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First Impressions – SHC blog article

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Previously published in The Valley Equestrian Newspaper. No part of this article may be used without the written permission from the author.

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By Staci Grattan-Fornshell

“You never get a second chance to make a first impression”
Will Rogers

“With a mustang you cannot hide and you cannot lie to yourself”
Anna Twinney

Recently I had the honor of spending a week in Cody, Wyoming gentling an untouched BLM Mustang.
I have made this trip in August for the last three years to the lovely Dimock Ranch near Cody, Wyoming for a variety of reasons but primarily because as a horsewoman I am addicted to the pure horse that is the BLM mustang. The ranch owned by Michaele and Chris Dimock is heaven on earth for roughly 40 head of mustang and domestic horses.
Michaele, an avid mustang supporter and accomplished equestrian and trainer makes an annual trip to nearby Rock Springs where she takes on 6-10 mustangs to be gentled by students in Anna Twinney’s Reach Out to Horses Untouched Horse clinic. Michaele makes a very solemn promise to the mustangs she picks up at the government holding facility that they will never have to return there. She will find them all suitable homes. Homes where the contract that we begin with them during the gentling process will be kept.

Wild born BLM mustangs are gathered by a variety of methods including bait trapping and helicopter herding. They are then loaded onto trucks and shipped to government holding facilities, which incidentally often do not have shelter.
At some point they then receive a freeze brand and are gelded if they are male. The few ‘lucky ones” are assigned to a BLM (Bureau of Land Management – Federal authority on wild horses and burros) contracted trainer for training. I have heard but have not confirmed that roughly ten percent of gathered wild horses ever get adopted. Currently around 60 thousand wild born and gathered mustangs stand in government holding facilities to the tune of nearly 80 million annually for the taxpayer. The numbers are truly staggering and overwhelming. I cannot imagine the private hell it must be for a wild born horse to stand in a dry lot for years and years on end. I think I would probably choose to exit the planet if this were my fate.

The Horse/Human Contract
Allow me to preface this section by explaining that many wild born and gathered off of the range mustangs begin their introduction to the human world of training with the “rope and choke” method. In this methodology horses are roped and choked into submission and even unconsciousness. Because wild born mustangs are challenging to catch and touch for the first time, the path to expediency is to force compliance. The contract with and first exposure to the domesticated world of humans begins on a horrific note that in my opinion is a violation akin to rape.
I have written several pieces for this publication and my blog outlining my views on partnership with horses so I wont go over those points here again.
I think we can all agree that any solid partnership begins with a good contract. A contract where both parties have a voice and there is an established communication of wishes, desires and needs.

First Impressions
In order to have a contract and ultimately a partnership, we must first have an interest by both parties. Allow me to give you a scenario to further illustrate my point:
I would like you to work for me as a bodyguard, keeping me safe and trusting you with my life. Something we do with our horses regularly. If upon our first meeting, I slapped you and kicked you in the shin in an effort to get you to sit down at my table to talk, you most likely would not be very interested in further dealings with me. Your first impression of me would be that I am not someone who is to be trusted, nor am I a good communicator. Furthermore you may wonder if any people like me are worth trusting or dealing with.

BlackJack
The little black gelding with a small star on his forehead and I met on a typically beautiful Wyoming Saturday morning in August 2015 at Dimock Ranch.
At the time BlackJack did not have a name and had only very recently had the rope and plastic identifier tags been removed from his neck. He was in a pen with five other 2-3 year old BLM mustangs of varying colors and sizes. All geldings, the boys came from varying Herd Management Areas (HMAs).
BlackJack originally came from The Great Divide Basin HMA about 40 miles east of Rock Springs, Wy. The Great Divide Basin HMA encompasses approximately 700 thousand acres and has a maximum allowable mustang herd size of 500. Topography within the herd area where BlackJack grew up is generally rolling hills and the basic forage includes mixed grass and saltbrush. BlackJack had been gathered as a yearling in the fall of 2014 during the Wyoming Checkerboard Roundup. Between September 15 and October 9, 2014, the Bureau of Land Management rounded up, via helicopter stampede, and removed 1,263 wild horses from “checkerboard” lands in three Wyoming Herd Management Areas: Adobe Town, Salt Wells Creek, and Great Divide Basin. At least 14 deaths resulted from the roundup, including young horses who crashed into panels and broke their necks, and elderly, arthritic and ailing horses who were terrorized by helicopters and forced to run for miles before being “euthanized” by a bullet to the head.
The 2014 Wyoming Checkerboard Roundup decimated the wild horse populations in these HMAs, leaving behind just 91 horses in The Great Divide Basin.
BlackJack had been standing in a government holding facility in Rock Springs for nearly a year. At the time we met, I knew very little of this. I knew his basic age and that he came from Rock Springs. That was it.
As we stood outside the pen watching the horses and getting basic information I observed the little black gelding bump my friend Clea with his nose. As she absently petted him while listening to instructions he moved on to me and I began to pet him. Amused, I thought, “wow first touch done, that was easy”. As I was petting, Anna Twinney, Founder and Head Instructor for Reach Out To Horses took note and said, “there’s your first touch, and they don’t usually come that easy!”
For the next seven days BlackJack and I were partners. Throughout the course I experienced a range of emotions from extreme gratitude at this “one in a million” horse to envy that some of my compatriots got to experience horses that were more challenging to “get the first touch”. As time went on I realized this envy was misplaced. Blackjack, (originally named Jackpot – as I felt I had really hit the Jackpot with him!) had plenty of challenges in store for me and in typical mustang fashion he put my horsemanship and emotional skills to the test.
From the get go BlackJack was regarded by Twinney and her instructors to be a “one in a million mustang” at first everything was “easy”, first touch, first halter. He followed me (and everyone else) around like a dog, begging (sometimes demanding) attention. He earned the nickname “Velcro” almost immediately from the group, if there was a human in the pen; Blackjack was there like a gnat buzzing around. It was unreal. Mustangs aren’t like domestic horses; human touch is not something they naturally want. We are predators, they are prey animals. The natural instinct is to flee. It is our job to gently lay the foundation for trust and partnership. The first impression should be one of gentle kindness.

It became clear to me in very short order that my little mustang needed an altogether different first impression than his fellow mustangs but one that was equally as important. BlackJack at a glance could be considered by some to have very rude ground manners and no boundaries. It has been my experience that most horse people are either tolerate that to the point of danger or have very little tolerance for it at all. I’m not sure which of these is worse but what I did know is that this little dude was a blank slate and I had a big job to do.

As I stood inside the pen with Blackjack on our first day together my mentor Anna Twinney of Reach Out To Horses stated “he’s a baby, a clean slate.” Basically she was reminding me that this wonderful curiousity displayed was fragile and could be easily destroyed. While my friends were challenged by their allocated mustangs to get their “first touch” without force “moving through oil”, using body language and negotiation, I was challenged to mold this inquisitive brain into a trusting partner. She compounded her point using the analogy of a precocious child “ he’s exploring his world, its your job to show it to him and show him how to stay out of trouble”. So together BlackJack and I began our journey.

Photo credit Liv Bjerre

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As with most any horse seeking human attention I was reminded in short order that pushing BlackJack off only made his curiosity and “pushy” ways worsen.
My horsemanship was sorely tested as I “took” several bites to the arms in those first few days. This questioning equine brain needed a challenge to show him the right path, but not too much of a challenge. It was an interesting balancing act to be sure. Too much too fast and his mustang colors cropped up quickly as I had a rearing, spinning bolting horse, too little and he was curious and bored, getting himself “in trouble”. Every second spent in that pen was a learning experience that tested my skills and my emotions.

As BlackJack and I worked together that week I was very aware of my responsibility to introduce him to this human world in a way that preserved his excitement and interest. I was proud of myself and of him as we navigated many firsts for him, first halter, first leading, farrier preparation, ropes, pads, brushing. As the time went on my “pushy” little “Velcro” transformed into a calm trusting partner looking to me for safety and direction. As a horsewoman there is truly not much more one can experience. It was and remains to this day emotionally moving.

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As my week with BlackJack came to a close I was asked to write a description for potential adopters. It was challenging to sum up whom this beautiful creature in a few short paragraphs.

Hello my name is Blackjack! I am a two-year-old BLM mustang from Divide Basin HMA in Wyoming.
I was gathered in the fall of 2014. I have been:
*Gentled to touch over both sides of my body
*Haltered in a rope and dually halter
*Done very basic leading in an enclosed area
*Had some basic prep done for bathing – this area needs more work and with time and patience should be fine
* Preparation for farrier in that my legs have been touched all over and I have the beginnings of the idea that I need to pick up my front feet when they are touched.
I am:
* Highly motivated by touch and praise
* Am a clean slate and have a very innocent mindset
* Likely to want to sit in your lap, my nickname during my gentling process was “Velcro”
* Curious but sometimes wary of new things – please go-slow and I will accept new things if you give me clear, gentle calm direction.
I love to have my chest and neck scratched vigorously. If I do get upset I come down easily with a calm, loving grounded person.
I am naturally drawn to people and love attention. I am a one in a million mustang!

Horsemanship is not only an intellectual journey but also a spiritual one. Each horse has something to offer on some level. I have found that the Mustang offers a pure, undiluted view of how horses see the world. My respect is immense and I am deeply moved that I have been granted permission to touch each one I have had hands on. These wild born creatures do not have to take on the human agenda. They above all horses know this. For me, this translates to domestic horses and the life lesson we should all take from the mustang is that we are given a gift each time we touch a horse, any horse.

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After I completed this article, I was thrilled to learn that BlackJack has been adopted by a fantastic woman  in Cody, Wy. True to her word, Michaele found him a fantastic home. His new name is Santana and his new partner is Doris and who is passionate about her animals! A very happy ending for one of the 60 thousand!
For more information on how to support mustangs in the wild go to www.friendsofalegacy.org. For more information on how to adopt a BLM Mustang go to www.blm.gov . For more information on Anna Twinney and her work please go to www.reachouttohorses.com .

 

Staci Grattan-Fornshell and her husband Brion Fornshell co-own Spirit Horse Center in Brainerd, Minnesota. Staci enjoys using her focus on good solid horsemanship basics, true classical dressage and natural holistic horsemanship to assist horses and humans. Spirit Horse Center is located in North Central Minnesota and provides, boarding, training, lessons and regularly hosts clinics and events benefitting horse owners and horses. For more information on go to www.spirithorsecenterinc.com


A Matter of Trust -SHC blog article

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By Staci Grattan
Photo Credit: Liv Bjerre

I recently attended an eight day holistic horsemanship course near Cody, Wyoming at the beautiful Dimock Ranch. Taught by a mentor of mine, Anna Twinney of Reach Out to Horses, and a follow-up to many hours of previously completed course work, the curriculum focused on further honing my skills in ROTH’s Trust Based Partnership methodologies.I had the high honor of working for the second time in my career with some spectacular BLM mustangs from herd management areas near Cody.

During my time in Wyoming with five other highly gifted students, two spectacular ROTH instructors, Anna herself and perhaps the best teachers of all in the form of mustangs, I experienced many shifts in thinking, as a horsewoman, a trainer, an instructor and as a person.

As I sat down to write this article I began to mentally “sum up” my experiences.

I became fairly amused as a song by Billy Joel from my teenage years kept surfacing in my thoughts. “A Matter Of Trust”. A line from the song resonates: “You can’t go the distance with too much resistance”

This concept was clearly illustrated during my time spent with April, a 3 year old BLM Mustang from the McCullough Peaks HMA. April is a stunning cremello mare with blue eyes, who was gathered off the range in 2013 and has spent her time at Dimock Ranch. Initially gentled to human touch via ROTH Students last fall, April has received minimal daily handling since then. As my project for the week, I was assigned the task of working with this stoic and sensitive filly on foot and leg handling to ensure positive farrier experiences, and leg stretches for further mobility and desensitization. What we learned together was so much more.

As previously mentioned, I consider wild born mustangs to be amazing teachers of horsemanship. If one is listening or watching “for the whisper” you can tune in to a whole host of information. Untouched and wild born horses give us a pure, undiluted, untainted view into true horse behavior and language.

For my assignment with April, I was to present my progress to the instructors and class on the final day of the course. I was to work mostly on my own time to accomplish my goals. So the first day I made my way out to the large paddock containing several young mustangs to get my horse and get down to business.

Having worked with mustangs previously, I knew that catching them is always an issue, and actually can stubbornly remain an issue for life. Having experience with this and having been briefed on April’s situation, I felt confident I could catch her in a short amount of time. What I had forgotten was the mustang sense of humor and uncanny ability to humble us lowly humans. While she was not at any time running or out of control, April made me work for about 30 minutes to catch her, basically burning a whole session. I’m sure she thought it was a great opportunity to see who I was, and to remind to ASK – not tell – and to go SLOW. I am proud to say I did rise to the occasion by dusting off my rusty mustang “slow is fast” approach and ultimately it worked, as I was able to finally touch her, leading to a conversation that was to last all week.

My take away from first session:

  • You think you’re asking – but you’re really telling.

As a horsewoman, I like to ask my horses as much as possible. There are times that “telling” is the only option (dangerous situations etc) however a trust based partnership comes from a give and a take. Asking “Can I touch you here? Do you like that?” Asking allows a voice and opens the floodgates for a lot of valuable information. If we listen, the horses will tell us.

Most domestic horses are very accepting. It is quite easy to get into their space and do a whole lot of things to them. We don’t ask, we just do, starting with the approach in the paddock. We bustle right up to our horses. Maybe they get a greeting, maybe they don’t. We put the halter on and we come in. Is there a hello? Is there a check in? Do we approach in a polite manner? Where are my eyes? How is my body language? How am I communicating? Is it in the language of Equus? It’s easy to forget these simple things in everyday life. April reminded me that if we were to have a trust based relationship, I needed to move slowly, communicate clearly by using proper body language and eye contact, and do a whole lot more asking – down to the simplest things such as “Can I touch your withers?”

As the week went on I worked with April and many other horses, mustangs and domestics, on a variety of things from trailer loading and ground tying to extreme behavior problem solving. My awareness of equine language and learning hit a whole new level from these experiences. However, a theme surfaced with each situation and each horse, reminding me that asking instead of telling whenever possible, opened doors.

During my personal time with April, I worked hard to be extremely mindful of her sensitivity and her appreciation at being asked even the smallest things. The more questions I asked, the more things she agreed to and the resistances faded. We had many “conversations” in which she showed me incredible things such as her ability to learn very quickly by small releases of pressure. I am quite proud to say that by the end of our time together we were able to present to the instructors and class while April was basically at liberty in her paddock with several other young mustangs. I was able to pick up all four feet, do leg stretches, and gently place each foot back in place. All this while April stood quietly with a simple short rope hanging loosely around her neck. At any time she could have easily left my company. To say it was an exhilarating moment is an understatement.
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My experience in Cody offered a shift in perspective to be sure. As the days passed I began to ask myself questions about my interactions with others. As a Mother, Wife and Boss, I wondered “Could I be creating more of a partnership? Could I take the communication to the next level? Is the mutual trust in this relationship? How often do I ask permission for simple basic things?”

I invite you to remember that each time you interact with your horse you are, in effect, training him. Take a look at those interactions and ask yourself where your level of trust and partnership is. Can you take it up a notch? Are you asking, or are you telling? To be clear, asking does not mean your horse gets to do whatever he darn well pleases. Asking means just that, asking. “Can you put your foot here? Can I touch you there, or there, or how about there? If you don’t want me to touch you here, can you tolerate here?” You get the point. The big picture is creating a conversation that flows back and forth. You might just find that creating that conversation creates a whole lot of trust.

Staci Grattan and her husband Brion Fornshell Co-Own Spirit Horse Center in Brainerd, Minnesota. Staci enjoys using her focus on true classical dressage, basic and holistic horsemanship to assist horses and humans.  Spirit Horse Center is located in North Central Minnesota and provides, boarding, training, lessons and regularly hosts clinics and events benefitting horse owners and horses.

For more information on go to http://www.spirithorsecenterinc.com

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A BLM Mustang Stallion residing at McCullough Peaks herd management area looks on curiously during a visit to the wild herd areas.


The Dreaded “D” Word – SHC blog article

Dressage as I see it – An invitation for the casual rider.

By Staci Grattan – Spirit Horse Center

 

As a born and raised “backyard rider” I’ve had horses basically my whole life. I come from a line of “do it yourselfer” backyard horsemen and women.

As a preteen from a financially challenged family I joined 4-H and decided to give showing a go. We lived about seven miles from the local fairgrounds so every year I would ride my horses there (we didn’t have a horse trailer) and spend the week showing in 4-H classes pertaining to western riding and occasionally an open halter class. While at those show grounds I saw kids who had trainers and coaches and horse trailers and fancy saddles (and more than one saddle?) and rode “English”. I remember watching the parents “warm up” the horse and wondering why they were running their horses around in a circle on a long rope? What! Keeping in mind this was nearly 30 years ago and I was a self taught backyard rider you can understand my amazement and confusion.

This was my first exposure to “English” style riding and it formed a lasting impression.

An impression I believe many of you will be able to relate to.

I recall scoffing at the people running their horses around like crazy in circles on a long rope before the kids would climb aboard. I remember thinking “why are these people running their horses around and tiring them out before they get on?”

I remember looking at the tiny “ridiculous” saddles and thinking “yeah not in this lifetime” at the direct contact reining and thinking – “Sheesh why are the pulling on that poor horses mouth like that? That’s just terrible!” And asking the question – “don’t they do anything other than circles?!”

Words like canter, collection and contact had no place on my vocabulary at that young age and well into my 20s. Dressage and “English style” riding seemed silly, pointless and frivolous.

In my late 20s I had a pretty hot trail horse. I was in over my head but unwilling to admit it. I decided I needed “a better seat” and began exploring local riding instructors and researching training and riding concepts. I ended up with a local dressage instructor and began my love affair with dressage.

A lot has happened in my horse life since then, from private backyard breeder to commercial stable owner where I do some training and riding instruction, from training with a local instructor to training regularly with internationally recognized Natural Horsemanship and Classical Dressage experts, however my love of dressage and its most basic and simple offerings remains. Dressage is not rocket science – it’s just good solid basic horsemanship!

This article speaks to all horse lovers. However as a former casual, self taught backyard rider who was intimidated by “that fancy dressage stuff”, I invite casual riders and horse enthusiasts to explore the value of the principles, teachings and philosophy found in the oldest form of horsemanship.

 

 

Why Dressage?

1)   Health, wellness and longevity.

I believe good horses are like fine wine – they just keep getting better and better. Lets face it , we put a lot of love, time and energy into our horses and we want them to last forever. Proper body mechanics by horses under saddle go a very long way toward joint longevity and injury avoidance. We know this to be true of any athlete, and horses are no different. The concept of collection as well as self carriage are valuable concepts for any horseman or woman to explore and implement. Physical collection in the horse not only makes for a more pleasant ride it also potentially saves your horse from a whole host of injuries and promotes long lasting physical strength. True physical collection and proper body mechanics are an integral teaching in Classical Dressage. Note I did not say Competitive Dressage as in my opinion that is another topic entirely.

 

2)   Decrease negative tension.

Dressage teaches us to “ride every stride” and think ahead.

Dressage horses look “hot” and out of control to many casual observers – and they can be. However the goal and teachings of the Classical Dressage Masters I have studied and studied with is to increase sensitivity certainly but decrease tension. The more aware we are, the more “with” our horses we are. Many Classical Dressage Masters promoted a partnership and dance with the horse. Side note – horses who are moving “correctly” with heads down and back lifted are taking direction from their riders and remain much calmer– horses who are moving along in “anti collection” (term coined by Dr Deb Bennett) back hollow, head up in the air, are often not really “with” the rider, carry tension and possibly have more of a propensity to spook etc.

 

 

3)   Connection, physical and mental assessment and riding preparation.

Many Classical Dressage teachings include groundwork in the form of proper mindful lunging and in hand work. Please note I say “mindful” lunging in which the horse and human are mentally connected and the human is paying attention to the horse! When I say “properly moving” I mean that the horse is coiling his loins, stepping under himself, lifting the base of his neck higher than the haunches and lifting his back as best he can based on his physical fitness level and conformation.

Not only are these things very valuable tools for connection on a deeper level, they also allow the human to do a physical and mental check in with the horse. There is huge mental and physical value to lunging done in which the horse must move correctly at a walk and a trot. Side note – do NOT underestimate the mental and physical benefit of working with your horse at a walk on the lunge line.

In hand work, as taught by several Classical Dressage Masters, also offers benefit to nearly any horseman as a tool for several reasons:

a)    Lateral work done in hand such as shoulder in, keeping in mind physical limitations and conformation, offer an opportunity to address physical or mental limitations from the ground by strengthening and suppling. Difficult canter/lope departs can be improved with shoulder in work either under saddle or in hand.

b)   In hand work (as well as lunge line work) offers a great opportunity to work through mental and physical issues. The saying goes “if it’s a problem on the ground it will be a problem up top!” Why not address tension, anger, insecurity issues from the ground where you are able to offer more support?

 

 

4)   Contact = Conversation = Partnership.

Classical Dressage teaches us about contact with the rein. Contact is a two way conversation between the horse and rider – we do not have an unmoving “death grip” on the rein nor do we ignore it entirely until we need to stop or turn. Rather we are constantly and lightly in touch with each rein and varying the pressure by a light give and take. Contact can be accomplished with a loose rein if that is your style. The point here is that contact is a method of conversing with your horse – much like your seat and leg, we are creating a conversation and ultimately a partnership.

 

 

Any time you can broaden your horsemanship horizons it’s bound to be a positive experience. There are many “roads to Rome” and in this case many of the principles I outline above may or may not be covered in other disciplines. The true purpose as I see it of Classical Dressage is care for and partnership with the horse. Training is done on a slow and consistent basis always keeping within the comfort zone of both partners without shortcuts, or gimmicks. As truly the oldest form of organized horsemanship, dressage offers proven and time tested methods for your consideration. Check it out! You might just be amazed at how basic and simple the concepts are and how universally they apply to all levels of horsemanship and span disciplines.

 

Staci Grattan and her husband Brion Fornshell co-own Spirit Horse Center in Brainerd, Minnesota. Staci enjoys using her focus on good solid horsemanship basics, true classical dressage and natural holistic horsemanship to assist horses and humans. Spirit Horse Center is located in North Central Minnesota and provides, boarding, training, lessons and regularly hosts clinics and events benefitting horse owners and horses.

For more information on go to http://www.spirithorsecenterinc.com

 

Photos feature – Legend 8 year old Friesian X Quarter Horse gelding.

Photo 1) A shared connection and proper body mechanics on the lunge line can be beneficial in multiple ways.

Photo 2) Connection and partnership – the ultimate goal in any form of horsemanship including classical dressage

Photo 3) Lateral in hand work can be beneficial in multiple ways including addressing strength and flexibility issues, mental relaxation and focus and mutual connection.

 

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What did you say? SHC blog article

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What did you say? A look at how important our words are in horsemanship and in life.

By Staci Grattan – Owner, Spirit Horse Center in Brainerd Minn.
http://www.spirithorsecenterinc.com

*This article also published in the April edition of the Valley Equestrian News

I hear these things every day in my barn. I hear them from nice, kind people who love all horses and love their own horses to distraction. I have heard them at clinics, uttered by nationally recognized clinicians. I have heard them during lessons, schooling sessions, shows, trail rides, clinics and while just “hanging out” at the barn.

I hear words regularly that give me pause:
“He is lazy.”
“He’s just always so naughty.”
“He’s afraid of everything.”
“He’s high strung.”
“She’s a spoiled brat princess.”
“She’s too sensitive.”
“She’s just a nervous horse.”
“She doesn’t really like people.”
“Who are you using today for your lesson?”
“I’m going to go work my horse.”
“We have to work him through it!”

Overheard while auditing a clinic recently:
“When we ride a 1500 pound animal with a brain mass the size of a snapping turtle, we have to expect these things.”

“He’s not going to be able to do it but let’s see what we get.”

We “horse people” like to talk (a lot) about our horses, your horses, the horses across the road, horses on TV and horses on the internet. We love our horses. We love to talk to them and about them. But what are we really saying?

I imagine what many of you are thinking at this point is, “My horse IS lazy doggone it!” Or “My horse doesn’t understand what I am saying anyway!” I would ask you , is he lazy? Or is he merely living up to your oh-so-low standards?

I would point out that while horses may not understand words, they are excellent readers of body language, and what we say becomes what we think. What we think is how we act. Whether we know it or not, I would dare say our horses know exactly what we think of them.

A mentor of mine once asked the following question:
“Why are we working our horses? Why are we not instead working with them?“

To truly excel in horsemanship, I believe we must partner with our horses, like dance partners. One leads but both must be willing and have a voice. Horses DO NOT have to do the things we ask them to do. Most of us have seen terrible examples of horses that have decided they are NOT going to carry out the human agenda any longer. How can we truly connect in partnership with an individual we refer to as “lazy” or continually focus on his tendency to be “nervous” or talk about “working” or “using” him?

The giving capacity of the equine heart is so incredible that many horses will perform regardless of poor partnership or lack of positive support, or, in some horrible cases, even inadequate food and water. Think, however, of the amazing results and joy one could experience in true connection and partnership!

I challenge you to consider your relationship with your horse. Redefine it. Get some clarity. How are you talking about him and to him? What do your words communicate and set as an intention for your relationship? Is your negative vision impacting your relationship with your horse? Is it impacting your relationships with other humans?

Shifting your wording, and ultimately your perspective, may make all the difference. A few examples:
From: “He’s very lazy/naughty.”
To: “He’s very smart and laid back. It’s fun to think up new and different ways to motivate/challenge him!”

From: “He’s so high strung/nervous/afraid of everything.”
To: “When we work together I focus on being a good strong, grounded leader for him to feel safe with.”

From: “She’s spoiled/too sensitive.”
To: “I really love that she lets me know when something isn’t right so I can help her stay in optimal physical and mental health.”

From: “I’m going to go work my horse.”
To: “I’m going to go work/play WITH my horse.”

From: “Work him through it.”
To: “I’ve picked a clear direction and I’m just going to stay with it and see what happens.”

Words have power. A lot of power. They set intention. They communicate feelings, instructions and a whole host of other information. We use our words daily to communicate with each other and our animals. What we communicate is as important as how we communicate it. Words translate into results.

I offer these thoughts in the hope that you will consider your words and your perspective the next time you talk to or about your horse, or for that matter, your child, spouse or sibling. You just might find that a few little words make all the difference!

Staci Grattan and her husband Brion Fornshell co-own Spirit Horse Center in Brainerd, Minnesota. Staci enjoys using her focus on good solid horsemanship basics, true classical dressage and natural holistic horsemanship to assist horses and humans. Spirit Horse Center is located in North Central Minnesota and provides, boarding, training, lessons and regularly hosts clinics and events benefitting horse owners and horses. For more information on go to http://www.spirithorsecenterinc.com


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We compost!
Spirit Horse Center has its own composting program that eliminates manure and bedding in an environmentally friendly way.

We use an aerated composting system that blows air into the waste, which stimulates the micro-organisms that are already in the mix. Their by-product is heat. Within 30-60 days, the heat breaks down the material to dirt that is an excellent source of macro- and micro-nutrients as well as stable organic matter, all of which support healthy plant growth.

The process also produces conditions within the core of the pile that eliminates offensive orders, and the high temperatures destroy fly larvae and weed seeds, which improves horses’ health and yields a high-quality finished product.

For more information on the composting system, click here.

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