Monthly Archives: July 2011

Women and Horses Weekend

Last weekend was a blast.  I spent Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at The Center playing with horses and hanging with the ladies.  We experienced sun, wind, a bit of heat, dirt, bugs, laughs, and plenty of horse time.  It was Women and Horses weekend at The Center.

Stephanie and Ringo and Tori and Montego

Before the Women’s and Horses weekend kicked off, Brandon, Stephanie, and I finished the water obstacle in the new playground that Stephanie and Brandon created.  We filled the obstacle with ice cold water and I quickly hopped in (feet only) to level out the gravel on the bottom of the pool.  It was a pretty warm day so the cold water felt nice (my butt muscles would disagree).  The playground has a few large logs, a tire jump, the water obstacle, a hill, trees, and a couple of barrels.  Plenty of fun stuff to play on.

Sue and Apollo

Women and horses arrived throughout the day on Friday.  Stephanie brought Jen (The Center’s farrier) and her horses, Tonka and Bell.  Apollo (Sue’s horse) was already spending quality time with Ringo in a pasture near the arena.  Dierdre and her husband, Jim, arrived earlier that week with their horses, Noche and Kesa.  Kim arrived with her horse, Timber.  Janis’s horse, Logan, was already staying at The Center for training. And Jodie would ride Montego for the weekend. Tori and Eliza (Stephanie’s kids) had their horses out on Saturday and Sunday.  I was fortunate enough to spend the entire weekend with Mas!

Janis grew a tail!

Dierdre and Kesa

The ladies!

Jen and Tonka

On Friday Jen and Brandon went for a trail ride while the rest of us played with our horses on the ground. The water obstacle was the main attraction for the entire weekend.  The first time I presented Mas to the water obstacle I had to gently ask and he walked across the obstacle almost immediately.  After the first send the following sends were not as easy.  It was almost like he was thinking, I did this once already, when it was interesting, and now it’s boring so I’m going to stick my tongue out at you and I’m not going to willingly go through this thing.  Makes me laugh thinking about it like that!


The water obstacle

Mas and I playing!

Saturday was even better than Friday.  Most participants were settled in (some even slept overnight in their tents) and ready to play come 10 a.m.  I played a few games with Mas, asking him to jump over logs, back up, move his front end and hindquarters using the Porcupine game, before trying the long range driving game with him.  That was interesting. He continually moved into my personal space, causing me to stop and readjust my position.  Finally, I asked Stephanie to help me.  She said, simply, stay behind the drive line.  The drive line begins near the bottom of Zone 2 (the red portion of the horse).

Parelli's Zones

Parelli divides the horse into 5 Zones as shown on their image above.  While learning natural horsemanship skills, it’s easier to know what Zone Stephanie is talking about.  If she says stand in Zone 3, I would know what she meant. Getting behind Mas’s drive line really helped me to drive him forward rather than allowing him to turn into me, which lets him stop doing what he is doing and get into my personal space.

Eliza and Adelentado

After playing on the ground for a couple of hours we went for a group trail ride.  The Center has access to magnificent trails right off the property.  It was nice to head into the woods and enjoy the cool shade.  On Sunday, when I arrived, people were already starting to get saddled up for another trail ride.  Tally ho, off we went.  We rode through the woods and around a large field before coming out on the Johnson College campus and riding the gravel road home.  Jen had neat little booties on her horse’s front feet to save him from the sharp rocks on the gravel road. Mas led the caravan all the way home from Johnson College campus.

Trail ride time (Anne watched us the entire weekend. She had a good time!)

Vermont's beautiful landscape

Jodie and Montego

Kim and Timber

When we got back from our last trail ride, we hosed off our horses and people put their horses away.  Janis and I let Logan and Mas graze for a little while before putting them in their pastures.

While many of us sat in the shade, Stephanie and Kim tried to help Timber cross the water obstacle.  It quickly became evident that Timber had a negative response to pressure; so rather than it being about the water obstacle, Stephanie worked on helping Timber yield to pressure.  She spent over an hour with him until he was finally able to relax a little bit and accept her leadership.

Stephanie is so talented with horses using natural horsemanship.  She has strength in her persistence and she is emotionally strong–she doesn’t get angry or upset.  She stays calm and in the moment and has the ability to help the horse move past their fears and unwillingness to participate with their human.  I hope to be like that one day.

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Posted by on July 22, 2011 in Uncategorized


Forget Frustration

On Friday Mas and I spent some time together later in the afternoon after Stephanie, Eliza, Brandon, and I had set up the yard sale items in the arena.  Earlier that day I said “hello” to Mas and put him in the barn to get him out of the sun and bugs for a couple of hours.  He seems to like being in the barn during the heat of the day.  Keeps him nice and cool. Before I led him down the driveway to the arena I brushed him in the barn.

When I caught him he seemed to be his usual self but a bit better.  Lately, when I catch him and begin walking down the driveway, away from the other horses, he doesn’t whinny and run around quite as much as he did when I first met him.  I thought maybe that was because he was beginning to accept my leadership and become confident with me.  Now, though, I’m not sure that’s the case!  I’m thinking that maybe he is just becoming familiar with the routine of walking down the driveway to the arena, and he knows that I know how to ask him to stay behind me and not to walk on top of me.

Once we were in the arena I played all Seven Games and he seemed to be ready for the saddle.  I got the saddle and blanket and carried it into the arena.  Stephanie suggested that I go outside of the arena to the pasture so that we wouldn’t stir up anymore dust on the yard sale items.  This is where things got interesting, or I guess if I had true savvy they would have been interesting, but because I’m still learning and am not a strong leader, things got difficult.

I placed the saddle and pad in the pasture and tried to play the friendly game and porcupine game with Mas, using the saddle as an obstacle.  He was having none of it!  He kept looking up the driveway, wanting to spend time with his friends or he tried to eat grass rather than standing patiently while I place the saddle on his back.  He kept moving his feet and whinnying.  A couple of times he stood still long enough for me to pick up the saddle and place it on his back, but I didn’t feel like I had his full attention and did not just want to get the saddle on as quick as possible.  I wanted to have his attention and to not feel rushed.  That wasn’t going to happen by using the strategy that I was using, which was passive persistence.  He walked right through my passivity!  I needed to be assertive, but that didn’t happen until I had a good cry (from frustration) and until Stephanie came over and helped me to move forward.

I had to be the leader that Mas needed and I had to match his energy. Stephanie said that if Mas wanted to move his feet, we had to help him move his feet. Eventually, after playing the circling game at a canter and using the long-range driving game, Mas allowed me to saddle him.  He wasn’t totally relaxed but he was a lot better than when I started, and he wasn’t eating grass.

The main thing that I got out of this was that I need to be more assertive, more confident, and need to keep the present moment in mind.  I think I did a fairly good job of staying in the present in that I didn’t just saddle up regardless of the state that Mas was in.  It didn’t seem worth it to ignore the fact that I couldn’t get his full attention.  I was also reminded of how far I have to go with my natural horsemanship skills.  But that’s okay. I am learning at my pace and am looking forward to constantly moving forward with my skill set, understanding of natural horsemanship, and ability to have fun.  I am also looking forward to building myself emotionally so that I don’t take it personally when Mas has other things in mind.  I just need to learn to be the leader that Mas needs me to be.

Linda Parelli talks about becoming emotional with a left brain introvert and says that once you become emotional the horse thinks, “Ah ha, I got you!”  So rather than taking it personally and getting frustrated I need to stay calm and confident and move forward.  Being able to read the horse’s behavior helps as well.  Plenty of things for me to continue to work on.

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Posted by on July 11, 2011 in Uncategorized


Mas Likes Grass

Mas and I took a short ride on Sunday with Stephanie and Morado.  I rode bareback and used a bridle rather than a halter.  Our short ride started with me searching over the arena panel for Mas’s bridle, which I couldn’t find so I climbed into the caboose’s tack room and searched.

All the while I was paying attention to Mas and making sure he was okay with me being in the caboose.  For a few seconds he seemed very still and quiet while I had my back to him.  I turned around to find him nosing a corner of the caboose, trying to reach an old apple on the floor.  I started laughing and grabbed the apple, holding it out for him to bite into.

Finally, I found his bridle, the one with the blue ribbon on the headstall, and climbed down to the ground.  I have noticed that Mas is not keen on taking the bridle and bit.  This was never a problem for me and the horses that I had growing up–a good thing that I learned early on was never to rush the bridling process and always make it an enjoyable experience for the horse.  Don’t jam the bit into the horses teeth and mouth and don’t force the headstall over his ears.  Similarly, don’t pull the bridle off of the horse when your done, and don’t yank the bit out of his mouth.

Mas on the pedestal

Noticing that Mas was not accepting of the bridle, I walked over to the outdoor arena, where Stephanie was riding Morado, and asked for some help.  I wanted to learn to put the bridle on with “savvy” and learn to do it naturally.  Stephanie told me to first play the friendly game with the bridle and then use some approach and retreat tactics with it, every time getting a bit closer to putting it on.  Mas is very dominate and as Stephanie likes to say, “He is dissing you!”.  I need to learn to be a bit more assertive with him, but still fair and friendly.

Mas enjoying a good scratch rather than a treat this time

After I had the bridle on I walked over to the pedestal and climbed on Mas’s back.  Then I began learning how to make eating grass a bit harder than moving the feet.  Mas likes to eat grass.  Well, Mas likes to eat pretty much anything–he has a high food drive.  Every time I became distracted (or started talking too much) Mas would put his head down and eat.  What would you do if your horse dropped his head to eat?  Instinct might say, pull up on the reins.  That is what I tried to do before Stephanie said not to pull on the reins but instead drive him forward.  Ask him to move his feet by sending energy from your body into his body.  It may even take a bit of prompting from the carrot stick or the tail end of the lead rope to move those feet.

Mas's favorite past time

Parelli talks about how learning the Seven Games and playing them with your horse helps to establish you as the alpha.  He says:

“The natural horse training solution for a horse eating grass is to be understanding and considerate of horses, which might mean allowing some grazing time before asking for a horse’s full attention. By allowing this now and then – but only when you invite it – you’re being a considerate partner and a firm leader. But be sure to give your horse permission rather than just letting him plunge his head down whenever he feels like it. Invite him by using Game #2 of the Parelli Seven Games – the Porcupine Game. Simply lower your horse’s head to the ground when you want him to graze.

If you never let your horse eat grass while you’re riding, he’ll take every opportunity to lunge at the grass, even unseating a rider to get at it. But if you’ve proved to your horse that you’re not an unreasonable person, and that you’re considerate of his desires, he is less likely to resent you or resist your attempts to shift his behavior.

When your horse lowers his head, allow him to start munching without even touching the reins or rope, then smooch and lightly begin tapping his hindquarters, becoming firmer and firmer until his head pops up. Stop tapping right away and rub.

At first it may be a surprised reaction and his head may go right down again. Just repeat the smooch and progressively firmer tapping until his head comes up, then rub him again. Very quickly, a quiet smooch is all it will take to ask your horse to lift his head from eating grass. He will learn to graze when you invite him to, and to stand respectfully until you do. He’ll stop to think whether he’s been invited to eat before just hauling you off for a snack.

Patience and Persistence

Be prepared to out-persist your horse on this. Once your phased firmness and timing of the rub is effective, the change is lasting, and it sure beats the old habit of pulling on the reins or the lead rope to stop a horse eating grass – not to mention the resentment that builds in response to your lack of regard for his desires.”  You can read the entire post at Parelli’s website:

So the next time I’m with Mas, I will invite him to eat grass and then ask him to move forward after a few bites, and continue this game.  I’ll let you know how it goes!

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Posted by on July 7, 2011 in Uncategorized