Non horse person lessons

My Dad's a Natural!
When you read the title of this blog, you probably thought I was referring to teaching non-horse people. The fact of the matter is, I was referring to what non-horse people or people who only want relationship with a horse can teach us horse people.

Since this journey with Liberty work started, I still laugh about how I thought I was just learning this work for me and my personal horses. I thought no one would be interested in anything that didn't have to do with our narrow riding/work relationship we have with horses. Boy was I happily wrong. Since then, Not only have people who ride showed up, but a steady stream of Equine Therapists, Animal lovers, and Non-horse people have arrived to learn how to enjoy a different way of being with Horses.

What we can learn from watching the horses interact with these people is, the true meaning of a clear energy. There is no need or agenda only pure connection.

Some of you may have already seen on Facebook the photos of my dad from the Memorial weekend clinic. My parents both participated in the Liberty Class with a Saddlebred named Remy. My mom is an animal person and my dad is a "city boy" who has graciously tolerated his animal loving family. He likes animals now but is not so confident with them. Horses are large animals and if you are not a horse lover, I can very much see how they could seem intimidating. If you don't know how to read them, they can be.

 What I like about my Liberty class is how I use one horse that most everyone doesn't know, even me. I try to get a horse that has no experience with the work (except with other horses!) I want everyone to have to build connection through the exercises in real time and in context. Working with a unknown horse let's us come in with no preexisting patterns that we have with our own horses. Even with this, I see people's patterns with their own horses exposed on the class horse. I can see good patterns and shift ones that need shifting. As each horse works with each person, I see their own unique chemistry evolve. We can learn from watching how one horse interacts with everyone and their good examples.

I had, as usual a group of all different horse people in the class and my parents. My Mom is more comfortable with animals and was able to connect to work with Remy easily in most exercises. She has no agenda except to connect. She doesn't ride. She just loves animals.

My Dad provided a standout lesson for all us horse people. First he wasn't sure he wanted to participate so he just watched. At some point he decided to join the class feeling a bit more confident. He said he could understand what I was explaining. We were working on Leading from Behind and Companion Walking with everyone. It came his turn and he got up and the horse came straight to him and Companion Walked. I wish I had video because what I saw had more to do with energy than beginner's luck. It had to do with my dad's energy being pure and clear. He wanted nothing of Remy he had no agenda and no need for Remy to do anything for him. Remy was instantly attracted to that energy more than any other people in that room. It was the difference in his energy that reminded us horse people of what that energy looks like and what it feels like to a horse. It was powerful for all of us to see.

In the class we are all helping each other learn by our interactions with the horses. I enjoy the different people who are participating in the classes and the lessons they all bring us. The Non horse people lessons are sometimes the most powerful ones!
sign up for my FDH Virtual Clinic here


A Logo with meaning

Some of you may have already seen my new logo on Facebook but if you didn't here it is! This logo is special for many reasons. It has been incubating in my mind for a long time and I took great pains to get it right. If you didn't know, I was an Art major and went to Art and Design College. I have always designed my websites and business cards.

Everything I design or photograph has some meaning to me. Whether it is a photo (yes I studied and love photography too!) that evokes a feeling that I am trying to convey, symbol/logo, or just the general look of something. In my past I painted, sketched, and silver smithed my inspiration.

Now I don't have much time for doing my art work except my Hand decorated Browbands and when I play at Liberty. When I play at Liberty, it is like the area my horse and I are in is a canvas and together, we are the paint. We can play in this area and make a spontaneous living art.

I have always loved tribal art and design. I have a particular affinity for Polynesian tribal art. The first time I went to New Zealand I already knew I would seek out the Maori art and culture. My friend and I were in search of the symbolic carved pendants to take home. As we searched for them, learned about the customs that surrounded them.   

The first thing I learned was that you must be given one as a gift, it must be warm from being worn by the person giving it to you. Uh oh I can't buy one for myself! So I bought two pieces that were carved from one stone for my parents. I wore the stones my whole trip and gave them to them off my body when I got home. But I didn't have one!

My next trip to New Zealand I am on a mission to get my Greenstone pendant, I left it up to the Universe how it was going to come to me. There is a lot of folk lore around Green Stones (Jade) and interesting stories about them and the people who had them. Everyone's got a story about their Greenstone. My story is that while I was doing my clinic a women showed up to audit who provided her horse for a fellow participant to use. I spoke with her a bit here and there when I could during the clinic. By the end she decided to take a private lesson the day after. I worked with her and we had a really good session with her horse. We chatted after the lesson and she expressed how much she enjoyed the clinic and the results of her lesson. She then presented me with her Greenstone pendant. She said wanted to give me something that let me know how much she appreciated what I did. I was so surprised and touched! She told me her Greenstone story and how she had had this stone for many years. It was a Disc symbol Tahei the Circle of Life. I now had my Greenstone proper! Yay! There is more to this story but I can't fit it all in ask me at a clinic!

So on to my logo. I wanted more than a logo as I said. So I spent a good deal of time studying the Maori symbols and putting them together. I learned that it was important to tell your own story so I did take some artistic Liberty (no surprise I'm sure). There are 3 major symbols within the logo.

  • The Koru or spiral: depicts new beginnings, growth and harmony, taken from the symbolism of a unfurled silver fern leaf. The symbol of new growth, new life, peace and tranquility, the Koru also depicts endearment in the form of the relationship of a parent and a child or husband and wife. Let's add person and horse too!. The unfolding of new life, that everything is reborn and continues. It represents renewal and hope for the future 
  • The Rauiri or single twist (figure eight): The single twist represents the path of life, it is the eternity symbol. The single figure eight represents the joining together of two people (in my artistic license, the joining together of a horse and person), Usually given as an offering of friendship between different tribes and a wedding. The twist or crossover represents: the bonding of friendship, the joining of lives for eternity.
  • The Manaia (Gaurdian Angel): The Manaia is known as a spiritual guardian, and carrier of supernatural powers. Traditionally depicted as a bird like figure with the head of a bird, body of a man and the tail of a fish, representing the balance between sky, earth and water. Well I took more license here and gave my Guardian angel the head of a horse. The Manaia as the Guardian Angel can be described as the unseen light surrounding each individual. It is said to be the messenger between the earthly world of mortals and the domain of the spirits. Te Manaia is a holder of great spiritual energy and is a guardian against evil.
My logo tells the story of my passion for my horses, the Koru,  The Path they have taken me on and will take me on and the deep friendships we form on the way, The Rauiri. The Manaia in the form of my horse Guardian Angel is the messenger between me and the horses and their spirit.

I want to thank Bek Farr at www.nectarine.co.nz for helping me make it into a logo. She was awesome and thanks to technology, we were able to design together while she was in New Zealand and I was here! Thanks for all the positive feedback on Facebook about the logo. So many people loved it!



Riding bridless requires precise communication!
Precision can mean a lot of things to a lot of people and horses. To me, Precision practice or patterns at Liberty, on line, Mounted, or over obstacles, is an opportunity to play with how well my horse and I are communicating.

I know many people who see arena practice as boring and pointless but it can add a fun challenge, variety and do what I call Skill building. If you work on asking your horse to do very specific things on very specific patterns, figures or obstacles, It builds Connection and Communication while exercising and strengthening your horse.

Precision can be a slippery slope to Control Freak for some people and that is not the goal. One of my challenges in teaching people Dressage and Dressage based riding is, that of all the disciplines, Dressage has the worst track record of turning people into obsessed control freaks. It is not the point to nit pick. It is the point to use progressively challenging patterns and figures to challenge you and your horses ability to communicate with each other.

Visualization is very important for patterns and in that aspect it can be very focusing and even meditative to practice. If your are more focused on the pattern then whether your horse will do it or not, your horse will focus on it very well. This applies to Liberty, Line, or Mounted practice.

The challenge for this week is to make a pattern at Liberty, on Line, or Mounted and practice it with your horse. Be mindful that the pattern is a foundation for a conversation to start between you and your horse and that it is only a target to strive for. The fun part is the conversation. For example, If I ask Mercury to walk a 15 meter circle with me with bend, the fun part is communicating that figure to him. If he leaves the figure or looks the other way, We will find a way to come back to our circle but it doesn't matter how long or what we do in between. Another fun pattern is to take 4 cones or Hula Hoops and lay them down in a square pattern that is a comfortable size for your horse to walk, trot, and canter (if you are ready) around. I will challenge you to use this pattern creatively as there are many ways to work with it from beginner to advanced. One hint is figure eights and another is transitions. Maybe you will come up with something I haven't thought of! Have fun!
Sign up for FDH Virtual Clinic here
Upcoming Events


What food tells me about a horse

Once upon a time before I understood the relevance of food exercises with horses, I merely gave my horses treats whenever I wanted or just avoided food when it became an issue.

Upon learning the Carolyn Resnick's Waterhole Rituals, I became very aware of what an important area this was to work with.

As I began working more appropriately with food, I found ways to incorporate it into all types of exercises.

Let's start with simple ideas like how horses move each other around food to show leadership and rank when we drop multiple piles of hay, they will move each other around those piles. Sometimes people think it is mean or random but it is natural behavior amongst horses.

When I observe horses eating together it can tell me who is food oriented and who is not, who are buddies (they will share food), and what the general rank is in the herd.

When I have very little time to build rapport with a horse during session, I will use food or treats to get a feel for a horses' character. If I offer a horse food and he is stand offish, that tells me something about how he feels about me or people. If I offer a horse food and he tries to grab it or get pushy with me, that tells me about that horse. With the pushy horse, I know I have an opportunity to start shaping boundaries and that let's me start a natural flow to the relationship. I will spend more time with the shy horse trying to grow their trust until they are comfortable with me.

Another way I use food, is as a measure of how much a horse is set against something. For example if I am going to try to use food as a motivation to encourage a horse to do something more challenging, like step toward water and he wont take it. That tells me he is not ready to do the task. This is not to be confused with coaxing. It is meant to be a reward that is given for a good effort. (see videos below, horses are allowed to choose interaction with the exercise and leave if they want at any time).

When I travel with horses to new places, The grazing exercises combined with Eye Contact are invaluable. If I unload my horse from the trailer or have him at a new place with lots of stimulating activity going on, asking my horse to keep an eye on me and then giving permission to graze is a really good way to reward and gain focus. Once I have focus, I can keep the lines of connection and communication open between me and my horse.

Here is a video playlist of how I used treat games to work with clippers with several horses at Liberty and one in particular who refused to be clipped and was quite dangerous. I am also employing the very effective Monkey see-Monkey do approach by working with several horses at once and employing a couple that are comfortable with clipping. Enjoy!
Sign up for FDH Virtual Clinic here:



Last week I played with a Fjord named Sonja
Sorry for the missed blog post last week but I was off at clinics and intensives. I had a lot of fun with new people and their horses. As usual, my 4 legged assistants were outstanding!

This week I wanted to talk about Patterns. Not the patterns we use to train with. But the patterns of behavior we have and aren't aware of. Why is this important? Because our horses are 100% aware of our patterns and adapt to them for good or bad. In other words our horses can train us without us even knowing it.

Often when I go to work with a horse and person, The first thing I look at is the person's patterns. I look at their energy, their body language, and their rhythm. I then look at their horses reactions to their patterns. I need to get a base line of what is working and not working in the relationship by what patterns are set between the horse and person. We can get into this cycle with our horses without even knowing how we got to them. Horses are so observant of our energy and habits, they know us better then we know ourselves sometimes.

Horses can get into a set behavior pattern because of our patterns. A great example of this is when a school horse learns to adapt to different riders and handlers. With one rider he will perform nicely and with another one he will be quite difficult. Horses that are handled by different people are masters of sizing us up quickly.

One of the things I learn when I teach Liberty classes is that I can watch several people perform the same exercises and see the patterns of their energy without judgement. I can quickly pick up on where they are most likely stuck with their own horses by watching them work with a different horse.

Sometimes people don't understand or see the value in why they would take a Liberty class with a horse nobody has worked with before and not your own horse. I have several reasons.

  1. When we work with a strange horse we have no expectations because he is not our own.
  2. We learn what the proper "neutral" non needy mindset is for our own horses by working with a strange horse.
  3. We have no preexisting patterns with this horse so we have a "clean slate" relationship.
  4. We can see how you can build connection with any horse from scratch.
  5. You can learn with real time, real life reactions.
  6. You can simulate herd dynamic and integration with several other "human" herd members and the participating horse.
  7. We can learn by watching other peoples patterns.
I have an awareness exercise for you to try. Next time you go to your horse, pay really close attention to your daily patterns or rituals. Notice the positive ones and the ones that actually may be promoting a behavior you don't care for. If you are happy with all your habits, good for you! Think about your dog if you own one. All our dogs know when are going out the door and when it's for a walk or a trip.

I have a story from my younger days when I was little and I had my Saddlebred. I was just learning and I didn't have much experience with horses, Just a fierce love and desire and boundless courage. I got this horse with my instructor and set about working with him. I used to lunge him because he was very energetic. I used to do the same pattern every time. Walk, then trot, then canter. Day after day. I did not know to do anything else at the time. One day my instructor came out and said "why don't you change up you lunging routine a bit" so eager to learn, I tried doing things in a different order. My horse went nuts! He was so used to my routine it actually upset him when I changed it. I had know idea how much of a stuck pattern we were in. My instructor however, had been thankfully keeping an eye on me.

Now a days, This is not a problem so much for me, but I do like to work with a coach so that there are fresh eyes on me and my horses. It took fresh eyes to help me with some things with Mercury that I was not seeing. That is why I always work with someone when I can. Otherwise known as a ground person.

Even if you don't have a more experienced person around to watch you, you can have a friend or family member watch you and ask them if they see and patterns or habits. They can effect your handling and riding without you even knowing. Oats for thought.

Upcoming events:
5/12 FDH 1 day Playshop and Demo at Windhorse International, CT
5/25-26 FDH 2 day clinic in Greenville, NY
6/21-23 FDH UK Clinic at The New Horse, Motcombe, UK

Sign up for FDH Virtual Clinic here: