Happy Holidays! and New Year exercise

What an amazing year! These are just a few of the photos I have to remind me of all the cool stuff that happened. I hope everyone had great holidays so far. It is that time again for reflection and setting positive goals for the New Year. Every January, I look at where I was a year ago, where I am now, and where I'd like to go over the next 12 months. I am usually astounded at where I have been over the year and where I have landed.

I highly recommend this exercise for everyone because I find that people often don't appreciate how far they and their horses have come. I always notice everyone's progress (no matter how small it may seem to you) and I am so pleased with what I see my students accomplishing with their horses. It is truly beautiful to watch and makes me so happy. The only thing I regret is you often don't see it in yourselves. It is affirmation to me that anyone can learn this way of being and training. You all are proving that! Adults and children alike. It is so much fun to witness!

I recently came back from doing a clinic in New Zealand and Australia if you didn't know. Some people came back from the year before. I was so impressed with the work they were doing with their horses after having been in only one clinic and with limited support. Proof of how far you can come in a year.

I have already seen people's photos who I met in the Australia clinic making huge progress with their horses and it's only been a couple of weeks since I left! What will they be up to in a year!

My goals for 2013 are to find my farm that I have been looking for, for some time and set up a home base for FDH. This farm would host more clinics and allow me to really take things to the next level. oohh, I have lots of exciting visions for this place. I want to continue as always to improve with my horses in whatever we do together. I am enjoying my journey with Mercury so much. I just wish to continue to do so. I always wish to deepen my understanding of horses an horsemanship so that I can improve and in turn be a better teacher and trainer to you all and your horses.

Your exercise is to write down what you think has improved with you and your horse or horses over the last year. Where you were a year ago and where you are now. This can be anything at all from what you personally have improved, what you and your horse have improved, to what has improved with your horses character, condition or training.

Once you have done that, I want you to write where you would like to be by next January. The true key to goal setting is having a vivid picture in your mind of what you see as a goal whether it is improved connection, a technical training skill, more confidence etc.) Try to see what that would look or feel like if you had already achieved it. Then, just start walking toward that goal without any attachment to how you will get there, how much time it will take or what you will do. Just a firm belief that you can and will get there. Then, sit back and enjoy each and every little step of that journey for the next year. Try to really savor it and remember it as you go along even if it seems like nothing is happening. There is a saying that when you think nothing is happening, that is when something is happening. I love to hear some of your thoughts on this. Happy New Year!  


Back from Down Under!

Well I am back home from New Zealand and my first trip to Australia. I had a great time and saw some of the same friends from the year before and a whole bunch of new ones.

 I am constantly struck by the cool people who are drawn to the clinics. For me it shows me that all over the world, we are on a similar path and want the same things for ourselves and our horses. I am making new horse and human friends like crazy!

I got incredibly positive feedback from people and some really touching moments. The highest praise you can give me is you and your horse had fun and I helped you move forward positively on your journey with your horse. I get a deep sense of satisfaction when I see smiling faces and people and their horses really enjoying each other.

For those of you who didn't know, I was interviewed by Radio New Zealand's Kim Hill and have posted the podcast of that interview on this blog if you missed it. Kim was really nice and it was a lot of fun. Kim started the interview by reading from a very old training manual and all I have to say is thank god we have moved forward in our approach and relationships with our horses!

 Australia is an amazing place. There is so much different wildlife and Geography. I got to get up close and personal with some of the local wildlife at the Haven sanctuary. That was really fun. I held a baby Wallaby and scratched a Koala and Kangaroos. The bird life there is quite exotic and beautiful too. Lots of Parrot species. Anyway, I would like to thank Jack (my equine assistant) and his people Christin and Norris again for loaning him for the class. He was SPECTACULAR. He blew me away with how much he gave. He did the class with me the year before and otherwise didn't do much else until this year. It is a testament to the power of Carolyn Resnick's Waterhole Rituals. I'd like to thank Jarrah and his person Shaunna for loaning him for the Australia clinic class. He too proved the power of the work. I like working with these "clean slate" horses as they really showcase Real Time behavior and the pleasantly unpredictable but amazing results you can achieve with any horse.

 I'll close by wishing everyone Joyful holidays and New Year with your 2 leggeds and 4 leggeds! Enjoy the photos albums from the clinics in the below links 
Australia Clinic
NZ Clinic 


The Grazing Game

Here is a video Inspired by Carolyn Resnick's Grass exercises. This is an immensely helpful and important exercise. It takes very little time to get the horse to understand and is quite a nice way to play with grass areas. See more like this at http://fdhvirtualclinic.com/ 


Down under bound!

Jack teaching a participant last year...
For those of you who don't know, I am off to New Zealand and Australia in a couple of weeks. This will be my second trip to NZ (North Island) and my first to Australia (Victoria Area). I am super excited and happy to see a good turnout for the clinics. If you are interested in attending one of these clinics go to this link for info http://www.fdhorsemanship.com/#!calendar
You can also Contact me directly.

Last year's NZ clinic was super fun and I am pleased to see some of the same faces and horses again this year and some new ones. Jack, My 4 legged assistant has graciously volunteered again for Liberty class. He was a spectacular teaching assistant last time and I can't wait to see what lessons he will bring this time.

Clinics are fun for me because I see so many unique horse/human partnerships. It allows me to be  creative and to tailor the exercises to each individual so everyone gets something that works for their horse and their personality. Not a one size fits all approach. It also allows people to feel freer to explore and experiment with things and relax and have more fun. Learning and fun should always go together!

On November 29th, I will be getting interviewed by Kim Hill of Radio New Zealand National which is super cool! I'll let people know when this will be aired as soon as I know.

My sidekick and BFF Jesse, will be traveling with me once again and we always have great adventures when we are together so I will be sure to share photos and videos!

In Virtual Clinic news, I am starting to delve into Intermediate and Advanced Liberty exercises. Check out FDH Virtual Clinic here http://fdhvirtualclinic.com/

Happy Horsing around!


Liberty FUN!damentals

Here is a sample video clip from my Liberty FUN!damentals series. In this video you will see how I use my body language and Liberty foundation work to move into more advanced Liberty play and line and mounted preparation and problem solving. This work shows the very early stages of what it will take to move toward bending, more challenging Lateral work and Collection at Liberty. See more like it at http://fdhvirtualclinic.com/


Ear Pinning

I encourage expressiveness in my horses
Ear pinning is another debated topic amongst many horse people. I wrote a short time ago about tail swishing and some reasons horses do it. I feel that Ear Pinning warrants exploring as well.

First of all, I value both of these behaviors because they are ways horses communicate with each other and us. I have learned to pay very close attention to the timing and placement of these communications in all the horses I come in contact with.It gives me insight into many things the horse is trying to "say" whether it is to me or another horse or animal.

Here are several reasons I have seen ear pinning displayed:

  1. Horse wanting other horse( or human) to move (off food, territory or another horse)
  2. Horse does not agree with other horse or humans actions. (*Note I said "agree" does not make said actions right or wrong)
  3. Horse does not like the feeling of something (maybe it is ticklish or annoying in some way)
  4. Horse is in genuine discomfort or illness
  5. Horse is this type of horsenality (opinionated) (some horses are more likely to pin and communicate this way because they are dominant, big horsenalities and quick to assert themselves)
  6. In a so called "aggressive" horse (in my experience usually an abused horse that has become defensive but can just be a bully) it can be a warning of aggressive behavior ie. biting and kicking

In my Training work, I have to put the Communication in context to know how it fits in and how to proceed. I think it is wrong to assume when a horse pins there ears you are doing something "wrong" It could be as simple as what I call "a difference of opinion" between horse and person or horse and other horse. When people have differences of opinion, we will let the person know. Sometimes we can agree to disagree and sometimes we can get the horse to agree if we acknowledge this disagreement and "talk" it over together. Often when I see this communication, I will say out loud to the horse "I am listening and I see your point" "I definitely see how you could see it that way" Then I think of how I could communicate to them so we can have a meeting of the minds. This acknowledgement of their opinions and feelings allows me to shape the work around the horse.

I tend to attract and work with many very Dominant horses who have learned to be pushy and even dangerous to handle. When they come to me. They have usually developed these patterns for two reasons. They were handled by people who may not have had the tools to communicate with this type of horse, or the horse has been abused and instead of shutting down has learned to protect himself.
Both these horses can be communicated to in different ways but they may exhibit pinned ears for different reasons. The Dominant horses may not like having to reason with me at first and my requests for more space around food or to move off or away. They will often give me huffy expressions and swishes and ears back in a "who do you think you are to move me away from my food!" "I do the moving around here" Once they understand my requests and that I will quickly praise the right choices. Ears are forward and expression becomes "hmm you are asking interesting questions...I am interested in what you have to say!"  They know that I will always listen to them and they will be heard.

Mercury is Dominant and food territorial and will pin his ears if asked to stand back from his food at times. It is easy for me to see why he would do that around that request.

So when you see this communication pay close attention. If you don't know the horse well, be cautious until you know the context of the Ear pinning and what they are trying to say. See if you can learn to read this communication by watching how horses use it amongst themselves. More oats for thought.


6 things...

We tend to focus a lot on "doing" things "right" with our horses. The right riding, the right training, the right equipment etc.

I often say to people your horse doesn't care about how well you ride or whether you think he's so much more talented then you can do justice, or whether he's not exploring his potential. These are people projections. What horses seek from us is Connection, Clarity, Authenticity, Leadership, Joy, and being Present in whatever we happen to be "doing" or "not doing" together. We tend to bring a lot of mental clutter to our horses and that clutter clouds our connection.

So let's break these down one by one:

Connection: Means taking the time to form a friendship and bond with your horse through exercises like Carolyn Resnick's Waterhole Rituals. Then taking that Connection to everything else you do with your horse.

Clarity: Falls under the "no mental clutter" rule. Being clear about your communication and intention and not worrying about anything else will create a pleasant and frustration free exchange between you and your horse.

Authenticity: Means being real with yourself and your horse. Not being perfect, being real. Acknowledging fear, frustration, limitations, negative thinking and emotions are a pathway to mental clarity and freedom to just be where you are each day with your horse without judgement towards you or your horse.

Leadership: is an a term which can mean a lot of things. In my world it means looking out for my horses needs as much as my own, mutual respect, Taking care of each other. and never putting my horse in a position where he cannot trust me to make the best possible decision with both our needs in mind.

Joy: should be present as much as possible when you are with your horse. Authenticity allows you to be with your horse and say, I'm frustrated right now, or I am angry or sad. This is ok, it's real. But don't take it out on your horse and don't pretend you are not having these feelings. You aren't fooling your horse. Recognize it and acknowledge it, he has. For most of us. Our horses bring us instant joy on sight. I know that my horse actually can uplift me from these feelings so he actually helps me feel joy. Remember, we are mirrors.

Being Present: Not only is this important, it is tantamount to your safety around a horse or in life in general. It is also tantamount to your richness of experience and connection with your horse and life. If you are not present, you cannot connect to anyone or any being. You are also not aware of the subtle exchanges that are so important to the deep Connection. The things I focus on in my time with horses are so small and fine and yet so big in effect on the whole, it is what I help people focus on more and more in my teaching. The little things that have a huge impact.

If you can remember things when you are with your horse, you will always enjoy the interaction and your horse will too. More oats for thought.


Horsemanship for Wellbeing

I'd like to talk about Well-being and how we can approach our horsemanship with both of our Well being as a priority.

As a trainer who does Yoga, I very much bring the Yogic mind to my work, teaching and training. This is not only in the physical sense of a flexible strong posture, but also the mind-body connection.

In pursuit of the best relationship and training program possible with my horse. I must focus first on the Connection and Friendship, Then I must stay mindful of who my horse is, where they are in there physical state, and what is most fun, healthy and beneficial to them.

Combining a Natural Approach to Classical Dressage with Yoga and Physical Therapy Principles allows me to bring my horses along in a way that is supportive to not just their bodies but their minds as well. I see myself as a sort Yoga instructor/Physical therapist for my horses. Part of my daily work is to come up with gentle supportive Liberty-Line-Mounted progressions that are not only beneficial but fun for both of us. In Yoga, you never push the body beyond what it can comfortably do and still stay breathing and relaxed. You listen to the body very carefully and do just enough to have a benefit.

An important mind set to have when working with a horse is that you are a Physical therapist or Yoga instructor. I call it staying in the PTYI (Physical Therapist/Yoga Instructor) mind. When we stay in this mind, we wont push a horse harder then is beneficial for their Well being. When you introduce an exercise, Imagine it is your horses' first Yoga or PT session ever. Then imagine yourself having to go to your first Yoga/Pilates class. You would like an instructor who would not ask you for anything harder then you could do. If you were sore and even injured after the first session, you most certainly wouldn't want to go back for another session.

Classical Dressage is in fact Yoga/Pilates/Physical Therapy for horses. It belongs in every program regardless of discipline as the training foundation. Thoughtfully and conscientiously applied, it can improve your connection further with your horse on the ground and mounted. It can help your horses mind-body connection and can rehabilitate some horses that have extreme Symmetry issues. 

It can become a form of meditation together if you avoid the Left brain, perfection, hamster wheel trap so many people fall into. Each day you can meet together and do your "Yoga" session at Liberty, In Hand and Mounted. It doesn't matter whether you ride Western or English. It's all good.

I will be adding new exercises and patterns to the FDHorsemanship Virtual Clinic so be sure to check it out! In the mean time, Enjoy this video which to me, shows all facets of what I look for in my program with my horses. Joy, Fun, Connection, Technical play, fitness and suppleness play, and horse Yoga and Physical Therapy!


Labor Day Clinic 2012: The Mercury Show Part 1

The Labor day Clinic at Back Acres farm was really fun and interesting as always! It is a fairly local location for me so I am able to offer some truly special experiences that I can't when I travel abroad and farther afield.

One of the experiences I can offer is a twist on my Liberty class. I usually offer this in my 3 day clinics, but in this one, it is done with a herd. This is a great way to get to work with a group of horses and really see how special this work is. At my UK clinic at the New Horse and this one I have the ability to lease horses to participants for the 3 days. In this particular clinic, I did not assign horses but let people Share Territory (Carolyn Resnick) with the horses in the herd setting and then tell me which horse they resonated with. No Surprise to me, everyone picked the horse I would have given them on their own. Funny how that works! Because of my Liberty-Line-Mounted progression, The people who leased horses get to see how the work allows you to build connection with a completely new horse in a short time and how it flows beautifully into the Line and Mounted work. I saw people and horses they had never met, or ridden in wonderful harmony right up to Mounted FUN!damentals. Amazing to see!

I was also able to offer my local team of Holistic practitioners from Ravenhill Equine Wellness to work on and demonstrate Natural Balance dentisty and Equine Chiropractic on participants horses. Otherwise known as The Whole approach to Horsemanship.

 Last but certainly not least, I can bring Mercury in for his personal appearance so he can share his thoughts on Being Fantastic, Connection, Liberty, Bitless Riding, and Bridless Bareback Dressage. This Clinic will be my Annual Flagship clinic. So don't miss out on the next one! Also keep a watch for Ravenhill Equine Wellness and Farah DeJohnette Horsemanship Horsie Spa days. I'll Keep you posted! Here is the Part one of the Mercury Show. Once again Mercury showed me what Love, Connection, Joy, and fun are all about. Enjoy!


The Natural Outline

The Natural collected outline in Piaffe with my Liberty Rein
There has been much opinion and dispute over the correct "frame" "headset" or Outline a horse should have for various disciplines or activities.

As usual, I decided after studying all these points of view to go to the experts to ask them what they think. The experts are the horses. I ask them a lot about what works and doesn't work for them. Sometimes we (humans) decide that we know better then our horses and I think that's when we get into trouble.

I started exploring the natural outline at Liberty and watching horses with no tack. I then looked at conformations, movement, training, and habitual postures. I have the good fortune to work with many disciplines and breeds. It is easy to work with a nicely put together horse that is suited for a discipline. But, I am always most gratified to take horses on that are needing rehabilitation. With proper dressage exercises and good Fundamentals(and possibly some chiropractic and acupuncture), even the seemingly most challenged horses can have dramatic turnarounds.

This takes time and it is not a fast fix. There is often atrophy, asymetry and muscle memory patterns that will take patient, careful plans to overcome. It is a lot like Physical therapy in some cases. It can change from day to day and require constant adjustment to the needs of the horse.

All horses require time and patience regardless of talent, or conformation. In fact often the most ruined horses are the ones that show promise. They get rushed through the levels of training because of their ability. Their good nature is taken advantage of and or they are injured in the process. They are often mentally depleted as a result.

The exercises I use are centered around Liberty and my Liberty rein because they allow the horse the freedom to show me where they want to carry their posture. They are trained from where they tell me to start. You can do theses exercises with my Bitless bridle, Halter, or Bitted bridle. Another reason to choose the Liberty rein is that is will deter you from being able to pull on the horses head. The Liberty rein allows you to focus on your communication and body language and removes the temptation of controlling the horses head. Watch your horse without tack and let him show you where to start. See Natural Outline Liberty rein exercises at the FDHorsemanship Virtual Clinic


Probiotics: Equine Wellness tip

Probiotics are an important part of my Wellness program with my horses and dogs and even myself! Probiotics are, if you don't know, microorganisms that are beneficial for overall health and wellness.

Probiotics have been shown to:
  • Enhance the immune system's ability to fight infections throughout our tissues
  • Provide a source of Vitamin K
  • Control bowel toxicity
  • Reduce gas production.
  • Reduced incidence of Colic
  • Improved digestion, nutrition absorption and food utilization.
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Reduced Candida (thrush) symptoms.
  • Reduced allergy response.
  • Rebalance the gut when administering Anti-biotics
  • Rebalance the gut after de-worming
  • Beneficial to prevention and healing of Ulcers

Specific Probiotic strains and strengths are beneficial for certain health issues. It is good to know which ones are in the products you select and how many viable organisms are in each serving. For starters you want about 2 billion minimum. See some general Strains listed here:

Bacillus coagulans 
This strain can be helpful for Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Chronic Intestinal inflammation which is becoming more common in horses. This probiotic strain can also help with immune response against viral challenge.

This strain is beneficial to digestion and vitamin absorption as well as Chronic diarrhea. It can benefit allergies and immune response. Can also help reduce stomach ulcers.

Lactobacillus acidophilus 
Best for Candida albicans (Thrush/Yeast infections) and helps reduce allergic response. Compared to other probiotics, Lactobacillus acidophilus survives the best in the conditions of the gastro intestinal tract when compared to other strains.

Lactobacillus casei
Is another strain that supports digestion, Nutrition absorption, and GI inflammatory issues. 

 I use Probiotics as a regular part of my Immune, Anti-Ulcer, Anti-Colic, Optimum nutrition approach. If you are looking for support for a specific health concern, check which profile may be best for best results. Here is the link to some high quality, different blends of Probiotics from Earthsong ranch:
Here is another good site for Probiotics


Tail Swishing

Fly Swishing
I thought it would be good to look into this particular body language in horses a bit more closely. I find it discussed quite a bit and thought I'd share my experience with it.

Horses and cats share a common expression with their tails with the exception of horses also obviously use their tails for fly protection as well as communication. I have observed horses tail swishing for a number of reasons.
  1. Annoyance
  2. Pain
  3. Dominance
  4. Communication with other horses or animals
  5. unique momentary communications
  6. Frustration
 In order to understand the source of the swishing and the communication behind it. I usually observe very carefully the exact time the tail swishing occurs.

I am working with a mare right now who swishes her tail in the canter because it hurts her. She also bucks in the canter so she is giving a communication of discomfort and therefore a warning that she may buck thereafter. This is clear communication. I learned this by observing her carefully at Liberty and on a Lunge line and noticing precisely the timing of this communication. It is helping know how she feels about things as I am rehabbing her for her owners. I also observe when I am grooming if a particular area I touch gets a swish. I need to see if this is a painful spot or if the horse is defensive/protective of a spot for some reason.

I have observed horses swishing at each other in their herds when they are communicating over various interactions. A horse may move another horse and swish at him or the horse being moved may swish at the request of being moved.

This leads me to dominance and swishing. Sometimes when we make requests that are new or are learning to be better Leaders, our horses will not be so thrilled at this change in the pattern of things. I often work with new students and their horses are quite content in their postion of "Leading their person. There may be some Swishing around Leadership Exercises and requests that usually diminish over time.

Sometimes in training when work is challenging or difficult, there will be momentary swishes. If this were to carry on with regularity, I would examine the practice and see where it needed to be adjusted.

Horses being very sensitive in general are likely to swish and new things touching them or touches that feel like flies or bugs landing or biting. For that matter they may even kick out or bite at it. Once they understand a touch or feel they will most likely stop unless they are extremely reactive types.

In instances of Annoyance or as I sometimes say a horse is Miffed. They can be expressing toward you emotions that are unique to that horse and it is on us to really tune in and "Know" our horses to interpret that communication. So watch for this body language in your horse and observe and see if you can find the different meanings. More oats for thought.


Horse Journal: Django's challenge

Friesian Liberty
Sharing Territory with Django
Django has gone back home to his person and I had a lot of fun with him. He did pose an interesting training challenge which Carolyn Resnick's Waterhole Ritual work held the only solution.

His person was not able to work with Django and I together more then a few times while he was with me. She lives out of state and it was difficult for her to come as often as she and I would have liked.

The challenge was/is an interesting one. Django had been with his person from 6 months old and though she did as much foundation work as she could, he had established some difficult behavior patterns with her.

He was dragging her around on the lead, he was very much in your personal space a lot and not easy to move (in fact quite opinionated about it!) He was extremely pushy around food and or feeding time. These are not difficult patterns to work with, but if you don't have the tools, they can be very frustrating if not dangerous.

I set about doing what I do over the time he was with me and we had some conversations over the Waterhole Rituals about how Django could maybe allow me to Lead him (I mean that literally and figuratively) and we got along great and he thought training was fun and showed up at the door each time I came to play with him.

I would text his person about how good he was and how much fun we were having and she saw his video updates as well so she could watch and learn how I was working with him. Then when we did get the chance to work together, she had some ideas about the exercises we were working with.

The challenges arose around the leading and line work. I actually had never had much issue with Django as I laid the foundations down for each stage of the Liberty, Line , Mounted progression. BUT when I would hand him over to his person to try what he had learned he would revert back to square one. He would pull her all over if not yank the line clean out of her hand and go where ever he pleased. When she would get the line back, he would just do it again and again and again. I also observed that he was still pushy with her around food despite how polite he had now become with me.

I knew some of this was because we hadn't been able to work together, but even to me it was excessive and disrespectful. I could see what he was doing to her was a pattern they had that was more deeply ingrained then I had anticipated. It was the way he saw their relationship. So how do I fix this??

I would work with him the day after she came and he would be perfect again! This is how patterns are established with different people with horses. When Django came to me, we had no patterns established. He didn't know me or the barn people so he had to establish a new pattern with us. That pattern was a good one of how to fit in with the way we do things at the farm. Over time he became better and better to work with.

When I watched the way Django treated her it upset me as I would be upset with another horse being unfairly treated in the herd. He was bullying her just because he could. I knew he was playful and young but I also knew that in the time he had been with me, he had learned how to treat people nicely. I decided the only way to help him understand that he should not treat her like that was to show him how I would like this other herd member to be treated.

I did a couple things to show him this. One was I had her hold treats or food and if he went to push into her rudely to get it, I would be the one to back him up or send him away. If I didn't like the way he came toward her, I requested that he not come any closer. When I liked how he approached, I let her feed him. Now in his mind, he had to respect our fellow herd mate the same way he respected me. I then asked her to protect me from how he approached when I had food so he would see that she had leadership control over how he treated me. I could see he understood that the leadership I had with him also carried over to his person not just me. This was the first step toward changing their pattern. I had to show him how to treat her. I feel it is my job as a good leader to maintain harmony and balance in my "herds" My herd includes many animals and people.

This proved to be a much bigger challenge then training him which was quite easy and fun! I am used to horses being different with different people, but this was a very tough case! I will continue to work with them at his own place to help them continue to promote their new relationship patterns. I'll keep updates on progress.


Horse Journal

I have so many unique and sometimes challenging horses come my way. Often their people are struggling with them and conflicting advice and wondering if they may have the wrong match.

I am proud to say that I have been able to help many of these horses and their people through their relationship and health issues.

I am very sympathetic to the average horse owner as they are often given much well meaning advice that is conflicting. I feel it is my job to clear the fog and create programs that are customized for the horse and their person as opposed to saying this is the method you have to use. This has allowed me to help my clients achieve harmony and connection with some difficult horses.

I have one particular mare I am working with currently who came to me with a long list of "issues" some health and some behavioral. Some of her issues were biting, bucking and kicking as well as charging. Her health issues were also part of the picture. She was sore and stiff and coming off a long period of rest.

They were not sure they wanted to keep her with good reason and I wasn't sure they were a good match either. In these cases I usually ask if the owners are willing to give the horse a trial period for me to start figuring out what program may help change the dynamics of the relationship between the horses and their people.

After the first 30 days, I was able to figure out what was the horses true nature, what was communicating discomfort, and what was missing with her FUN!damentals.

I found that she was quite a like-able mare and despite her dominant bravado, she quite liked people. I also looked at her completely differently then all the people who said she was "naughty" and difficult. I saw that she actually was quite willing under saddle as long as it was not an uncomfortable movement for her (In fact I switched her from her twisted snaffle to my bitless bridle because she was so nice). I learned that she bucked in the canter, because it hurt. I saw that once she understood that we didn't agree with her dominant behavior (that was separate from communicating discomfort) it disappeared almost completely. I explained to her (in my farah way that I do with horses) that I wanted to help her feel better and though we did not take her dominant behavior personally, we showed her how we'd like to be treated when we were around her in ways she understood. Carolyn Resnick inspired work helped her and her people alot.

Although we still have a long way to go with her health and physical rehab, I am happy that she and her people seem to be enjoying each other much more because we gave her a chance. I really enjoy helping a horse like this because I knew she was being misunderstood. I thank her people for giving her that chance too.


Goings on

For those of you who don’t already know, I am in the UK this week for clinics at the New Horse in Motcombe. I’ll be sure to share photos and updates as always.

I am pleased to see that this year’s clinic sold out and that people are really taking a keen interest in not only building stronger bonds with their equine partners, but training their horses in empathetic, fun ways as well.
I finds myself globetrotting yet again to new places and new and familiar equine and human faces. I will be in Kent, WA October 5-7 at Reber Ranch, I am going back to Carterton, NZ for another fun clinic November 30th-December 2nd, and going to Strath Creek, Victoria, Australia December 8th-10th. This will be my first visit ever to Australia and I am super excited to meet new horses and their humans and assist them on their journey and bond. I didn’t forget about people on the east coast. I have been to Charlottesville, VA, Schoharie, NY and Plainfield, MA. If you missed those, I have another weekend possibly coming up in Virginia in the fall (check my calendar for dates TBA). I also have a 3 day clinic at Backacresfarm.com (Plainfield, MA) coming up Labor day weekend in September that is about half full now. As always, the broad topic will be Liberty-Line-Mounted, FUN!damentals and Bitless/Liberty riding for those interested. As always, the clinics are shaped by the participants and highly customized to meet the needs of those who attend. If you’re interested in attending a clinic or would like to organize one in your area, contact me or Check my calendar link for details and more info here fdhorsemanship.com

I was thinking a lot this year about what my job is and the true purpose of my work/play. The answer is, I help horses and their people find more joy and fun. No matter what the surface goals or issues may look like. I help people and horses communicate better with each other. Growing up, I worked with a dog trainer who used to say he was an interspecies communicator. I often feel like this is what I do as well. He actually helped me on my path to animal training. Believe it or not I worked with dogs long before horses even though my passion for horses started at a very young age. In the past few years, I added Dog Training back into my services. Dog training clinics anyone?! The interesting thing is I brought a lot of what I call Natural Dogmanship to the horses and Natural Horsemanship to my Dog Training. I find the two species quite similar despite one being prey and one predator. Their social culture is similar because both naturally live in groups. Sometimes I am called upon to help horses and dogs recognize each other as fellow family members for their people. I have to explain to them that people often include many different species in their family when they have a love of animals and that they should look their people to help them all understand each other and feel safe and friendly.

One of the things I bring up in my clinics when I am teaching Connection exercises inspired by Carolyn Resnick is the reason dogs are so bonded and connected to us naturally is because we “Share our Territory” with them all the time. It helps illustrate the importance of the first exercise we do with our horses to develop the same strong bond. For that matter, this exercise strengthens the bond with any species or person. Hope to see you soon at an upcoming clinic. I love meeting all of you in person!

One of my favorite UK friends


Starting Django: The Approach part 2

In the last post I talked about how I helped Django understand and allow himself to be lead by using his keen interest in food to get him to focus on my requests.

When he first arrived, he did not know how to focus on his person's requests. He also didn't understand tack and being lead with a halter and lead. When on lead, he dragged you around and if he was spooked, he would go directly into you. He was also prone to bolting ahead on the lead. If you asked him to move over, his dominant side would often kick in and he would say "no you move over". I knew he was playful and smart and did not know better so I did not take any of his behavior personally. He did do some quite rude things but again I could tell he didn't know he was not supposed to. I have two categories for respect "issues". The first one is for horses who don't know any better and if you simply show them how you would like them to behave around you they quickly adapt to that and have no issue with the request.

The second category is for horses who I have asked nicely to respect my requests and they understand them but choose to test the "rules" I make repeatedly. These horses are usually dominant and can have a playful, mischievous side. In the second case, I will be firmer in my requests and I will take the time it takes to help the horse understand what I would like. The behavior I am referring to is usually around horses that push over you, bite/nip playfully or otherwise. They may also offer to kick or push their hind end toward you. These behaviors gone unchecked, can develop into dangerous habits to work around.

In Django's case he was mostly the first case scenario and a little of the second. I was able to get him to understand most of my requests happily and he seemed pleased with himself as he got much praise for being so smart and quick to learn. However, he was attached to a nipping habit and was still a bit to quick into my space and not so easy to get to move away at times. I felt he was being dominant/playful in both cases, but nonetheless wanted him to be clear that this behavior was undesirable.

The food work is very good at teaching horses not to lean on you or pressure you in anyway by simply not feeding them until they make you feel comfortable. I not only want to feel the horse is out of my space but also is not "leaning" into me with there chest or nose. This is very helpful in the future for horses at liberty coming at you at speed and also for safety in general.

Once Django understood how to focus on me around the food, I started working on having him come with me away from the food. I knew with this particular horse, this was the in road to his desire to follow my lead. As I rewarded his self-control and focus around food with food, he became increasingly focused on where I was and where I might be going. Once he was watching me intently for how he could get more food, I started asking him to just take a step or two away from the food. Then I would reward him for that. If he would not leave with me, I would herd him away from the food for a distance and then ask him to halt. If he did that well, we would walk back to the food together, halt before the food, and then he would get his reward. If he rushed past me to the food, I would claim the food and send him away from it again. Pretty soon he realized the quickest way to get the food, was to go where I went and and then he would get to come back and get a reward.

That is the beginning of how he started to learn to let me "Lead" him places in the paddock. Once we had that firm, The Companion movement became very strong. Django would walk with me, stop with me, and trot with me. He was also learning to look out for where I was in his space at which point I knew he was ready to try his halter and lead again. There was no surprise that he was infinitely better on the lead and was already understanding to watch for me and not run ahead and push into me. Also to stop when I stopped. I continued building this Liberty-Line progression in the paddock and then out in the arena. I gradually keep adding more challenges when he is ready as he is easily over stimulated. I don't to make it too hard for him in each session. We are quite deep into the Line phase of the Liberty-Line-Mounted at this point. Django is learning how to Natural Lunge and feel boundaries through the line and follow the feel of the rope. He wearing a saddle and getting used to weight in the stirrups and me swinging and laying over him. He is doing great!

If you'd like to follow along with Django's education, You can subscribe here on my site to my Classroom http://www.fdhorsemanship.com/#!classroom

Checkout my picture log of Django below:


Starting Django: The Approach

I thought I would talk a bit about how my approach to Django unfolded as he showed me what would work best for him. For those of you who don't know, I have been keeping a Vlog of his training from Liberty-Line-Mounted in my Classroom.  Django is a 3 year old Friesian that was sent to me for starting under saddle. I did not know anything about him except what his owner described and what I observed from the time he arrived. I of course, started with Carolyn Resnick's Waterhole Rituals which allowed him to shape his training program. 

I observed in the first few exercises that he was friendly, playful, dominant, smart, and very food oriented. He also loved to be groomed. 

After spending some time Sharing Territory and Saying hello, I opted to work with food exercises with him in his paddock for almost a month. He loves food but was not respectful around it. It became a very powerful approach to his focus and progression to all other areas. 

The first food exercise I used is inspired by Carolyn Resnick's Intimacy exercise. Mind you I did not attempt to do any of this until I knew I could reliably move Django slowly and quickly out of my space without food. This is a very important safety precaution. 

I sat on a chair with a pan of food at my feet first asking Django if he could wait to put his nose in to eat. I could see he understood after a time when he stopped trying to go past my hand which was blocking his nose from the bucket. When he showed that pause and focus, I invited him to eat out of the pan. I allowed him to eat and then asked him to wait several times so he got the idea about being close to me with food around. This was a particularly important lesson for him because he was rude and pushy around feeding time. I knew though, that he did this because no one had explained to him that this might be seen as rude. 

The next food exercise I did was Claiming Territory around the food. I showed Django that sometimes he would have to leave where the food was and could not come back to the pan of food until he halted from my body language. Then when he looked at me and halted instead of trying and push past or go around me to get the food, I would get him a handful and feed it to him. This help him learn to focus on me and that the food would come through me sharing it with him. He would not be allowed to help himself until then. This made him want to focus on my requests more. This is very different then using treat rewards at certain times. It is the way horses handle each other around food and leadership. 

Once these exercises were firmly established, I was able to start asking him to yield his body around the food (ie. circle and move sideways prep for natural and liberty lunging). I was also able to ask him to leave the food and eventually walk away with me all over the paddock. The food no longer became a source of focus at all except to occasionally walk back for a reward for good work. 

This work carried into being lead and working around grass and the ability to have the treats in the arena where we have graduated to for our Liberty to Line phase. I'll talk more about how all this helped him with him understand how to be "Lead" or have manners on the lead and stop dragging and barging into people without ever putting him on the lead in the next post. If you'd like to follow his progress, you can subscribe to my classroom here http://www.fdhorsemanship.com/#!classroom



Mirroring hot dance moves!
Mirroring in the physical sense is when we physically move a certain way and it influences the horse similarly.

Another more powerful way of thinking about mirroring, is looking at your animal as a mirror.
I have asked this question many times to students and I have asked myself the same question. "If my Horse (or other animals) is a mirror of me, what is he reflecting? I look at all my animals around me now and the animals that have been in my past. It's interesting that each animal reflects where I am or was at the time. Our life is actually a mirror of our inner world too, so it is an even more powerful exercise to look at that. But for now, in this moment, I look at my animals. Mercury, reflects me to a "T" on many levels from his humorous, mischievous side to his sensitive and high energy side. He also reflects to me when I am not focused enough and in the moment and when it is a a good time to play and relax and a good time to practice more technical things. I know he is my horse soul mate because I recognize our resonance when I am with him and think of him.

If you are not sure what resonance is, it is a part of why we are attracted to someone or some animal. We strongly resonate with them. It is like a person who you instantly click with. It is also because we see something in them that reminds us of ourselves. Sometimes even shared or similar experiences.

A great exercise to do, is to write down all the the traits in your horse(s) (I know some of us have a herd! or other animals). If you have many, they, probably each represent a different aspect. Write down things that you "judge" as good or bad and then look at them with no judgement. If you notice some similarities in yourself, write them down. Notice the good things he/they may be mirroring to you. If there is something your horse does that you find unpleasant, ask yourself if you may be mirroring that actual feeling or behavior somewhere in your life or during your time with your horse. If you do find something, try this experiment of shifting to a positive place in yourself and notice what changes occur in your animals. Share your discovery in the comments section.


FDH Tips: Essential oils

This week, I wanted to talk a little about Essential oils and horses. Some people may be aware of them and some may not. Essential oils have many applications from emotional to physical. They can also be used for effective, great smelling, non-toxic insect repellents when mixed with carrier oils like almond or coconut.

Lavender is one of my personal favorites as it is calming and soothing. My tip for nervous riders and horses this week is to put Lavender oil on your clothes or somewhere on your person. It may be good to dilute it with another oil if you're sensitive. By doing this, not only will you calm your own energy by inhaling, your horse will inhale the aroma too. Your smell will actually be calming to him and you'll smell great! 

Here is a nice list from Aura Cacia on some others oils and what they help with. Try some different ones out!


Bitless for Bitted horses

On the forehand was an understatement with this big boy. He also had a habit of bolting. He is modeling my Zebra Buckaroo Bitless Bridle and doing quite nicely.
This week, I wanted to talk about Bitless Bridles for Bitted horses. As someone who competes and trains, I do have to train horses to ride in a bit because some shows do not allow Bitless Bridles as legal tack. Also, some of my clients prefer to use bits and that is their choice so I work to educate their horses to the bitted bridle while schooling in my Bitless Bridle. I will start a young horse in the Bitless Bridle and allow them to carry the bit with no reins attached while learning to take direction from my body language and position on the ground or mounted.

I have had a good bit of success taking even the most heavy and un-supple horses back to light and soft in a Bitless Bridle. What happens then when they go back to the bit? They are much more responsive and soft in it.

Now this is also just plain good horsemanship as I frequently remind my students. How the horse rides in the bridle (Bitted or Bitless), is how he is riding in his body and mind. What is on my horses head has little or no relevance to me unless the equipment is very wrong for the horse or the horse has injuries or mouth problems out of the ordinary. This is why I find using the Liberty rein so easy. Because I have learned to focus on my communication and my horses mind and body more then his head control.

It is purely psychological that we think control comes from the bit and a lot of bit manufacturers would like you to keep thinking that way. It is a huge area of consumption in the horse market. On many forums I see over and over "what magic bit can I buy to fix my horse?"

Training takes time, good Connection and solid FUNdamentals. Most if not all horses can go Bitless with time and patience. Some will be easier then others but if it's a young horse starting out it's very easy because they have no experience with anything except what you introduce. They are naturally soft and have no reference to a bit yet.

I now train most of my horses Bitless as allowed regardless of what they will ride in at competition or under other circumstances. It helps me focus on communicating and riding better and not thinking about what's in their mouth. More oats for thought.

If you'd like to purchase the Bitless Bridle I use you can go here: http://www.fdhorsemanship.com/#!bridles
Purchase my Going Bitless video here http://www.fdhorsemanship.com/#!video-library


What Natural Horsemanship is to me

As a real student of Horsemanship, I am always learning everyday from and with horses and their people. I have spent most of my life studying horses and great horseman alike to accumulate the knowledge I have to date. As I have gained more experience and found a path that really resonates to me, I found that I was drawn to working with a horse in what was my definition on Natural Horsemanship. There are so many approaches that fall under this category these days. But I have always looked at things from the horses' point of view. I decided a while back a few personal guide lines for myself when watching others work with horses (professionals and amateurs alike). I tell people in my clinics in a sea of experts how do you/I know who to listen too or follow? Well the first questions I ask myself is a really simple one. "If I was a horse, would I like to be handled or treated that way?". If the answer is no, then I don't use it. I can find nuggets of wisdom from anyone, even if it's what not to do.

I started breaking down what Horsemanship was to me. I found a stronger desire to build Connection with my horses and my clients horses. I didn't just want horses "fix" horse all day, I was drawn to Liberty work in various forms and Carolyn Resnick's Waterhole Rituals. To me Liberty is generally not done in a round pen unless there is no other option but in a large area if not even in an un-fenced area (once you have gotten to that level). I thought about how it didn't seem natural to me to put a halter and rope on a horse or pressure them in a small round pen. I do put horses on a training line or lunge after I have Connection not to build the relationship but to continue building it. When a horse is on line or confined, he is being "trained" to Pressure and Release which is how most Technical Communication is achieved with a horse. This has it's place in training but goes much easier once Connection is in place. I have softness with my horse that remains after the tack is added because it becomes just an extension of our Connection. This is of course built over time and I never see it as a means to an end but more of a daily interaction with my horses that continues to grow our Connection.

So back to Liberty and what Natural Horsemanship is to me. I started thinking about how horses could not put halters and lines on each other. They could not put each other in small pens and chase around another horse. They did not have tools except for there own body language. They built leadership, bonds, Connection, friendships, communication, pecking order and understanding in their territory in open areas.

We, of course have given ourselves many advantages to gain control of horses. I started taking away my advantages. I took away everything as long as I felt safe in my person right down to any sticks/whips/etc. I wanted to learn to communicate how horses communicate, bond how they bond, lead how they lead and learning to integrate into herd dynamic. I always tell people to watch herds (wild if your lucky and domestic if you have them available). I have the good fortune to have several herds to watch everyday and learn from. I also get to see new horses integrate and sometimes my horses have to integrate with new herds. They are the best teacher and where the real learning is done. Observe and experiment, keep yourself safe, and have fun!


This part 3 of my No fences series working with Mercury in areas where it is wide open and not fenced in. I am exploring Carolyn Resnick's Waterhole Rituals at the next level by giving Mercury total freedom. It is rewarding and fun to improve our connection even more! 



Mercury says palying in the snow is fun!
Look how happy he is!
At this time of year sometimes it's hard to be inspired. It's cold, the ground isn't always safe and we can't always think of things to do with all those limitations.

Well as a very creative person and someone who has not always had the perfect places to play with my horses, I have lots of ideas on what can be done to amuse, connect, and even practice some good foundation exercises which will improve things when the weather is better and you can do more.

First of all, when it's cold out, active Liberty play is a GREAT way to build connection and bond AND stay warm. It can be done virtually anywhere. If the footing is better for slow work, do that. If the footing is good for more up energy work, do that. Snow is actually quite good to work in if there is no ice layer underneath. Here is a list of exercises that can be done to keep you and your horse going!

1. Liberty Grooming: Get the rubber curry and go out in the paddock and get all the good spots. Not for cleaning purposes but for getting spots he can't reach and where another horse would groom him. If he tries to groom you back, It is up to you to how to handle this. You can gently make a boundary or allow it on your boots or chaps which is safer.

2. Leading (Herding) from Behind to Companion walking working on precise transitions and staying up at your shoulder on the Off and near sides. Off (right side) is harder and winter is a good time to practice for short periods if your horse is ready to allow that.

3. If your Companion exercises are good than try some beginner Liberty dressage movements. You could introduce Turn on the Forehand at Liberty, Side Step, and Turn on the Haunches. Also precise size and shape circles. If the footing is good try some at the trot. Spanish walk is another fun one.

4. Send and Draw at slow speeds or if the footing is good at the trot and canter.

5. Horse Yoga stretches with treats.

6. In hand work with a Halter and line or Liberty Rein. Play with Leg Yields, Turn on the Forehand, Turn on the Haunches, Side Steps, Shoulder in, and Backing up with the lightest possible Communication. This is a good time to also play with Touch Training to work on Soft communication.

7. Eye contact exercises: LOVE these they are soooo important to advanced Liberty and Focus! Excellent for spooky and distracted horses and can be done stationary or moving as you both get better at maintaining it.

So I hope these give you some ideas to play with and inspire you. It has actually been a pretty mild winter here in New England so it's been easy to work outside without too much trouble. It was 55 degrees the other day! Hope it stays that way. Have fun!


I'm workin on....: Off the Track to Bridleless

This is a video of me playing with a Thoroughbred I got off the track a few years ago. An outstanding horse with a heart of gold! From nearly impossible to lead and get to stand still, to Liberty, Bridleless and a successful child's Eventing mount! Cool!


Announcing: Going Bitless online class info

Yes you too could own this sexy Zebra bitless
bridle for your horse!

The Next Going Bitless online class will start January 1st (with sign up until January 9th) running through January 30th. The first videos will be released for personal practice followed by a Skype Q&A session a week. This class is suitable for beginner (horses and riders) as well as the addition of intermediate exercises in this class for those who have done the class or are further ahead. It is suitable for all disciplines as well.
You will have the week to get signed up and review and practice the first exercises. Additional video exercises will be sent out each week with call recordings for the people who could not attend or to review info. The Skype Q&A answer session will be held Mondays at 7pm EST. 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 of $150.00 payable through my site (click here to sign up and pay). If you would prefer to audit the class it is $100.00. This offers you access to all videos exercises and Skype call replays as well as email in questions to be answered on the calls.
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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