Looking Back At 2017
It’s been said, “A picture is worth a thousand words”. Five horses tell a story of patience and respect.
My horses are an agreeable bunch who love to be part of something as simple as standing side by side. Putting their hierarchy aside, they work together as a team to follow me. It’s simple for them, they know how life is with their human - each day is interesting, they are respected and guided so they don’t need to take charge and fend for themselves when they are worried or unsure.
My oldest horse Miss J, (on the right) is still spry in her thirties; Valentino, my three year old youngster is like the guy we all got along with back in school; Escudo (the grey) at eleven years old, still loves to show you what he can do; Arabella at nineteen is my steady eddy mare, trustworthy and reliable as my lesson horse; I’m riding Kloee, who at twelve years old, is innately more right brain and worried, however, she believes in me enough to follow my suggestions in all that we do together.
It’s a good day, when a photo shoot goes easy and when it’s all done, there is a story that is told worth a thousand words. I wish you inspiration for 2018. Be inspired to take a photo that tells your story with your horse.
Happy New Year !
Sandy & Rick Lang
Teaching Foundation Horsemanship for a few years, has helped me realize there are behaviour patterns people give credence to that either empower them to sky rocket forward towards their goals, or hinder their growth, leaving trails of frustration.
You've Taken A Clinic, Knowledge Has Been Shared.
Clinics Are Great For Planting Seeds.
The Clinician's goal is to set you and your horse up for success and to plant a seed. You are encouraged to experiment with new concepts in a safe environment, ask questions and stretch your emotional bubble. The knowledge you retain goes home with you, and hopefully you practice what you've learned. If you've taken notes, you have the opportunity at a later date to go over what you learned.
Taking A Clinic is Not Enough For A Horse To Progress.
Practicing once or twice what you learned in a clinic is not enough to see a change in your horse and in yourself. For a horse it takes four to seven days to gel a habit. Hang in there for the four to seven days and watch for signs of understanding, willingness and contentment. It's the repetition of the task(s) that helps a horse perform and feel successful.
I often see positive changes in around the third or fourth day with my horses. I notice he or she is more relaxed and exhibits lightness when he executes the task. It's obvious he understands what I want, he's willingly and confident. At that point I know my horse is ready for more.
The Learning Process Takes Dedication, Repetition, Perseverance And A Plan.
Work on instilling positive habits in your horse every time you go out to the barn. It's these positive habits established over a period of days that helps a horse relax and feel confident doing his job. If you get stuck, or you struggle with presenting yourself to your horse as a confident leader - seek support. Have faith in yourself and in your horse and remember, time spent with your horse is never wasted.
It's easy to go to work when you love what you do. I am fortunate to have a job that helps bring people and horses to a mutual understanding.
This past week I had the opportunity to teach a two day On-line and Riding Foundation and a one day On-line Foundation Clinic at Discovery Ranch in Grenfell, Saskatchewan. Nancy Maurer, owner of Discovery Ranch, hosted the event and was instrumental in the clinics success.
Our first day started with a horse behaviour lecture, asking: how do horses think, and why they do what they do? We learned that there are four quadrants of behaviour and each quadrant needs it's own unique approach. When horses' hopes, dreams, and needs are considered, a more willing, trusting, and fulfilled being emerges.
Behaviour recognition, helps students see the feedback their horse gives them, and they learn about what they should do with that feedback. Our reactions make the difference in whether our horse will be willing and cooperative, or bracey, defiant, fearful and resistant.
The Leadership Role
We learned how our leadership, or lack of leadership, effects everything from leading a horse to higher level studies. Leadership can be different for each quadrant. For an introverted horse, good leadership means, having their human slow down their actions and wait for a response instead of asking and expecting and or demanding an immediate response. Giving the introvert time to think and digest what was just asked of her, helps regroup emotions and kicks in the thinking mode. The horse is then able to respond with more relaxation and the best part is they feel understood. For the extroverted horse, the left brain extrovert needs variety, plus the intention of keeping them respectful. Right brain extroverts need us to be a leader that has the confidence to lead so they are able to feel safe. It was explained, if you continue to offer the right type of leadership during a horse's foundation period, you can expect your horse to respond more like a ball room dance partner. Our goal is to bring balance and preparidness for all disciplines by virtue of fair leadership.
Students learned although leadership is paramount for a successful partnership, a language between human and horse encourages a conversation. We want our horse to ask questions. It's our job to recognize a question and then answer it. It's through having a conversation with your horse that evokes feelings of being understood and respected.
Putting Words Into Action
As each day in our clinic progressed, horses became increasingly relaxed and willing. Every student grew in the awareness of working with an approach that fit their horse's needs.
Moving forward with more on-line exercises the second day, ultimately lead us into riding the horses in the afternoon. Because everything we learn on-line, transfers into the saddle, it became apparent horses were happy to continue with learning new tasks while having their human ride them rather than be by their side. I introduced a Quadrille pattern at the walk and then trot, and a Leap Frog exercise. Both these exercises are designed to help horses feel more comfortable close to another horse, pass a horse, be the leader of the group and a follower.
The third day On-line Clinic, held many light bulb moments. It still amazes me how when a horse
realizes she's being understood, she will want to follow. There were a few horses that needed support and understanding, so we figured out what quadrant they were in, which lead us to understand what their needs were and what it was we needed to do to help them. The resistance they came with, seemed to dissolve and in it's place a horse emerged that was more willing and partner like.
My goal for every clinic is to plant a seed, and watch it sprout. Hopefully the sprout will grow into a proud flower. When we build confidence and trust through understanding the quadrants, recognize curiosity, be the leader our horse was dreaming of, and never forget to thank our horse for each step forward, we set a horse up to be increasingly responsive and light in our hands, on-line and riding, for today and tomorrow.
I want to thank Nancy Maurer, for the effort she put into organizing this clinic, Cathy Piller, who in the past has hosted clinics in Grenfell, and the students who took the time and effort to invest in themselves. And of course, a big thank you to all the horses, for without them, none of us would have met.
For those who attended my June, 2017 Horsemanship Clinic:
Listen to your heart, it knows.
Pay attention to your hands, they feel.
Listen to your horse, she talks.
In Preparation for my Horse Behaviour Seminar this past April, I was reminded of how a horse's innate character plays a big part in how a liberty session will play out.
I planned to have Escudo, my Andalusian/Quarter Horse gelding be part of my seminar by having participants observe his behaviour during a liberty session. A few days before the seminar I brought Escudo into my arena for a refresher.
When studying horse behaviour we need to consider - left brain, right brain, introvert, extrovert
and mild, moderate and extreme behaviour. Escudo is a mild left brain extrovert who has been a fabulous liberty partner. He is easy to direct back on track when he pulls out his dominant card, he's curious, friendly, and loves to show off what he can do. This type of character is a lot of fun to do liberty with, but that being said, he is a true LBE - as was proven two days before our demonstration.
Left Brain Extrovert (LBE) Defined:
Day 1 Demo Prep
I asked Escudo to circle around me at a walk, trot and canter. This is when I realized he was not connected to me as much as I would like. With a wisp of his tail, he left, kicking up dust as he cantered off expressing his new felt sense of freedom. It's common for a horse at liberty to feel the need to leave their partner in order to let off a little steam. This release of steam is NOT a bad thing! It helps settle their emotions so they may later return to their partner with a better mindset, and carry on with the task at hand. I figured this is what Escudo needed, so I watched as he gleefully expressed himself for a few minutes and then re-engaged him with the circle game.
Day 2 Demo Prep
The day before the seminar I sensed more resistance and less respect. It seemed that Escudo had discovered a new and exciting pattern - leaving me! His LBE self said : "I want to be in charge of my own destiny". Having realized this, I came up with a plan to win Escudo back. I had to rethink who he is, what he needs, and reinvent 'circling around me'.
Remember....If a LBE horse feels like they are being drilled, we are too demanding of them, or there isn't something interesting to keep their focus, they will try to take control. As for Escudo, our relationship was still solid, but he had had enough of circling, and there wasn't enough respect to keep him with me.
To be successful with a LBE at liberty, one needs a balance of:
Fixing an Undesirable Pattern
Having realized Escudo's newfound comfort in leaving, I had to take a new approach to an old pattern, at least until I got him back on track. Although still at liberty, I stopped sending Escudo out on the circle from a distance, where the opportunity for him to leave me was too strong. Instead, I asked for a smaller, tighter circle, which eliminated the choice to leave. Taking away the privilege of a large liberty circle which offers freedom and opinion, gave him no choice but to pay attention to me. This redirection of energy spurred respect, yet still allowed for freedom and fulfillment.
Escudo did stick with me during the Horse Behaviour Seminar the next day. Participants did figure out he was a LBE, and in the days that followed, I challenged him to go back to being able to follow the point of my finger when I asked for a large liberty circle. He not only was able to respectfully follow my suggestion of being out on the circle, but he did it with more attention and connection.
Horses being honest characters, will tell you readily if things aren't going well for them. Liberty is the truth, so one needs to be aware of every changing second and to the needs and wants of a horse. How we present ourselves as their leader is different for each quadrant. The more you understand all four quadrants, the better you will understand your horse, and the more opportunity you will have to offer him the safety, comfort and respect he needs. In return, your partnership will blossom!
Liberty and Escudo ( Andalusion/quarter horse) go together like cake and icing.
I smile to myself, standing patiently, feet planted in the sandy arena as Escudo contorts his body, showing off what he knows. He expresses himself with an splash of exuberance, offering me a stretch, a bow, a spin, a rear, or the spanish walk. He likes to please me, and he also likes to do what he wants to do, when he wants to do it. When there are no strings attached, a horse can stay with you, leave you, or decide he has his own agenda.
How do I make my idea my horses idea, when I need it most?
"It's time to be more serious now, see if you can follow what I'm asking of you Escudo", I say with a little sternness in my voice. I lift up my life energy and ask for 'circle on the move at liberty'. He does it with impulsion and joy. I then asked for him to move sideways, while I stand beside his belly with my hand placed on his ribs. He immediately responds with eagerness and respect, except, he doesn't move sideways, he starts to move into a spin.
This is not the first ( and won't be the last) time he has disregarded what I asked of him. It's not that he doesn't know sideways, or that sideways gives him anxiety, it's more like, he's saying, " I think spinning is way more fun, Sandy, and I think you'll like it".
I never want to take the try out of Escudo. I want him to feel successful, and enjoy being with me. How do I balance the need for him to offer me what he likes, and me to be able to ask him for what I want? My goal is to be in the leadership role and have Escudo respond like a dance partner rather than him decide to go into his solo dance act.
How do I achieve connection of minds?
I have a couple of choices.
I could put him on-line to bring immediate clarity to what I'm asking, or I could remain at liberty and try to express my desires with a clearer, more focused intent.
Staying at liberty is what I choose. I guide him through the exercise, by placing my hand gently on his nose preventing it from turning away from me (if he chooses to go into spin mode). I focus on my life energy, assert more will and intention, as I touch his side and ask for sideways. Like Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, dancing on the silver screen, step by step, we float sideways together.
Party time! It's these moments that are precious and need to be recognized. When we celebrate a horse's light bulb moment with sweet words and a scratch or two, we are spreading glue along the framework of his education, sealing a memory of success and comfort. Hopefully this moment will make a lasting impression on Escudo.
Sometimes it's the littlest things that make the biggest difference. Detailed guidance, more intention, plus focus on where I want to go, and a strong will and belief, is sometimes all it takes to bring the respect, and understanding to a whole new level.
I try to be creative, and light hearted with my approach to teaching. After all, I am the director of Escudo's education - I hold all the cards. Maybe a few of them tossed his way will give him a little more freedom to exert his creativity, and by him being more creative, he will be more content, and with contentment blooms a more settled heart.
Finding the balance of giving more freedom to a horse and still being able to steer the horseman ship, is not always easy. However, I believe it's achievable when there is a language between the human and the horse. If this language is clear enough for the horse to understand the difference between expressing himself when the time is appropriate and following his humans suggestion when asked, a harmonic series of balanced moments of mindfulness and emotional fitness unfold.
These days, my intentions seem clear. We sometimes play a game called, 'tit for tat'. Escudo offers want he wants to do, and then I ask for something I want to do. Escudo loves this game. He gets to think and project his creative side. When I really need for him to follow my direction, I get clear with my intentions, he feels the difference, and it's as if he can't help himself but follow my suggestion.
Escudo has developed the respect and understanding that there are times he needs to follow my suggestions. I have learned to be clear in my intentions, and directions.
Together we make our ideas each others ideas, as we work towards harmony.
The other day we had yet another BIG winter storm drive through the valley. The roaring wind and the cold ( at least for the Fraser Valley) was a good day for an experiment. We don't get much wind at our place, but if it's an easterly, as it was this day, we get hit.
I decided this storm would be a great experience for the horse's to be out in the arena with me, to see how they handled the rattling tin when the wind hits the edge pieces of the barn, and gusts of wind that ram the sand hard, sending up clouds of dust into the air, only to be swept out of the arena.
Once all five horses were out in the arena, wandering around, I put Valentino's ( two year old Andalusian) halter on, and thought I'd brush him, to stay connected, just in case he lost the plot. He was handling the few gusts that came whistling through quite fine. The others too were pretty chilled in general. After about ten minutes, I'm pretty happy with how the horses are all doing, and especially happy with my youngster.
Just as things were going smooth, an uncontrolled gust of wind came screaming through the arena. Kloee ( my Andalusian/ thoroughbred who can be reactive), reacted and blasted around the arena getting all the other horse's feathers in a flap. Valentino reacted with a jump and desire to join his herd.
The reason I'm telling you this story is, because, it's these experiences that let you know whether the education you are offering your horse is working or you have holes in your program that need to be fixed. When Valentino reacted with a jump and desire to leave, he hit the end of the lead line. The GREAT thing is, when he felt the end of the rope, he immediately rebounded, turned and faced me, stopped and asked the question, " I felt the rope, I'm with you----- are we okay ? " What an awesome feeling it is to have a horse that is soooooo light on the end of the line when he is scared. When he felt the rope, he instinctively rebounded, back to me, instead of instinctively running through the pressure and then back to his herd.
I answered Valentino's question of - "are we okay?" with a "yes", and brought him towards me. All was calm once more, until the next big gust.
My goal with every horse I touch, is for them to understand; when they feel the end of the line they DON'T run through it, they feel it and like pressing the right button, they come back and connect with me .
Yahoo ! I love days like this !
It's been eight weeks and counting since the freeze came upon us. Here in the Fraser Valley we pride ourselves in being able to ski, golf, hike, and ride horses, during winter. For most of Canada, everything is shut down until the thaw.
There may be some people that are set up with proficiency in the Valley with frost free taps, heated buckets, and have strategies for helping their horses get around on icey days, but most are carrying many warm buckets of water, have horses that haven't left their stalls since early December, and are realizing how important turn out is for the equine mind.
I've had a few students refer to their horses, as , "my horse has gone insane, being pent up in his stall for the last month". Insane in the dictionry reads, "
'in a state of mind that prevents normal perception, behavior, or social interaction'.
My five horses are very fortunate, living with a mountain at our back, most of the wind goes over us.
I do happen to have a frost free tap, and a couple of heated water buckets. My horses also have free access to go from the barn stalls to the covered arena whenever it suits their fancy. I am truly
I have one piece of adice I received from my sister that I am thrilled to have found out about, and I am excited to share with you. To pick up frozen poop in the paddocks, using a shovel is hard on the back, and a fork impossible; instead use a hoe. It easily lifts the piles up, saving your back and time.
This Holiday Season, Enhance Your Horsey Relationships!
Offer Your Four Hoofed Friend
(see Youtube video below)
Undemanding time is, plainly given, time spent without demands or expectations on either side. Doing this with your horse can be relatively easy and stressless. Requiring little time and energy, spending time, without demanding time, shows your horse another side of you- a side that can ‘sit and be’ without asking or expecting anything.
Lets imagine a scenario between you and your horse, from their point of view. You come into your barn, cheery and eager to spend time with your horse. You say your hellos and proceed to lead your horse out of his stall, then groom, saddle, and walk him out to work on the intended goal for that day. As you begin to work with your horse, you mind is scattered. The holidays are closing in and among a great list of things to think about, you’ve got family, parties, weather, and crowds on your mind. These thought create restless energy inside of us, and believe it or not your horse can feel the elevation of your scattered thoughts and scattered energy. Although you are present with your horse, and intend on working with them, its unavoidable that your focus is drawn to surviving, among other things, Christmas dinner with your mother in law. If you are feeling unfocussed, your horse will too, and you may both end the lesson feeling frustrated and anxious, which could be sending you backwards in progress rather than forwards.
If this sounds even a little like you, I may have a solution. No, I’m not going to do your shopping for you, or sit with your mother in law on Christmas eve, but I can suggest that you keep things simple for your horse during the holidays. Simple for them perhaps may mean simple for you.
Instead of being with your horse physically, but not mentally or emotionally, why not take a step back and offer your friend ‘undemanding time’. Be the friend that comes for coffee. Sit on a bucket and read a book while your mane partner munches on hay. Play “find the cookie”- where you set up a cookie scavenger hunt for you to lead your horse to as you take a walk about after you’ve sat and visited for a while. Come up with your own relaxing way of visiting with your horse like you’d visit with an old friend- no demands, no expectations, just time well spent.
These simple and undemanding exercises are powerful for one reason- they build relationships. Your horse will be surprised and delighted that you are there just to ‘be’ with them. Giving yourself and your horse a well needed rest, after a years hard work, is a win for both of you! Quality time is NEVER wasted time, its time that is being invested in an important relationship. When your horse knows you care enough just to “hang out”, he will want to be with you more. Curiosity, relaxation, and the simple joy in doing nothing, has effect on the mind, body, spirit, and relationship to others.
Think about this simple relationship builder for a little while, then try it out. If your horse could speak to you, he might just say something like this: “Heh, that was a lot of fun! Can you hang out tomorrow?
You have a goal - lets say it's to teach your horse to side pass with grace. It's common to teach this exercise while in the saddle.
Most use on line ( lunging) to get the bucks out, or allow the horse to let off pent up steam. Few use on-line strategies to unlock mental and emotional blocks or brace a horse may have.
Consider bringing on-line exercises into your routine to sky rocket a horse's level of understanding, confidence, and willingness. What awaits you is, eventual, 'immediate success' in the saddle.
Side pass is an exercise where a horse needs to understand, moving away from pressure is a good thing; it brings release and comfort.
It's like a breath of fresh air flooding into the arena when I first ask my horse to side pass in the saddle after I've had success with side pass while walking along his side. There is no frustration, unconfidence, brace, or any other displaced behaviour. Instead, I am delighted to feel a harmonious immediate response of him reaching a leg across and underneath as he floats across the arena.
I'll never forget the first time I experienced this.
I tend to be a purest when it comes to following a method I believe in. There are no short cuts, cheats, or lame excuses. I need to belief in what I'm doing, I look for the response of what I've asked from my horse, and we go from there.
Years ago I had a lovely sensitive Arabian mare.
I was excited to eventually one day ride off into the sunset with her, but was smart enough to understand I needed a foundation or the riding off part would look more like a horse loosing her mind.
I faithfully practised many on-line exercises, including side pass. My goal was to get it good enough so I could pretend I was off line ( liberty) and she still would respond to my (ever so light) finger touching her side where my heel would eventually lay once on top of her back. Satisfied her side pass was soft, willing, respectful, and engaged, I saddled her up and proceeded to try the same thing in the saddle.
Voila ! It was like magic !
I remember wondering if she would actually respond the same way to the touch of my heel when I was in the saddle as she did to the touch of my hand on-line. I asked with the same lightness, on the same spot along her side. It was like magic, it made no difference, on the ground asking for side pass, or in the saddle, she responded with understanding and willingness.
Once you experience the power of on-line and how it leads to success in the saddle, you will be more conscious of what the out come of 'all' exercises can look like.