 seconds before sending him the other way

-I can put my halter on with savvy, using the Porcupine Game

-I can identify all 5 Zones and the Drive Line

-I can play the Short-Range Driving Game from Zone 3

Good Boy Mas

After we played for a bit in the round pen, Cherisse decided to trade places with me so that she could play the Short-Range Driving Game with Pete while in the round pen.  Mas was ready to get out of the confines of the pen anyway.  And it was time to take some photos!  Cherisse and I both grabbed our cameras from our cars and snapped a few photos of each other before getting back to our games.

Cherisse and Pete

Cherisse and Pete playing the Short-Range Driving Game

Mas was such a good boy.  I was a little nervous because during the last time two times I spent with Mas he was very animated (from leaving his herd that he had been watching over all winter).  This time, though, he was calm. A couple of weeks of being separated from his mares helped!  Mas was a stallion until he was 8 years old, so he has a bit of those stallion behavior traits.

After we played a few games, about an hour later, Cherisse had to leave to pick up her son from school.  I brushed Mas before walking down the hill with Cherisse and Pete and putting the boys away in their pasture.

I felt such gratitude toward Mas for humoring me and listening to the things that I asked him to do.  He was very patient, allowing me to make mistakes and helping me to adjust to his needs.  I tried to give Mas Love, Language, and Leadership in equal doses, even though the Love portion was very hard for me not to overdo!  My Leadership and Language skills are very much works in progress.

What I really enjoy about natural horsemanship is that it fosters a playful environment and leaves the stress of getting things done behind. The main goal should be creating a strong, healthy relationship with the horse.  I feel like I am slowly achieving that with Mas.

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Posted by on May 29, 2011 in Uncategorized


Starting Your Young or Untrained Horse Clinic Taught by Stephanie Lockhart

On Saturday I participated in a clinic at The Center for America’s First Horse taught by Stephanie Lockhart. There were four of us–Susanna and her horse, Hunter, a thoroughbred, paint, draft cross, 4 years old; Morgan and her horse, Willy, a morgan, quarter horse cross that was a rescue horse, 2 years old; Brie with her horse Thea, a registered mustang; and me with Augustine, a 4 year old colonial spanish horse owned by The Center.

We started out in the arena getting our horses used to the area, to us, and to sharing the space with each other.  First we introduced ourselves and told each other why we were participating in the clinic. We were playing the friendly game, allowing our horses to get used to us and trust what we were doing, and to help them build confidence.

Sandy and WIlly

Susanna and Hunter

Augustine needed to roll a couple of times while we were walking around the arena.

Augustine rolling

Augustine getting up

After we got settled in I played with Augustine, asking him to get out of my space (he was too close to me) by applying a little pressure and releasing it once he moved away.  We also tried to get him to move a little faster.  He is a left brain introvert, which means that he is somewhat low energy, calm, tolerant, and dominant.  As Pat Parelli would say, he had more “whoa than go!”  To get him to step up, I would walk with more energy and would keep the rope soft while using my carrot stick with one arm and flicking it behind me.  Applying this small amount of pressure near the back end of the horse helps him to move a bit faster.  As soon as he increased his speed I would take the pressure off.

Asking the horse to move away from pressure and give us some space

We moved on to using barrels as obstacles that we asked our horses to move around.  We would ask them to walk in one direction halfway around the barrel and then have them stop, then they would walk around the barrel in a figure 8 pattern and do the same thing on the other side.  I used my carrot stick and moved my horse around the barrels by applying pressure with the carrot stick.  Most of the time I didn’t even need to touch him with stick, I just wiggled it toward him in a rhythmic manner and he would move away from it.  I was applying the pressure to his bubble, his personal space.

Moving the horses in a figure 8 pattern

We also worked on bending the horse from the ground.  Asking the horse to bend not only is a way to get the horse to stop while you are in the saddle, but it allows us to see if the horse is with us or not.  We can see what their expression is during the bend and determine if they are engaged or not.

Asking the horse to bend

We stopped for a lunch break and after lunch we started getting the horses prepared to be saddled.  We walked the horses up to a bench that acted as a mounting block and positioned them beside us.  Then we patted them all over, getting them used to the sound and feel of the pat, which mimicked a falling stirrup or any type of sudden motion.  Then we leaned over the horses’ backs and got them used to the feel of our bodies and the weight. After the mounting block we played the friendly game with our saddle blankets before setting the saddle on the horses back and taking it off and setting it on a few times.  Eventually, we played the friendly game with the cinch before tightening it around the horse’s girth.

Practicing getting the horse used to the mounting block

After we tightened the cinches we walked the horses around the arena, getting them used to the feel of the saddle and the cinch, and then played with them using the circling game.  Augustine did the squeeze game, passing through two barrels set close to each other, before moving on to jumping over the barrels.

Saddling the horses

While we were playing around with the saddled horses the skies became somewhat dark and thunder cracked not too far away.  We decided to walk down to the new, unfinished indoor arena to wait out the storm.

Walking to the arena to get out of the storm

Inside the arena we again allowed our horses to get used to the new space before moving on to picking up their front feet, by applying pressure on the chestnut, and their back feet, by using the rope.  As I applied pressure to Augustine’s chestnut I noticed that he would not pick up his foot no matter how hard I squeezed.  I called Stephanie over and asked her what was going on.  She pointed out that Augustine was standing out of balance; that if he lifted his front foot for me, he would fall over.  That was a hit your forehead with your hand moment for me.

Little Creek greeting us

Once the rain passed we walked over to another outdoor arena, locate near the indoor arena, and worked with our horses using the large tractor tire.  Each of us asked our horses to step up with their front feet, placing their feet on the tractor tire.  The action of asking them up on the tire was similar to loading them in a horse trailer. 
On facebook, I saw a photo of Stephanie with Morado standing with his entire body on the tire, and since then have had that as a goal for myself–to ask my horse to fully stand on the tire.  Part of my goal/mini dream came true when Augustine placed his front feet on the tire.  I was so happy and tears came to my eyes.  I felt such an appreciation for Augustine for trusting me enough to step up with such little pressure.

Hey there!

Brie and Thea

Asking Augustine to come to the tire

Augustine stepping up

Good boy!

Very happy human!

We called it a day after that and everyone walked their horses back to the top of the hill.
End of a good day
The main thing I learned from this clinic was that 1) We don’t “make” our horses do anything.  Instead we play with them and make suggestions, but we never force them to do anything; and 2) It’s all about “feel” when we interact with our horses.  Being able to read the horse and understand what they are presenting is more important than following a step by step procedure.  The relationship with the horse must come first.
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Posted by on May 26, 2011 in Uncategorized


Pat Parelli Colt Starting Naturally Notes, Part II

I am still working my way through Day 1 of Parelli’s Colt Starting Naturally webcast.  My internet only runs fast enough at 5 a.m. until 6:30 a.m. to allow me to watch the webcast.  Most times I don’t get on the computer until 5:30 a.m.  I hope I have enough days left to finish the webcast.  These notes begin where my previous Part I notes left off.

Ryan, one of Pat’s protege’s, was working with an arab filly that kept getting into his space and trying to walk over him.  Pat said that “if your colt wants to walk over you, work on moving the front end”.

Other notes:

– Horses have innate characteristics based on Learned Behavior, Environmental Factors, and Spirit, otherwise known as their Horsenality.

– Try to get the horses to think through pressure rather than to resist and fight it.

– Halter the easiest horse first.

– Rather than rope a horse we can use the carrot stick and 22′ line snare, which is to make a lasso out of the 22′ line and wrap it around the carrot stick so you can smoothly drop the lasso around the horse’s neck without frightening the horse.

– The Seven Games are very important when starting a horse.  The first three games are the Principle Games and must come first and the horse must be comfortable with these games before moving onto the next two games which help the horse to follow a feel and to drive.  The horse must be confident before driving.

– Fiddle around with the halter without the lead rope at first; we don’t need to scare the horses with a “snake” at the end of the halter.

– We can create icons of safety for our horses.  When they are scared we can introduce an icon of safety to help them to relax.

– Herd instinct plays a major role in making horses feel safe or unsafe.  Remember that herd instinct kicks in often.


Posted by on May 18, 2011 in Uncategorized


May 21 – Clinic at The Center for America’s First Horse

If you are interested in learning about natural horsemanship, check out the upcoming clinic at The Center for America’s First Horse.  If you can’t afford to participate, auditing (watching) for only $30 is a great alternative.

Starting Your Young or Untrained Horse Clinic

Training a young horse

Date:May 21, 2011
9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Cost: $200 per person. Space is limited to 6 participants.
Overnight stabling: $20 per day. Parking is available for overnight camping.
Auditing: $30.
Get off to a  positive start with your horse this season by attending this one day, no stress clinic at The Center for America’s First Horse, located in Johnson, Vermont. Our 70 acre facility which offers an indoor and outdoor arena, equine obstacle playground, and miles of trails to explore is the perfect setting to enhance the relationship between you and your horse.   This clinic is designed to help you build a strong foundation of trust, respect and confidence with your equine partner. Whether your horse has been ridden before or not, these components will lead you safely to success with your horse!   Simple yet important fundamentals such as trailering, feet handling, tying, and desensitization will be addressed. For those ready to saddle and mount your green horse for the first rides, this is an opportunity for you to have the help you’ve needed to get started.
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Posted by on May 17, 2011 in Uncategorized


Pat Parelli’s Colt Starting Naturally Notes, Part I

Last week Pat Parelli put on a Colt Starting Clinic in Texas and gave viewers the option to view it via live streaming on their personal computer.  I purchased the webcast and have 30 days to watch 24 hours of his Colt Starting Clinic.  While I watch the process I have been jotting down important points and have decided to share them with you.  This is Part I of many parts of my notes.

Colt Starting Naturally May 2011

Look for green lights. If a horse gives you a green light, Go! If he doesn’t give you a green light, don’t go.  Be efficient; don’t doddle but don’t go too fast either.

Outline for Starting A Colt:

The horse has to

1) Accept the human. Using the 7 games you show the horse that you are not going to hurt them and you help them to accept you as the leader.

2) Accept the saddle. Work on the placement of the saddle and the cinch.

3) Accept the rider. Help the horse to see you as a passenger and then a guide.

4) Accept the bit. Ride from a hackamore to a bridle.  Work on the placement of the bit and let them get used to it.  Don’t use it to guide at first.

Important Points To Remember:

-Let the horse stop and sniff and be curious.

-Let them use their herd instinct and when starting have more than one in the vicinity of the other.

– When you touch a horse, go to his withers (that is what they do with each other, naturally).  If he wants you to touch his face, let him come to you.

– Do not desensitize horses.  Instead gain his confidence.

– In natural horsemanship it’s important to have attitude, loyalty, dedication, and talent.  If you have the first three the talent will come.

– Never knock the curiosity out of a horse.  Allow him to be curious.

– Do fun things with your horse.  Rather than always making him back up because you want him to back up, let him backup for something that he wants likes backing into his stall to eat some hay.  Ask him to do things that will allow him to want to do things.

-Up with the rope to stop a drift–“Life to stop drift”–and bend the horse to stop escape.

-If your approach is starting to feel rude to the horse and is making the horse mad, try a different approach.

-Horses are not afraid of predators, they are afraid of predatory behavior.

– Horses test obstacles first with their nose, then their neck, then their feet.

– Try less first.

– Be the comfort for your horse.  When they look at you give them a minute. Let the horse give you credit.

More notes to come . . .

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Posted by on May 14, 2011 in Uncategorized


New Path of Natural Horsemanship

I could say that it all began the day of my first visit to The Center For America’s First Horse, the day that I met Mas, an overo Colonial Spanish horse, and the 14 other Colonial Spanish horses, and Pako, the black and white cat.  The afternoon that I chatted with the owner, Stephanie Lockhart, on the telephone asking if she needed a volunteer to help out with chores on the weekend. I could say that this was the starting point, but that wouldn’t be entirely true.  I will say, though, that Stephanie is the reason for my interest in natural horsemanship–she has been my mentor, introducing me to Tom Dorrance and Pat Parelli, and so far she has taught me the basics of natural horsemanship.

My journey with horses began when I was 9 years old with my friend Jodie Braun.  Jodie and I lived in the small Albertan town of Rocky Mountain House.  Our houses were located near the end of a development that was surrounded by fields and in those fields was a herd of horses.  Jodie and I would walk around the horses, petting them and naming each one, and eventually we even had the guts for me to hoist Jodie atop one of the horses, Carrot. The herd was startled and took off and Jodie was able to jump off without getting hurt.

During that time we would visit Jodie’s dad, who raised thoroughbreds. Initially, he lived in an area where we could only ride in the arena (which was probably a good thing). Even though the horses were young, easily spooked, and barely trained, we rode them, tucking our jeans into our tall cowboy boots and yelling “ye-haw” while twirling our imaginary lassos over our heads, all the while the horses trotting a little faster in the arena and promptly bucking one of us off. Eventually, Jodie’s dad moved to Cochrane, Alberta, where he had a cabin on the range. It’s there that we went on longer trail rides and learned how to cross rivers and gallop a horse through the fields without falling off.

Horses became a part of my life from that time forward, until I graduated from high school and became very interested in rock climbing and outdoor recreation. But they entered my life again when I moved to Missouri and began working at a Therapeutic Riding Center and a Saddlebred farm.

We moved to Vermont about 3 years ago and in that time I have not had a lot of interactions with horses.  My main focus was to become a fast, accomplished ultrarunner.  My niece who is 7 years old reminded me that horses need to be a part of my life again.  It wasn’t something that she said to me but more the idea of me at her age and how I was introduced to horses, and how they were so important to me for such a long time. And how I sort of walked away from them, even though I still felt a connection and deep respect and love for them.

The best gift that Stephanie has given to me is her introduction of natural horsemanship.  She has shown me a way to have a relationship with horses that is so different from what I have ever known, and yet it is so fitting.  Natural horsemanship skills leave behind impatience, frustration, and the need to control the horse and the situation, and allow for cooperation, playfulness, and positive experiences.  The horse and human grow together and have a relationship free of fear.

This blog is entitled “Mas and Me” because Mas was the first horse at The Center to win my heart.  I do not own Mas but I do feel a connection to him and look forward to spending time with him when I help out at The Center.

I am excited to embark on this new path of natural horsemanship.  I hope you enjoy following my journey and will join me for the ride!


Posted by on May 8, 2011 in Uncategorized