Though small and adorable, Oliver can be quite rude!
Respect is a word I find thrown around a lot in horse training and Natural Horsemanship. I find that it seems to always be in favor of the horse respecting the person. But respect in my opinion, is a two way street for all beings.

I was working with a horse today. The horse was very defensive of it's space even from a distance. I was with the horse at liberty. I was working in a way to let the horse know I wanted to be clear where it was comfortable with me and how close. This horse gave me a lot of clear communication. I was very interested in building trust and curiosity with the horse so I was very attentive and respectful of the "Nos" I was getting. Those Nos are so important when working with a horse. They are not there to push through or pressure around. They are to be looked at and asked "why is that no there?" Once you understand the no it can actually be one of your most powerful tools to build a friendship with a horse.

I have a way of categorizing whether behavior is disrespectful or not. It's very simple. If a horse has no idea how I like to be treated because he has never been around me and he does something I don't care for, It is my responsibility to ask the horse nicely if they could do something else (or re-pattern the behavior). If I ask nicely 3 times and they still insist on the behavior. I then consider it rude and disrespectful. Why 3 times? Because in my experience with training and teaching, 3 times is enough times to establish a fairly clear understanding of a request or new information. Not perfect, just understanding. I feel this way about any animal or person for that matter.

More often then not I feel like the horses get disrespected more then we do. Some horses just take it and some horses will retaliate. So my next question when a horse seems to be "disrespectful" is "how did he get this way?" Does he have a good reason to be this way or is he a bit like a child that hasn't been given healthy boundaries. Again, that behavior is there for a reason.

People are often unintentionally and unconsciously disrespectful of horses. Horses are amazingly patient, compassionate and tolerant animals. I believe it is because they feel our intention and know we are not trying to purposefully do them harm. This is one of the qualities I love about them. I find it interesting and a shame, that when a horse is trying to let you know he would like to be treated differently in a more opinionated way, people often say that horse is naughty, mean or disrespectful. We need to stop and listen more at these times before we make a snap judgement.

So next time you are with your horse, pay close attention to your interactions and the no and yes and don't judge just gather information about your horse. Then decide what is the best way to proceed with trust and friendship in mind. Oats for thought...
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Why Liberty?

Mercury is learning spanish walk at Liberty
As someone who has studied virtually all schools of horsemanship, My discovery of Liberty and my Journey since it has become the cornerstone of my training, has been the most fun, the most rewarding and the most effective way I have found to interact with horses.

It is an amazingly simple and powerful way to communicate and train horses. It's  simple as that. When I apply this work largely influenced by Carolyn Resnick's Waterhole Rituals, I find a way to connect and communicate with my horses' true nature. I find a path that suits the horse I am working with. I find that at Liberty my horse can give me real feedback about his mind set, his body, and his comprehension of what I request. I can see if I am using too much energy, or not enough. I can see if I am being truly clear in my language.

The horse can tell me which side they favor and then I can set about working with them on equalizing on their terms. Every horse I have worked with has offered me incredible efforts with complete free choice to walk/run away from the request I am asking for.

Here is a common way I would introduce a concept like correct Natural Lunging to a horse at Liberty so they would have no trouble understanding the request with the line on. Most horses find circling on line difficult at first especially in one direction. Some, find it so difficult they will keep switching back to their favored side or even rip the Line right from your hand. This horse is telling you they are having difficulty with circling. I can help my horse learn to read my body language at liberty for direction and then to maintain that direction. Once that happens, They can understand the concept of Lunging on a line. They should also be able to keep their inside eye on me most of the time so that I can help them find the geometry on the figure we are working on. With that, they get the suppleness and gymnastic benefit. Once these Liberty FUN!damentals are consistent, you have the foundation for asking for lateral movements at Liberty and on Line. You also have the foundation for building symmetry and equilibrium in your horse.

Another huge benefit of Liberty, Is allowing horses to explore movement on their own and without the burden of a rider or the interference of a line.  Sometimes a person may use lines unconsciously in place of proper body language and timing. People often don't understand how much more effort it takes for a horse to perform with us on their backs or how even the slightest pull on a line can impact the horse. When you add possibly confusing communication and position and balance issues and you're asking you horse to overcome a lot. Once they understand the exercise on the ground at liberty or at least the concept of the exercise, Then you work on line or in hand and then you ride it. With this approach, You have created a really nice flow for the horse to follow. I posted a blog a couple weeks ago showing the Liberty, line, mounted progression of a figure eight exercise. This is a great example of that.

My favorite reason to train using Liberty is the way it allows me to stay focused on my Connection and Partnership with my horse, It gives me instant feedback on my horses' feelings and it keeps our relationship real and honest.

For those people that think it has no benefit to riding, I solve the majority of mine and my clients training "issues" through Liberty. From Spooking to rearing/bucking. And to those that think it is slow. It is by far the fastest, gentlest way I've seen to solve these issues in any approach. Amazingly so and with no tack or gadgets. All that while keeping a bond and trust with the horse!

Those of you who may need a check up or continued support from afar or if you don't have access to a Trainer in your area that offers this work, consider my Virtual Coaching program. If you would like to try it, You will need a video of you and your horse no more than 15-20 minutes long practicing whatever you would like help with (Liberty, Line, or Mounted any discipline english or western). The easiest way to share video links is to upload them to your Youtube, Vimeo, Facebook or similar account and then share the link with me. Once I have received your video, We will set up a time to review on Skype (regular phone is ok in the US). On that call we will go over your video and I will give you a set of exercises to help your progress and practice for your next video and follow up. It's that easy. Some people have a hard time getting help filming. I recommend getting a tripod and marking an area while looking through the lens. Try then to work within that area using cones or poles etc. to mark you camera's view range. Contact me if you have more questions.

And last but not least, For those of you signed up for FDH Virtual Clinic, The first Q&A call is scheduled for Saturday the 30th of March at 7pm EST US (Hopefully that works for the Down under peeps being Sunday the next day). Please RSVP so I can add you to the Skype Group. See you there!
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Intention is a very important part of everything we do with horses. Especially because animals, not just horses can sense our intentions. I posted this photo because interestingly, I never intended to ride bridless. It evolved out of my Intention to communicate with less equipment and more language.

There are numerous examples of this in action but here's an easy one you may have seen. A person goes out to a pasture of a hard to catch horse. They have a halter hidden behind their back. This makes me laugh always. That horse knows the intention to catch him. He is reading the person not the halter.

I had a mare in training a long time ago who hated to be de-wormed. I swear she knew the day I woke up and "thought" today is worming day before I even came out of the house. She was no where to be found that day and wouldn't come near me. Any other day she was no problem at all.

So how do we do we use Intentional thinking to create positive communication instead of sending out unclear and unintended ideas and body language.

Today I was at the farm and Mercury had gotten a cut under his eye. These are notorious difficult areas to doctor due to the proximity of the eye and the delicateness of the area. I did not put a halter on Merc. I simple stood with him and said I need to look at your eye so I can help you heal it. I made my actions slow, patient and deliberate and he allowed me to put the Calendula gel on the wound. He never pulled away or even flinched.

In training communication, Intention looks as broad as "we're going to have a fun session today" to "I am going to help my horse learn to push more with this hind leg" All Training starts with a thought of what you would like to do BUT no attachment to what the outcome is. That is something that needs to be felt in the moment and is a constantly changing energy. My Intention during training may change and evolve throughout the session. The key is staying slow and giving space for thoughtful Intentions. Sometimes my horse does something so fantastic and unexpected because of this. Training without expectation is the key to more fun and relaxing times with your horse. Learning when to let your intention shift with the horses is another good thing to practice.

That would look like, I intended to do some high energy work and my horses energy was low. The path of least resistance would be to recognize this and adjust my intention to match my horses true energy levels. Some lower key less energetic play. Anyone who is really into their technical work knows you can fill an hour with quite complex Liberty, Line or Mounted walking movements!

Clear Intention, combined with clear communication and adaptability will assure you of fun, positive sessions with your horse.


Liberty -Line -Mounted patterns: figure 8 warm-up

Here is a nice Liberty-Line-Mounted pattern to warm up your horse with that works on many important levels. It works on building up connection, focus, and precise communication and body language. It also works with Symmetry, Suppleness and response to requests. Have fun with it! Click here to go to video http://fdhvirtualclinic.com/view?q=51382b0be8383.flv 



Herd Rituals

Mercury has recently been integrated into his new herd and I thought it would be fun to film some of their Rituals and social interaction. I like to watch the "professionals" in action to learn about their friendships, habits, unique behaviors and how each hard has it's own unique chemistry.  Adding or subtracting different horses changes the whole dynamics. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!
Click here to see video http://fdhvirtualclinic.com/view?q=5130409a76867.flv

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