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Aha! Moments

Aha! Moments are experiences where we receive great, and often life-changing insights. If we listen to these revelations and implement the lessons, we can leap right over weeks, months or even years of endless hammering away at ideas that are not working quite right. These are some of my Aha! Moments. Please comment. Please share with others. Please share some of your Aha! Moments.

November 14, 2013

Chit-Chat your way to a Calmer Horse

Really astute vets know this secret, seasoned farriers do as well… and handlers that are really paying attention may figure it out. What am I talking about? There’s a secret to calming very anxious horses…it’s so obvious that it’s often missed. Recently my mare, Simone, reminded me of it.

My glorious, and typically very bold Friesian mare, is hyper-sensitive to her environment. When there is a single change in her surroundings, she not only notices it, but often fixates on it. The ranch where the herd resides is undergoing intensive renovations. Every single day there are visible changes in Simone’s surroundings. As you can imagine, she is very tuned in to what’s going on. Every evening we go on walks to investigate what construction occurred that day.

Yesterday I was walking her past a new structure that was being built, gently coaxing her forward to have a closer look, allowing her complete control of the situation. We were inching forward when the ranch owner came out to visit with us. She and I got to talking about things for about 5 minutes, completely ignoring my mare and what was going on. “How are the renovations coming? This new structure looks really great. Great weather we’re having. How are your kids?” You get the idea.

When we were done catching up, I walked forward with my mare and lo and behold she walked right up to the structure, calmly. Aha! I said out loud – I had forgotten this secret.

When your horse is anxious, worried, stressed about something going on, or is hyper focused on it – ignore it all completely, remove all of your ideas about facing it or dealing with… and just wait. This may be just the “window” that your horse needs to relax. But here’s the key – you must truly take your mind off of it, and that’s where the chit-chat comes in. I’ve observed vets talk about the Super Bowl football game with horse owners when they are about to administer to a nervous horse. Ive observed farriers bragging on their grand kids around anxious horses…. these veterans of horse care services know the secret. And now you do as well!

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September 25, 2013

Leave My Head Alone!

I was watching a video tape clip that we had just completed with Ms. Aspen and it was striking to me how much she did not appreciate any kind of contact with her head. And then I remembered that we do most of our regular teaching in the Cordero (loop around the base of the neck) and I feed her a lot of line and encourage her to come around and come back to me… which she does very happily. And i realized that there are some horses (I have a few of these actually) who clearly do not want to feel your presence on their heads. So what’s a Liberty handler to do? Be very mindful to keep a slack line at all times and behave as though your horse does not have a halter on them, and as soon as possible, move onto the cordero.

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September 13, 2012

The Filly that Attacked the Longe Whip

A very feisty filly taught me that pressure can be a poor teacher. This Aha! Moment happened one day when I was asking the balky filly to move out on-line. I picked up the longe whip and tickled her back legs and she turned and lunged at the whip, knocked it out of my hands, and proceeded to stomp it like it was a wild animal.

From this moment forward, I vowed to use ingenuity, not pressure, to help horses understand my ideas…with wonderful results.

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