12.16.2011

New Zealand Clinic overview


New Zealand has been an amazing, unforgettable experience. The people have been amazing and the horses were a great, diverse bunch, allowing for a really fun and interesting array of approaches unique to each combination. 

Jack was my equine assistant for the "hands on" portion of the clinic and he reminded me that horses love to teach us about connection. I had no way of predicting how much this horse would give and I had no expectations. With that, I set up the exercises with everyone and Jack did the rest magically and all on his own.

A horse named Katy allowed us to work with Waterhole Rituals to build her already nice connection with her person. I then honed in on specific WHR, In-Hand Horse Yoga, and Mounted exercises to give them a complete program. I helped this mare learn to move in a better posture. This work also improved her Bitless bridle goals. 

Another horse named Romeo stole all our hearts. He clearly loved people and connecting with them. He was leased for the clinic and showed how you can connect with a horse that you have never worked with using Liberty exercises. He was generous in spirit and demonstrated the natural outline and collection in his trot and canter. 

Ben, an Irish Sport horse, had some difficult experiences in his past, which had left him with some trust issues and trauma. Liberty work with him consisted of helping get back to his horse instincts and building his faith in humans. I recommended flower essences for him as well.

I had a very cute pony appropriately named Charm who was dominant, but really actually loved to be lead. Using WHR exercises, her people learned that she was much easier to work with then they had thought. Charm also showed that she actually liked her people quite a bit. They learned helpful exercises that addressed her focus, herd bound behavior, and dominance effectively.

A horse named Paddy needed help connecting with his person. He was previously competed extensively. His new person was now helping him back to soundness and trust. I showed her how to use WHR's and horse yoga exercises to improve their connection on the ground and mounted. 

Noema was a young filly just getting started for riding. At three years old, I showed her person (my clinic organizer extraordinaire, Christine) the way I start horses with Liberty-Line Mounted exercises to build connection and technical language and communication. We used the Liberty rein instead of a bridle to prepare her and had her first ride Bridle-less! That was super fun!

I want to thank Christine (and Norris) again for being and incredible event organizer and for their hospitality.  I also want to thank Corinne and Taralee stables for being a great host facility. I have been invited back and I will gladly come to clinic in this beautiful, friendly country again! See New Zealand Highlights video






11.18.2011

Simple Horsemanship tips from Mercury




Here are some simple tips Mercury told me to
share that will change your connection and horsemanship.


1. Appreciate every second the generous nature of a horse.
2. Balance down time with work time in your life and theirs especially performance horses.
3. Make training positive and fun for you and your horse.
4. Be clear in your Intention setting before you make requests.
5. Keep the conversation two way.
6. Always work slowly and patiently.
7. Be mindful when you are with your horse.
8. Be as focused as you expect your horse to be.
9. Practice Clear Communication as much as possible.
10. Practice good Leadership
11. Use positive Visualizations especially if you are fearful.
12. Practice positive reinforcement.
13. Don't be afraid to make mistakes and let your horse make them too.
14. Be ok with whatever mood your horse is in and work with not against him.
15. Breathe together.
16. Treat how you would like to be Treated
17. Keep training flexible and organic.
18. Keep the bar adjustable
19. Goals should be attainable and fun.
20. Working with what your horse offers rather then against.
21. Listen to how your horse as much as you ask him to listen to you.
22. Respect is a two way street.
23. Don't ask your horse to do something you don't really want to do.
24. Remember your horse is your Mirror so be mindful of what you are reflecting.
25.Horse time is sacred!

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10.27.2011

Announcing: Going Bitless online class info

The Introduction to Going Bitless online class will start November 1st running through November 28th with the first videos to be released for personal practice followed by a Skype Q&A session a week. You will have the week to get signed up and review and practice the first exercises. The Skype Q&A answer session will be held at a time to be determined. Sunday or Monday AM or PM times are available by popular choice so let me know in the comments section what time of those two days may work best. If you have not downloaded Skype click here to get it. Otherwise, if you cannot make the calls or can't get Skype, You may post questions to the Blog or Email them through my Website. If you have a Youtube channel, you can send me links to your uploaded videos from your channel for evaluation. If you have another video host you use, that is fine too. I only need to be able to view them through the links to share with me for evaluation. If you need more help with this or have more questions contact me. The cost of the online clinic will be an Introductory rate of $150.00 payable through my site (click here to sign up and pay). To Purchase my Side Pull Bitless bridle click here.

Here is how the class will work:
1. Sign up by paying through Paypal. (click here to sign up and pay)
2. Add me through your Skype contacts search Farah.Dejohnette or Farah DeJohnette Horsemanship
3. Once you have signed up and I have your email, You will receive the links to the weeks video lessons.
4. Speak to me on the weekly Skype call to have questions answered and get feedback on videos.
5. Post questions on the blog or email them to me here if you don't or can't access Skype.

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10.07.2011

UK Horsemanship Clinic day one

Today was the first day of the FDTH Horsemanship clinic at The New Horse in beautiful Motcombe. First of all it is a gorgeous area. Beautiful english farms and rolling hills as far as the eye can see. oh and Stone Henge which I've never seen until now!

The day started with an Andalusion that I quickly saw was quite alert, a bit tentative, reactive and easily distracted. We worked on a session in the morning and one in the afternoon. In the morning, we worked with some Liberty exercises based on Carolyn Resnick's method. The horse was a bit shy about being approached so we worked on Saying hello and reading his body language to build his trust up. By the afternoon, after a nice break in the second session we worked using Eye Contact to help him and his person focus and they did beautifully. Even got a nice companion walk at the end. This horse is a good candidate for how Liberty work can help with mounted issues as I came to find out that no surprise, he was tentative, distracted, and reactive in his Dressage work. It is very interesting how I can usually see the mounted issues come out in the Liberty work and as such set about changing the patterns in a nice connection and trust building way.

I had a pony in another session who was quite food obsessed and I used Carolyn's food exercises to get him focused on first me and then his person more than food. In the second session, his person brought him in and we addressed his pulling away while leading issues by working with him on line and teaching him to follow a feel and watch his persons body language exactly as he did at Liberty. The equipment merely becoming an extension of the Liberty body language.

I then got to work with a 2 year old filly who was not handled too much and the focus was just on her having a positive experience in the arena at liberty and having her feel comfortable leaving the herd and "Being with us" We used Carolyn's Treasure Hunt game and when the filly was calm, happy and relaxed, we rewarded her further by taking her back to her friends.

My favorite horse of the day was a resident rescued Lusitano who I affectionately name "Taz" I met him in the morning in his herd and was instantly drawn to him. He clearly loves connecting with people and is just the kind of fiery, spirited "Dancer" I love. He was offering so much so quickly, it was like he had been doing Liberty work all his life and they had only had him for a very short time.

Anyway, we had a great day as usual with the horses leading the way and I look forward to tomorrow!
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9.22.2011

Upcoming FDTH Clinics


For those of you who don't know yet, I have several clinics coming up internationally. Saturday sept. 24th I have a short demo at Backacresfarm.com if you are in the New England area. It is free to come and observe so come on by! There will also be a Demo from Bonnita Roy and her stallion Khemancho as well as demonstrations from Wendy Bryant Natural Dentistry and Kevin Landau DVM and Equine Chiropractic and Acupuncturist.

I am so excited to have the opportunity to work with so many people around the world. I am also going to check out Jenny Rolfe's facility and meet her Spanish Stallions on my UK visit.

If you are interested in putting together a clinic in your area, Contact FDTH to check availability and schedules. As you can see I travel far and wide to explore horsemanship with all types of horses and their people.

The following will be held in the coming months. I look forward to working with all of you that I have connected with around the world!

If you'd like to check out my work go to FDHorsemanship Youtube Channel

Oct. 7-9 FDHT 3 day clinic: at Bittles Brook Farm Contact FDTH for more info. You can pay here through Paypal to reserve your spot and find more details.

Oct. 15th One day Liberty clinic: at The Natural Equestrian Center Contact FDTH for more info. You can pay here through Paypal to reserve your spot and find more details.

Nov. 28th-Dec. 3rd Waterhole Rituals for Riding, Yoga and More with Stina! at Richmond Vale Academy Contact FDTH You can pay here through Paypal to reserve your spot and find more details.

Dec. 9-11 FDTH 3 day clinic: at Taralee Stables in Carterton, New Zealand Contact FDTH for more info. You can pay here through Paypal to reserve your spot and find more details.

See you around the globe!
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9.07.2011

Force versus Firmness

In our quest for Harmony and Connection with our horses there is a question which plagues every horse person at some point. Am I forcing my horse or just being firm. Now if you have experience with a horse this line is much clearer to you then if you are learning how to set boundaries and make requests.

Let's look at a few things to consider that will help us know where the lines are. First, let's look at what is a fair request. A fair request to me is anything that is fairly easy for the horse, is clearly communicated, and the horse can execute at least a bit. The next thing to consider is how much of priority it is and how much are you willing to accept (there is a lot of room for variables here). Another aspect could be, is the request an area where the horse is out of balance. What that looks like is a horse who is extremely one way in his behavior, training, or energy. These are horses I am looking to balance out gradually to a more middle ground. And finally, I look at what I call non-negotiables. These are areas where I have decided that I am not negotiable on in regardless of the horses opinion. They usually pertain to safety or extreme dominant or aggressive behavior but can go into technical training if it seems appropriate.

Now that we've laid that out, let's look at some other variables. When we put equipment on a horse, we have given ourselves a small advantage ( I say small because at any moment a horse decides you're off or he's not participating, it's done, I don't care what you have on them). A horse by nature wants to get along so if he sees there's an out or release, he's going to look for that rather them fuss too much (unless there are bigger issues afoot). This leads me to not taking advantage of a horses extremely generous and compassionate nature. Everyday, I am literally blown away by what I see horses tolerate in care, handling, training and un-natural lifestyles. It is on us humans to keep in mind to ask only for what a horse can deliver comfortably and happily in his daily life. That leads me to restraint. I see it as force at any point the horse has his ability to move taken away ie. roping or tying legs up. Other things such as twitches and chains/shanks also fall into this category if used to take away the horses opinion completely. The only time these may be justifiable methods is when it is a medical emergency and a horses health depends on it (and you can't tranquilize them or the tranquilizers are not enough). It means there is no time to train them gently at that moment.

Let's also look at how horses handle Firmness in the herd. If the horse is a fair and balanced Lead horse, he will only use as much energy/pressure as is necessary to get his point across AND it will not be PERSONAL. It will be to serve a clear purpose and it will be in the moment. An understanding will be achieved and the horses' will move on from it without incident.

So taking all that into consideration, when is it force or firmness in everday handling or work with our horses. Well that is best defined between a horse and his person. But here are some guidelines I use. If it is a reasonable request and I have made it a priority in my mind, I try to see if I can at least communicate my request at Liberty first to let the horse have a say in it and can observe his responses. How hard is it?, Was he put out by the request or took to it easily. Any time I am working/playing with a horse and I run into a "no", I have to ask myself why is that "no" there. This is the information that helps me know when to be firm or if I am pushing a horse way past his comfort zone.

Some questions I would pose to myself would be:
What is the age/level of this horse?,
Is this Dominant behavior?,
Is he confused?
Is he in Pain?,
Is he a little afraid?
Is he a lot afraid?
Will the horse not trust me if I am more firm?
Would it benefit him to go a little past his comfort zone?
Would he become a more balanced horse?
Do I have good enough timing, feel and release to help my horse understand my firm request?
If I am more firm will he respect my leadership more?

This can all be played with to see what "Conversation" comes up between you and your horse. When we practice Carolyn Resnick's Waterhole Rituals, We always know we can rebuild trust and connection when it may feel strained from pushing to strongly. We also know that playing with the boundaries can help create a better bond and help you become a better Leader in you horses eyes. The video below shows a choice I made to not use restraint or force with my horse who was quite violent about clippers when I first introduced them. I decided if I couldn't get him to allow it I would not resort to restraint. More oats for thought....
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See accompanying video

video

8.24.2011

Waterhole Rituals for Dogs

Kai and Buddha Water in Wheel barrow on hot summer day Ritual!
For those of you who don't know I am a Dog trainer as well as a Horseman. I may if fact have been working with dogs longer then horses.
I always saw the common ground between Horse and Dog Whispering from the beginning. Pack and Herd animals are not that far apart. So I easily applied the Dogmanship to horses and Horsemanship to dogs.

When I learned Carolyn Resnick's Waterhole Rituals, I immediately saw how to integrate them into my Dog Whispering approach.

First of all, We naturally Share our Territory with dogs because we share a house with them. With horses we have to go to the barn to Share Territory so it is not as easily done. This is why our Dogs bond to us so quickly.

Saying Hello is similar with dog as well with one exception. I don't put my hands out or my face toward a dog in greeting. I instead, read their body language and if they act like they would like to be approached I come closer. I am more likely to allow them to approach me first so I can see how to shape my Leadership with them(if they are not aggressive acting). Just like I would like a horse to initiate contact first in Sharing territory so I can shape my Leadership with them. If they are overly excited and jumping on me I set about making requests about how I would prefer them to be in my space and then praise them when they behave that way.

Now here's the interesting part which a lot of people don't teach their dogs which is so important in horses as well. In the WHR we learn that if we approach the horse, we should respect his wishes and feelings. And this is how I approach a dog as well, BUT dogs are not often taught this rule. They are allowed to go barreling up to or on anyone they meet and even any dog. This can start fights and can nurture unwanted aggression in dogs. This, to me is condoned and encouraged by a lot of people but I have the same rules with my dogs. If they are in my space they have to listen to my rules. Which means no jumping on me, no biting me (even if it's playful), and no growling or being possessive of territory I don't deem to be theirs. I feel also that is is respectful to always keep my dogs away from anyone and in a calm sit or stay until the person gives me permission to allow my dogs to approach. Sound like another WHR? What if the person is afraid of dogs or has allergies and can't touch them?

Taking territory is a useful exercise for dogs who are toy possessive or furniture possessive. Also if they run to the door of your house and bark you can claim the door area. I use claiming of areas quite often with my dogs.

Eye Contact seems to be important with all and every species. I know that if I can get and keep Eye Contact in my Dogs and horses, I can most likely Communicate with them and they will listen. When I lose Eye Contact I have a variety of ways to get it back.

Companion Movement is an easy one. In dogs we call in Heeling. If we have Magnetic connection, we will be able to work with our dogs well at Liberty or off leash!

Leading from behind works for moving reluctant dogs. I know that will sound familiar to anyone who has done this Ritual with their horse. It really helped me with my old Deaf and Blind dog to get him in and out of the house.

Liberty Dancing? Well that's a REALLY easy one with dogs! They are easy to Send and Draw! They love to run and play with us and I often dance with my dogs to music in my kitchen which I recently found out quite a few other people do too! So let's keep dancing with our dogs and try out the WHR's with your dog.
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8.10.2011

Children's Equitation Center

Tomorrow I will have the pleasure of working with Roberta Wilmore and the great group of kids she works with in her program. The Children's Equitation Center is focused on bringing kids who may not otherwise have the opportunity to experience horses and farm life. As all of us know who work with animals closely, the invaluable life teachers they are, especially for children. If you would like to help out with a donation (They sorely need a new riding arena!) Or can help them out with safe pony and horse donations for the lesson program please go to there site at the Children's Equitation Center.
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8.02.2011

The Virtues of Sharing Territory


When I first started working with Carolyn Resnick's Waterhole Rituals,   I had no idea it would become my favorite Ritual.

As a professional, I am paid to be agenda driven with horses. But I have my own horses and I wanted to improve my already good connection with them by doing this Method.

I listened to Carolyn's instructions and opted not to read but to just sit and "Be" with my horses. My Mare lived with a small herd that consisted of another mare, a mare pony, her filly, and my mini gelding. Mercury, was often by himself as prescribed by Carolyn. So, I got to practice this Ritual two different ways. With a single horse, and with a small herd.

I'd like to share some of my experiences that made this my favorite Ritual. First, let me paint a picture. We feed round bales and the horses  LOVE to nap in the round bales as they break down. On a sunny Spring or Winter day, I would often sit with them while they napped in the round bale in the sun in the Mare Paddock. Sometimes I would go in to get Phoenix to work with and I couldn't resist their beckoning me to sit with them. What is more peaceful then sitting with a herd of napping horses!

Other times, I found that Phoenix and her BFF would also sometimes create a triangle with me and stand over me napping. I found this very soothing and and felt their energy washing over me. I often sought out their paddock over the boys because this energy was so soothing. My friend who works with Qigong and horses said they were balancing me with their Yin energy and that I was seeking it out. I thought that was pretty cool.

It's to the point now where I can go into their paddock and sit down in the round bale and they will all slowly lay down around me! What else is there to say about that. It is pure bliss.

As for my favorite boy Mercury, He was the one I started to sit with first and I just observed things with him. I watched him, I paid attention to any things I noticed in myself and just stayed open to whatever may "Be". Mercury and I have been together since he was a yearling so we had a bond before I started the Waterhole Rituals but how much deeper it got and continues to get is hard for me to put into words. You can only know if you experience Carolyn's Method. Mercury is now 7 and I have been practicing Waterhole Rituals with him in addition to his regular performance training and Liberty work for a few years now. It has taken me places I never thought we could go and beyond.

The first few times I sat with him, I just enjoyed the time and relaxing. At the time I wasn't getting enough of that, so it was a welcome rest period in my day! After some time I became aware that Mercury was showing me the awareness level that a horse has. I began to experience his connection to all things in his environment. Everything that had a life force within his area right down to a butterfly. A Presentness and Awareness that was so much more "Awake" then we humans walk around in everyday. I now can shift in and out of that space when I want to and use it in my Yoga teaching and practice.

When I realized how much it impacted my horses connection to me, I started to learn the importance Sharing Territory with yourself, with other people you sought strong connections with and other animals was. I saw my Connection to myself and other people weaken and or strengthen at different times depending on how much or how little I did. I now use the term "Sharing Territory" with people, friends, and family. The balance of together doing nothing or together doing something is always in my mind.

When I got my new Puppy recently, The first thing I did was set up my office in the kitchen so he and my other dog and I could Share our space together while I worked. He would sometimes sleep on my lap while I worked or near my feet. At night I would let him sleep with me in my bed until he was old enough to sleep downstairs. We  have a very strong Connection now from my awareness of our time together.

In these days of over stimulation, rushing around, over filling our time and so on. Sharing Territory has become for me, a soothing balm. A place I can go to calm and prepare myself to "Be" and work with the horses. If I am stressed out or upset when I get to the barn. I can sit with them and work out of it. If I have not been able to see my animals for some time due to travel or other reasons, It is a way to get Connected to them that I did not have before I learned the Waterhole Rituals. It should be mandatory for all horse owners!

Even though, I am often on a tight schedule, I found creative ways to weave it into my work with clients horses to build rapport with them before we have to do our Technical work. But mostly, I have found, it is for me as much as it is for my horses well being. It is one of my favorite things to do with my horses...
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7.21.2011

Ask

Did you ever ask your horse what something means to him? For example we often will make a request of our horse to do something. The horse will respond by either doing what you asked, partially doing what you asked or doing something that it didn't seem you asked for. But what if that is what he thought you meant.

When I work with a horse for the first time. I observe a lot and ask a lot of questions as I would of a new person I was meeting. I ask questions to find out what the answers or meanings are to the horse. I don't judge the answers. I just want to get a dialogue going. I want to know what the horses responses are naturally. Once I get a feel for the "meaning" of things in the horses mind, I can set about possibly changing the meanings of things that may need re-defining or leave the good responses as they are.

A horse may have been taught an undesirable response unconsciously by his person releasing on the wrong timing. Or he may have learned it to protect and defend himself. Either way, it is what he has determined the meaning of a request to be.

A horse may react to a request to move move sideways by offering backwards or forwards. I would think that this horse is trying different responses or "searching" for the meaning of the request. I would NOT think "oh he is being stubborn or he knows what I want, he's just not doing it. I would set my intention, think sideways and then release when I felt the slightest try to change the "Meaning" of the request. I'd build up from there gradually.

Another point I'd like to make is the idea that a horse is not listening to you. They are ALWAYS listening. They may not be doing what you request but they are listening. Did you ever ask someone to do something and you know they heard you but they opted not to comply? I see that as the same with a horse. You may want to walk over there and he may want to eat grass instead. This is not intentional disobedience. It is a difference of opinion of what the task should be. So the Question might be phrased " I see you'd really like to eat grass but maybe you could go over here followed by some body language that would make it clear what you wanted.  If the horse complied, you might show appreciation by letting him eat the grass over "there" when you say it's ok and on your terms. I try to always keep training fair and balanced. I want to give my horse as much as he gives me. That means giving him things he truly likes ie. Grass, a groom with my hands not brushes, healthy treats like carrots and apples, or a roll etc...down time...Remember all interaction with your horse is an opportunity...
More oats for thought....
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7.07.2011

Lipizzan Soccer, Horse-fun-ship, How and why

I recently posted this video with one of my students and a Lipizzan playing with a ball. It is part of my Horse-fun-ship series but I wanted to explain more how and why I do "Playing" like this.

When we first started working with this mare, she was very dominant, somewhat spooky, unfocused, and disinterested in interacting with us. She came into the arena and just wanted to leave. She was also PETRIFIED of that ball. We have been working with her for about 6-8 months and she now dives for her halter and bridle and shows total focus in the ring whether at Liberty, riding and/or Playing. We started with Carolyn Resnick's Waterhole Rituals to build connection, bond and trust and then moved into Playing Advanced Liberty and Games around everyday tasks. I am always astounded by how quickly horses seek to connect when played with this way. They become so interested and curious and playful. All you need is your own creativity to guide the fun. I have seen even some really serious cases turn around in a few months time to my surprise as I always go in with no idea how long things will take.

Ball and Toy/prop work is fun and a great way to get horses bolder, bring out their Play/herd instincts and teach them to focus on a task and build bond and connection. I don't like to use the word desensitize as much because it is over done and misused to the point of breaking trust and shutting horses down in some cases. I prefer to try to get the horse to play with things that they are afraid of or find hidden surprise treats in scary areas. This changes their perception quickly and provides a positive reinforcement for getting brave.

To start the ball game, you can start with a food and verbal reward when they touch the ball and build from there. You can use voice commands and hand signals as well. Another way is to put the food under the ball and show them to move it to find the food.
So if you haven't seen the video here it is....Lipizzan Soccer!
http://youtu.be/qGK9FW3h7os
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6.22.2011

Confident Horseman exercise part 3...Change your mind, Change your horse


Riding Mercury Bridless requires me to be completely focused on what I want to have happen and not what bad and dangerous things could happen...

I will be offering for those who want to participate, a Flower Essence mix suggestion for a new approach to dealing with fear in the horse and person. It will complement the next exercise which has 3 steps to it, is the hardest but also the most powerful.

The next part of the exercise is:

Step 1: Learn how to identify fear coming up in yourself as it starts. Then recognize the fearful or negative thoughts that follow.
Example: "Oh my horse is scared of dogs, and hear comes one" the next thought may be "oh he's going to spook and I'm going to fall off!"
So this is how the fearful mind starts to gain power or the situation.

Step 2: Recognize the the thoughts coming up and make a choice to change them to a positive thought.
Example: "I am now changing my mind about this" We are walking calmly past the dog, and nothing is going to happen" You'll note I said "we" not the horse is going to. "We" is a team, a partnership. You can add calm deep breathing to release your own fear and tension and mirror to your horse. Two other very powerful exercises is to visualize you and your horse doing exactly what you'd like. So I'd see me and my horse walking calmly past the dog together. I'd see that picture in my mind and hold it and breath. Some of you may find it nearly inpossible to not visualize a bad experience so instead, I want you to visualize something calming and soothing that may have nothing to do with that moment. Examples would be a sunset, A beach, doing yoga, a hot bath, even a glass of wine! Hold that though until you can own it and the moment has passed. This takes practice but it does become a new thought pattern with time.

Step 3: I consider an advanced exercise and a goal to set for yourselves. It involves getting to the point where you don't even get to a place of fear anymore when a possible situation arises. This is when you have mastered the power of the mind.
Example: You are riding toward the dog and you immediately send a picture of the two of you walking calmly passed the dog. In this scenario you exhibit what I call Calm Leadership. You recognize the horses concern and using positive visualization. you "Lead" your horses mind to a calm place with yours. You maintain clear focus and your horse has confidence in your Leadership and guidance. We don't want our horse to feel like he has to take over every time he is afraid because we get just as frightened as him.

One other scenario I want to talk about is "Real" fear, necessary, sensible, self preservation fear. This is the voice that says "We are in real danger and we need to get safe. That is the time to listen to your instincts and stay as clear as possible. Try to learn the difference between your gut telling you the truth and your mind taking over control of clear thinking.

As for the Flower Essence part of this. There are Essences that can help release the grip of fear and "Stuck Thinking Patterns" I am offering to help anyone who may feel they need additional help of Flower  Essences to help release a really stuck pattern in themselves and or their horse. Respond in the comments section. Let me know how your confidence is improving!
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6.08.2011

From Fearful to Confident Horsemanship...

Mercury has been a very good teacher to me about Calm leadership , focus and clear thinking...













Carrying on the theme for the last post of using positive thought patterns and breaking stuck thinking patterns, I want to continue with more ideas for working through and past fear. We cannot be seen in a leadership position if we are mirroring fear to our horses all the time.

People often want a trainer to make the horse fearless so they can be less afraid. But at the same time we need to work on our fears because a horse will mirror back whatever you are feeling. An example is a horse being calm when I work with him because I am exhibiting Calm Leadership. This same horse can be given back to his person who is afraid and the horse begins to mirror the person he is with. Horses are in the moment with whoever they are with. Some horses are generous and confident of nature and not as bothered by a person being fearful around them. Others are too un-confident themselves to have a person be the same.

If you find yourself in this situation, It is good to start breaking down the issues into little achievable goals. The first thing to do is to get an idea of what your fears really are.

There are three fears I see when working with people. 1. I am afraid of certain things but my horse is actually quite confident. In this scenario, you are working on your own fears and your horse may actually build confidence. 2. You are afraid of your horses behavior because you have had an accident or you think you could have one with him. So you are actually afraid of your horse. 3. You are afraid and your horse is afraid as well. You both need to work together to become more confident as a team. It also ok to find another partner if it seems like a better situation for both horse and person. Sometimes this is the best option.

So if you thought about those 3 categories and thought you might fit in one, you are on your way to becoming a more Confident horseman.

The exercise is to write down a list of what exactly you are afraid of and also what you are not afraid of. Be as detailed as possible. Also write down what you would like to be able to do as a goals that you are afraid to do now. If you would like to share these lists in the comments section, please do so as we can all learn from each others experience. I will post the next step in the next post.
http://fdhorsetraining.com/

5.27.2011

Thought

Mercury and I are thinking the same thought here...























Energy follows thought...."Think" about that. What it means is, what you think, dwell on, worry about, or visualize is drawn to you and broadcast back out like a radio wave.

This week, the theme in lessons and training was overwhelmingly, change your mind, change your experience which of course goes right to your horse.

I caught myself not helping my situation with Mercury where he was spooking and I got mentally "stuck" on the behavior and it kept happening at the same spot in the arena on each pass. After about the 3rd time, I said to myself " why aren't you thinking about him going past this point calmly and thinking of the destination after the scary spot. As soon as I did that, He went past the rest of the ride with minimal fuss. Thank you Merc for the reminder to stop focusing on what was happening and think about what I would like to have happen.

A phrase I often say is "If you are not happy with a current situation, think about how it would look if it went the way you wanted."

Another statement I give to new riders is, If you think about falling off all the time, you will think it into reality. The horse will keep getting this mental  "text message" of you hitting the ground. And....he will think that is where you want to go! If you think about your horse spooking all the time, he will think about spooking etc.

It's human nature to get caught in negative thought cycles and also to want perfection and a feeling of being totally safe. So what if we went to the barn every time we saw our horse and said "We are perfect" and "I feel safe with you" or "My horse and I are not afraid" Every statement has the ability to move you toward the place you want to go or hold you in a "stuck" pattern.

Here is a list of examples of how you can switch your thinking which in turn will send a positive message to your horse.

1. "I am not a good/confident rider." Positive: I am becoming more confident all the time, I am a confident rider. Horse hears " I am not a leader" or I am becoming a better leader.

2. "I am stiff" Positive: I more flexible, balanced and strong everyday. Your horse hears "I am a good rider and getting better all the time"

3. "That transition was bad, my circles are horrible, I am terrible at "X" etc. Positive: These transitions are improving, My circles are so much better than 6 months ago, We are really improving "X" Your horse hears " I can never get it right no matter what" Or "We are having a good ride/liberty etc!"

I could go on but you probably get the point. The exercise is write down all the "Negatives" you say about anything especially goals and then write a positive statement that reflects the outcome of what you'd like to see REALLY happen. How ever long it takes. More oats for thought! : ) Let's hear some thoughts in the comment section!

http://fdhorsetraining.com/

5.11.2011

Conversation

Mercury and I having a Lively Conversation! The most fun ones!
As I have become more experienced in my approach to horses, I have learned the value of a Two way quality Conversation with a horse as I value a good conversation with a person.

I often see in my travels, People shouting, talking over, and cutting off their horses side of the Conversation. I look at it like a bad conversation with a person. I wouldn't like it if someone asked me question, then before I had a chance to reflect on it, asked me three more questions then just when I was about to "Try" to respond, cut me of and yelled at me (so to speak) for not answering quick enough and getting the answer right. I would start to not want to be in that conversation anymore.

 Being good with a horse has as much to do with Being a good Listener as it does to a good conversationalist and being a Quality "Leader".

My conversation would look something like this. I'd let the horse start by telling me some things and then I'd come in with an "I understand" and "I see your point" and a "I could definitely see how you could see it that way" and then a question like "How about if I asked you to do "X" "How would you feel about that?" and then I'd leave space for him to tell me how he felt about it. Good or bad.

So what does a bad Conversation look like? Well for starters it looks like "Talking or Making orders" too quickly with not enough space in between for your horse to read what you said, respond positively or try to change the subject. Trying to change to subject means just that. Your horse saying "Hmmm I hear what you're saying, but maybe we could eat grass instead or "fill in the blank"...

It could also look like your horse not being clear about your request because it was too fast or too complicated and needs to be spoken slower and maybe spelled out one letter at a time. Meaning break it down to very small steps.

And my personal favorite is Are You Speaking Clearly AND Thoughtfully. If you are unclear about how to explain your request to your horse, Don't expect him to be clear about it either. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try to do it if you aren't clear. It just means be as clear and precise as you possibly can so your requests are easy to follow. Imagine someone trying to explain a concept to you in a foreign language but they're not quite sure how to get it across....Sounds tough right?...Exactly.

I often look at the different incarnations of Natural Horsemanship and Traditional Horsemanship and they all are some sort of "Horseglish" or "Eqglish" if you will. You will understand if you've ever heard the term "Spanglish" It means no matter how good you speak "Horse", you'll speak it with a human accent and the accent of the place you're from and throw in a few Human words when you need them. That actually means our horses learn to understand "Horseglish" as well.

So Training or your time with your horse should be a great conversation. One that stimulates both of you, makes you both think, laugh, sometimes a whisper, sometimes loud, and sometimes lively and animated. But you both walk away feeling like you listened to each other and made strides to wherever you may be going together. Also remember, a conversation that seems firm and about yours or your horses "likes" and "dislikes" (if you know what I mean) can lead to a better working partnership just as it would between you and another person. More food for thought....
http://fdhorsetraining.com/

5.04.2011

The beginning stages of Bridless Dressage

I have been gradually working on more and more Bridless work and have jumped and worked out in the open fields. I am aiming toward more Dressage precise work as we get more adept at it. In this video, I am working on a simple circle (easier said than done!) and walk, trot, and canter in a nice balance and bend.

What I like about this work is it keeps the focus on riding from your body (I'm still not used to what to do with my hands when there are no reins!), It encourages the horse to pick their own outline (or frame or head set). It is proof to me that a horse can go in a correct outline by choice and without a bit or any tack on his head for that matter. It is very free feeling and it requires us to REALLY communicate. The less equipment you have, the more clear communication has to be. It is an exercise in trust, communication, focus, calmness, balance and poise.

This work is a joy and has been very interesting to figure out how it can be done and exhilarating when it is actually achieved. More to come as always!
http://fdhorsetraining.com/

*Farah DeJohnette training does not encourage or promote bridless riding. Do not attempt this.

4.15.2011

St. Vincent's Clinic: Last day and overview

Here is the last video clip and installment of the Waterhole Rituals, and Rituals and Yoga for Riding Clinic.

I met Stina through Carolyn Resnick as I have met many great people through her work. I knew I had to go to St. Vincent as soon as I saw Stina's videos. Who doesn't think that! I couldn't remember exactly how we connected but I do remember her asking me about doing a clinic about a year ago and I said YES immediately! Where do I sign up?, how do I make this happen?!

There are times in your life when you "know" something is meant to be and you are not sure why but you just know you are supposed to do it and it will be a great experience and you trust that.

This first clinic was exactly what I envisioned and so much more! Stina and I share a vision, passion, and spirit that was inspiring, fun, and magical to create around. Her herd was incredible to work with as I got to know each one during the clinic by working with them on various Rituals and Exercises. Darling, her lead mare was especially wonderful to have as a teaching partner and I dubbed her my Caribbean horse partner! The people that attended the clinic some of which were students of mine and some which were new to me, were a wonderful mix horse lovers who share the same ideas about how we want to be and work with our horses.

We inspired and learned from each other and the horses. Once I studied the environment and mix of people and horses I had, I was able to let the students and horses guide the lessons and teaching. As always I learned by staying open and flexible, valuable lessons presented themselves in each moment and we explored them as such. I could not have done this without having such a great combination of participants because although we had a program, we had some great spontaneous activities woven in too which added to the magical fun.

I know we throw around the word Magic a lot and I'll tell you why it was magical. Time seems to stand still there, it allows us to fully explore things in the moment, the environment is so beautiful, it soothes you mind and soul. The freedom of the horses to express who they are and participate in the class as willing teachers makes the exercises a joy and full of unexpected surprises and offers from them. It shows me yet again the Magic that horses bring to all those who are blessed enough to share their lives with them.

Once Stina and I got together it was clear that we had kindred spirits and vision and an insatiable appetite for fun and adventure! I knew this was the first but certainly not the last clinic. In fact, I think we came up with about 900 plus! I had to tell her to write them down because we kept coming up with so many! So we'll keep you posted on our next one which could be as soon as November 2011. Please contact me if you are interested at this link http://fdhorsetraining.com/Contactfdt.html

http://www.carolynresnickblog.com/

http://stinaherberg.wordpress.com/clinics/

http://fdhorsetraining.com/

4.04.2011

Greetings from St. Vincent's! First installment

Jack, Elena, and Darling in their pasture overlooking the ocean
So I am in paradise with all these great people and these great horses that Stina Herberg has done a beautiful job with. I don't want to rub it in but it is soooo fun and soooo beautiful, I can barely call it work!

I arrived to incredible hospitality, a paradise environment, horses and warm, friendly faces. It is PERFECT! Stina and I Shared Territory a bit the first night with the herd so they could get to know me and be comfortable before we started working together.

People arrived the next day and we got settled for Monday's first day of the Clinic. More Sharing Territory with the horses and checking out the beautiful beaches and scenery.

Monday morning started with some centering and grounding Yoga, Positive Visualizations, and goal setting for the coming week. The horses guided the exercises as Stina and I went over Carolyn Resnick's Waterhole Rituals in the morning and did some Liberty Grooming, Halter/Bridling game, and Picking up feet game at Liberty in the afternoon. Of course the horses worked their magic and produced some surprising wonderful ideas and offers of their own.

Here's link to some of the first pictures...More to come plus video!


http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=114736&id=1484531246&l=17cda34ddf


http://fdhorsetraining.com/

3.27.2011

Soft vs. Light

Here I am working with a Mare that had a tendency to be Braced in her Mind and movement on a Mind and Body softening exercise...
Soft versus light is an interesting comparison that sometimes there is confusion about. Depending on who you talk to you will get different interpretations.

My Interpretation of Light is a horse or a response to a cue that is very sensitive or even reactive or Over-reactive. So there are degrees of lightness that can actually be too light. The horse may over react or move too quickly so the movement or action is too fast and lacks quality and flow. This is for sure desireable in some disciplines but it can cause mis-communications between horse and rider. This can be a horses natural temperament or tendency or they can be taught to be "Lighter" in their responses if they are a bit un-reactive or slow to react.

Softness to me is about Suppleness, flexibility, a calm mind and flow in the horses movement, body, and mind. There is Relaxation, Rhythm, and fluidness between horse and rider whether you are moving at speed or slow. You'll note that I said a calm mind because to me you can not have true "Whole" softness without a calm, trusting, happy, minded horse. You can not manufacture softness with gadgets, bits, and force.

Now let's talk about Light versus Soft in the Rider. A rider can be Light all the time in their communication or very heavy handed figuratively speaking. Using strong cues always "shouting" so to speak at the horse. This will cause a horse to become perhaps no longer Light where he once was. So we want to be careful of training that into a horse and thinking it's their problem not one we created. A person needs to understand the full spectrum of  "Request levels" starting with a whisper and escalating to a firmer (not louder) Conversation and everything in between.

Which leads to Softness in the person. All the same things apply here Suppleness, flexibility, a calm mind and flow in the persons movement, body, and mind. There is Relaxation, Rhythm, and fluidness between horse and person because you are able to effectively mirror the traits you are asking for from your horse. And again without the calm, happy, mind and body, you can not have true "Whole" softness in yourself.

It is always good to ask yourself as the Leader in the relationship between you and your horse, if you can do what you are are asking your horse to do whether it's be Calm, Be Fearless/Courageous, Flexible, Responsive, Energetic or Quiet. Whatever it may be, It starts with us.

http://fdhorsetraining.com/

3.02.2011

Challenges...

My partnership with Mercury is proof that challenges can lead to amazing places...
How many of you view stumbling blocks and challenges with your horses as opportunities? Opportunities to build trust, training, communication and connection amongst other things.

Fear in the rider, Fear in the horse or both are common challenges. Other ones can be about a variety of things from jumping problems, trailer loading, separation issues, Dressage, Reining, whatever your discipline or goals with your horse, you are bound to have run into some personal challenges along the way. Challenges with your horse can be based in confusion, discomfort, and dominance as well.

So here is the REAL challenge. Can you stop, breathe, evaluate and creatively problem solve WITH your horse so that the experience strengthens your connection, trust and furthers your partnership? If you can't figure it out today, can you leave it and meditate (even do some visualizations) on it and come back to it when you are more clear about how to work through it in a positive way?

The last few years, I have had several non-cookie cutter challenging horsenalities come through my program including my favorite boy, Mercury. It seems most of my clients have found themselves also with challenging horses in their lives as well. What has happened though is these horses have brought many valuable lessons and understanding with them as well as a sense of huge achievement when progress is made at home or in the show ring. Something you don't get from an easier counterpart.

My horse Mercury who I have dubbed my equine four legged soul mate, Has challenged me at many turns with his antics, mischief, clowning, dominance and spookiness. I also have the deepest partnership and connection with this horse I have ever had. I have learned infinite things from him about stallions (he's now gelded), the power of deep connection and trust when things get sticky and scary, and loving him for who he is purely and not his talent, athleticism and incredible good looks (he'd want me to add that...He thinks he's a super model!).

So as an exercise, you could write down any challenges you are having with your riding or your horse. Then pick one thing off the list and see if you can find a way to make that challenge a positive growth experience for you and your horse. You can enlist some outside help or even ask me in the comments section for some help. Let me know what you come up with and how it goes.
http://fdhorsetraining.com/

FDT

2.15.2011

Upcoming Playshop with The Horses at Alderlore

For those of you who don't know already. A Playshop with Bonnitta Roy of the Horses at Alderlore will be offered at Back Acres Farm February 27th Sunday starting at 9:30.

In this Playshop, you will learn Freestyle Dancing at Liberty with horses.
Learn how to use body language to create "dance steps" with your horse, utilizing basic natural dressage movements at liberty - yielding of the hindquarters, turn on the shoulders, turn on the hindquarters, and lateral side steps in both directions. Gypsie Wings & Bonnie will demonstrate how to work these basic movements into various dance steps, from which you can build a repetoire of movements; and participants can learn them with their own horses.


Limited spaces are available to people to work with our horses or yours and unlimited auditing is available. It will be $50.00 to participate with a horse and $25.00 to audit.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Bonnitta's work, it is fun, in tune with the horses and really gets you thinking about your timing and body language being clear. She is inspired by the work of Klaus Hempfling, Carolyn Resnick, and Karen Rolfe. She is also a Qi Gong Master and uses this mastery of energy to work with the horses. I really enjoy watching her work with her horses but especially horses she has never worked with before. For more info go to Alderlore.Org for more info you can also contact me at http://fdhorsetraining.com/Contactfdt.html

http://fdhorsetraining.com/

2.04.2011

Yoga and Horsemanship: Breathing exercise part 2

Phoenix focusing on her relaxation techniques...
This week I want to give you another Yoga exercise to follow up the breathing one from the last post.

Since the last one I hope you found a new found attention to the breath and noticed the changes it made in yourself and your horse. I mentioned that you should just notice your breathing patterns and feel your body and the horses. Paying attention to when there was tension or ease. Whether the breath flowed or was held, was deep, or shallow.

Now your practice will involve conscious, focused, regular breathing. I want you to use this when you are preparing to ride, working on the ground or in the saddle. From the start of your interaction with your horse, I want you to focus on regular rhythmic breathing. Normal breathing. I want you to listen to your own breath. Breath audibly so you and your horse can hear it. Also try to synchronize your breath with your horse. This is a very powerful connecting exercise. Don't worry if you lose track of the breath. Just come back to it and focus on it again.

I would love to hear your experiences in the comments area!

http://fdhorsetraining.com/

Check out these Yoga resources for more info!
   

1.18.2011

Yoga and Horsemanship

What do sea turtles have to do with Yoga...
There breath is very important to them! They're pros at it!















Some of you may already know the benefits of Yoga and it's practice. You may not know however, about the benefits it can have to your riding.

Yoga is an ancient study that has many forms but there are some very basic moves that can be applied directly to riding and even be done mounted or on the ground prior to mounting.

The first principle of Yoga I want to bring attention to is the breath. It is important to pay attention to the breath at all times. This goes for everyday activity and Riding and even groundwork!

I am going to be offering some tips in the coming weeks on my blog about ways to integrate yoga into your riding practice. The first exercise I want to give you is simply to pay attention to your breath and notice things.  Notice when you are breathing normally, notice when you are breathing shallow, notice when you are holding your breath, notice how your whole body feels when you breath in. Do you notice any tense spots? Any stuck areas? Do you feel ease?

Just pay attention to all these things without judging them. It will begin to help you get into your body and in turn connect better to your horse and the things you do together. This is the first step. Then I'll add something else next time. Let me know what you find in the comments section.
Also be sure to check out our clinic in St Vincent on Waterhole Rituals, Riding and Yoga at http://stinaherberg.wordpress.com/clinics/ Hope to see you there!
http://fdhorsetraining.com/

1.05.2011

Upcoming Clinic on Waterhole Rituals, Yoga and more in St Vincent's!

I am soooo excited to be offering this Clinic with Stina Herberg! This is a wonderful opportunity to work in paradise with Stina's wild horses, and Stina and I. We will be covering Carolyn Resnick's Waterhole Rituals and how to apply them to riding. We will also be covering Yoga and it's application to riding for optimal connection when mounted. The dates as follows will be 4/4/11-4/9/11. Feel free to book a few extra days to explore this beautiful place and see all the other activities available at the Richmond Vale Hiking center. See link to her blog and the important details so you can plan ahead for this once in a life time clinic experience! Here is another beautiful video from Stina Herberg to give you a feel for what's in store. Here is the link to the more info. Contact Stina or I for additional questions. Do Not Miss This!
http://stinaherberg.wordpress.com/clinics/