Sunday, March 5, 2023

Foundations for Becoming the Leader Your Horse Needs (Part Three of ‘The Horse, The Environment, and You’)

By Mary Gallagher

Starting a 2-year old with the Boundary Box
In my last two posts, I discussed you and your horse in relation to the environment (‘out there’),
boundaries (between you and your horse), and most importantly, your ability to ‘observe, observe, observe’ and see your horse experiencing you in the environment, and respecting your boundaries (or not).

With a level of safety established by our increased awareness, we can start talking about communication. Your body language is a big part of setting healthy boundaries, being safe, and becoming the leader your horse needs.

If you have read my previous posts, you already know that I like to start with a boundary box. It’s a simple concept, but deep in terms of how much you can accomplish, and how challenging it really is to do well and grow your practice.

Friday, March 3, 2023

In Memory of Hazelnut (1999-2023)

Rest in Peace, dear Hazelnut. Kathy Schmidt’s beautiful, wise, kind mare Hazelnut left us this week after a brief illness. Hazelnut arrived with Kathy at the old location on Shore Road, a troubled filly. Years of love, acceptance, training and belonging brought out Hazel’s many gifts: she was an all-around partner for Kathy in jumping, cow work, ranch work, trail riding, helping Mary G train young show horses, ponying one and all, and just being with their friends at the Farm and beyond. In her later years, thanks to Kathy’s generosity, Hazelnut became one of our finest lesson horses, patiently teaching students young and old. We miss her deeply already. Thank you, Hazelnut, and thank you, Kathy for sharing her with us.



















[originally posted on Facebook Feb. 23, 2023]

Thursday, February 2, 2023

 The Leadership Gauge (Part Two of "The Horse, The Environment, and You")

by Mary Gallagher

Building a language of leadership is our best tool in developing a confident horse.


In last month’s blog post, I introduced a diagram that helps us understand the importance of using boundaries in the proper environment to build a language of leadership. When we are in the ‘sweet spot’—good observation, strong boundaries, balanced emotions—our horse’s confidence enables connection, communication, and cooperation between us.

This month I am taking the diagram further, drawing our attention to how crucial awareness of the horse’s emotions is in keeping us in that sweet spot where optimal learning occurs. Because the diagram helps us see where we are with the horse at any given moment, I am calling it the Leadership Gauge.

Thursday, December 8, 2022

The Horse, the Environment, and You (Part One)

 by Mary Gallagher

Astute observation by many horsemen over the years has clarified the horse’s need for the herd as a place to feel safe in an uncontrolled environment. As a trainer for many years, I have come to understand and respect what a huge part ‘uncontrolled environment’ plays in their learning ability. Simply put, horses learn better if they feel safe, and the environment is key. So within the environment ‘out there’ beyond our work space, I need to: 

 1) establish a safe environment in which to cultivate leadership and healthy boundaries, and 

2) establish my place in our herd hierarchy of two by doing so. 

The more competent the leadership, the less threatening the environment; the safer the environment, the more opportunities for learning. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Inspired by Beach Camp!

 by Mary Gallagher and Kathy Schmidt


For the last 17 years we have had the good fortune to visit the farm of Cindy and Gary Flood, in Long Beach, Washington, for our annual beach camp. They have graciously hosted our campers and horses, giving us use of their excellent covered arena and paddocks, with easy access to the legendary beach nearby. Our camps have taken many forms and included campers of all ages at one time or another. We are so grateful for the ongoing opportunity to be at such a beautiful facility!

This year’s camp was, in a word, outstanding. As many of you know, recent beach camps have been exclusively for our Hoof Beats riders. Well, the small but enthusiastic crew that came with us this year really excelled at making this camp about horsemanship, pitching in to help, being there for each other, and having loads of fun in the process! Together we set a new standard for the future.

Kathy Schmidt, who has partnered with me the last few years, bringing many years as a grade school teacher as well as a high level of horsemanship to the occasion, agreed that this camp was special. The question is, how to make it a success every year?

Here’s what we think:

Monday, May 30, 2022

Giving the Horse a Pathway to Solve Problems, Part 2

by Mary Gallagher

I’ve been continuing to experiment with finding fun ways to help my horses in training solve their own problems and change habits.

First off, variety in your training keeps the horse engaged and learning on multiple levels. Even better, using real world exercises on the ground that set up the horse to deal with their own issues gets positive results far faster than schooling from the saddle. In this video, I help a green mare with the habit of ‘swapping her leads behind’ find a better way, with minimal input from me. Were I to correct the same issue through riding….let’s just say we’d be at it a while.

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Giving the Horse a Pathway to Solve Problems, From the Ground

By Mary Gallagher 

Very often, the mistakes the horse makes under saddle are mistakes by the rider in terms of balance, connection and lack of lightness in communication. Horses want to move rhythmically and efficiently, and too often it’s we that get in the way. Like other trainers, I am good at working through issues from the saddle, but I’ve been practicing new ways to reduce training time and get even better results from the ground.