Thursday, June 4, 2020

Fun and Imagination Can Be Useful Tools in Training: Introducing Colts to the Trailer

By Mary Gallagher

Recently I trailered a couple of young horses I’ve been training back to their home at Wensleydale Farm in Oregon. I invited two of my advanced Hoof Beats students, Elise and Elly, since they had been handling and riding the trainees, and since there are more great young horses at Wensleydale, including new colts. I really enjoy coaching my students, and this day was extra fun for us all because we got to play with baby horses!


Horses are full faculty learners at birth, ready within a few hours to follow Mom out into the big world. What this means for trainers is, you can’t start too early exposing a baby horse to all sorts of different things, familiarizing them with human contact and making it easier for them to adapt to the human world in the future.

With talented students, it is a match made in heaven—a curious colt and an imaginative handler. In this case, there were no great deeds to accomplish, just a chance to let the girls help two colts test out life in a safe way.

We decided to try some basic yields which would help prepare the youngsters for trailer loading. Elise and Elly played some preparatory games on line, getting the babies to follow a feel in all directions. After they all got comfortable moving around outside, we thought of asking them to move in and out of open stalls in the barn.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Imagination is a Great Teacher

by Mary Gallagher

I’ve been thinking a lot about imagination, as I do my rounds at Freedom Farm. As I shared last month, I’ve been spending more quiet time doing a greater variety of things with my personal horses and trainees, and have been encouraging my students to do the same with their horses.

Without the pressure of upcoming shows, and with the necessity of quiet, more individualized activities, we are discovering and developing new avenues of purpose with our horses, making use of our surroundings to develop, test, and hone our skills and our partner’s skills.

With a little attention, we can easily find sources of inspiration around us, to get us going on a meaningful journey of discovering our oneness with nature. And with our horses, by mindfully cooperating, we can awaken the intelligence innate in both us.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Lots of time on your hands? Work on Enhancing that Relationship!

By Mary Gallagher
Creative grooming.
With all the extra time we are spending at home during this month of quarantine, I thought it would be a perfect time to really focus on enhancing my relationship with my horses. Young Einstein, one of my trainees from Wensleydale Farms, offers a perfect example of the benefits of enriching and enhancing our relationship through fun and seemingly random
activities.
When I begin with any horse, I spend time observing them before we start. I try not to have a set-in-stone plan of what I want to do, but just a general idea of where I want to go. I start from who the horse is, and where their natural skills will take them.

Sure, there is the usual pan of oats and grooming, but even that should not be the same every time. I make sure to groom him untied, most of the time. And with all the hair the horses are shedding this time of year, it’s nice to groom in an area where we don’t have to sweep it up, like out on the grass. (Birds love using it for nests)
Einstein is almost three, a growing part-draft horse whose strengths, I feel, will lie in being an all-round ranch horse. So along with his general training, I have been taking him for outings around the farm. These are not necessarily riding excursions, but I do put a saddle on him in case I come across something that I would like to do while riding. 

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Body Language 101: the Value of Quiet Work

by Mary Gallagher


Nina and Mary working quietly.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the deeper aspects of communicating with our horses. We all know, more or less, that we humans tend to express ourselves with words, and that horses are more about body language. Most of us are accustomed to our horses watching and responding to us in our daily interactions. For an obvious example, your  horse notices when your hand enters your pocket, right? and responds by asking for a treat? Or when picking out your horses feet—does he offer his hoof to you before you ask? or even better, does he shift his weight as you prepare to ask? If your horse can do this, how much more might he perceive?

Things go along pretty well as we use all the horsemanship tools we’ve been given to direct the actions of our horses. We even call it ‘schooling’, with us as the teacher and the horse as the student. Horses pretty much buy into being schooled, as they are hard-wired to accept leadership. But if we really pay attention as we school our horses, we may discover that they are teachers in their own right. How many times have we thought we have things going pretty well, only to have our horse show us something we missed? Or maybe it’s just that we aren’t getting the result we were looking for, and despite our best efforts, we seem to be at an impasse…?

Monday, January 6, 2020

Looking Back on 2019

by Mary Gallagher

Advanced Hoof Beats riders heading for class.
Looking back on 2019. It sure was a rich year of learning, and I am thankful to our horses and to allof you for giving so much of yourselves as we grow in horsemanship together here at Freedom Farm. Writing this year-end note is always an exercise in acknowledgement and gratitude to the wonderful people who make Freedom Farm a great place to be. This year I found myself thinking about the different people and experiences that enriched us all:

We met new teachers and engaged in new ideas—especially through our first Advanced Prep for Performance 5-day class. It was a great week that generated new ideas and relationships while covering a number of horsemanship topics, from safety to teamwork, hoof care to body work, and much more. Several visiting instructors are continuing to be resources, including...