Thursday, September 7, 2023

Building Emotional Fitness in Yourself and Your Horse

Wendy Comstock on 3-year old Marcus for the first time.

by Mary Gallagher

It seems like this year we started more horses than ever. They just kept coming every month and we (Jerry Schmidt and I, with our special student Elise Dean) got into the flow of playing with young, promising horses every day. Pretty fun work, when you understand it! Anyway, with the days getting shorter, and knowing that soon the last of the babies will go home, I’ve been reflecting on what really stood out for me over this time with them. Overwhelmingly, the piece that means so much to me and connects our work with each of the horses is building their emotional fitness.

Thursday, May 4, 2023

Lessons in Tuning Your Horse—and Yourself! (Growing our Horsemanship With Martin Black, Part Two)

By Mary Gallagher

I am still learning from our recent, fabulous clinic with Martin Black. I'd like to share what I've been doing lately with some of what I learned, though I'd recommend hearing it straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak, if you can. I can’t recommend Martin highly enough, and you can join us for his next clinic with us in March 2024 to experience much more, first hand!

I’ve been walking my students through a basic pattern of foot placement exercises learned from Martin, relating it to what I’ve been teaching for years. One of the students, a musician, commented that taking time to learn and refine these exercises was a lot like practicing scales. Musicians want to play songs and do the cool things they are inspired by in other musicians, but without developing dexterity and musical sense through patient practice of scales, the goal remains far away. I thought it was a great analogy. We tend to want to jump in and ‘make music’—get our horse ‘in frame’ by various means, trot, canter, and go right to the things we ride horses for. To get there, too often we solve issues with specialized tack, firmer aids, stronger grip…the list goes on.

Sunday, April 2, 2023

Growing Our Horsemanship with Martin Black

By Mary Gallagher

We had been looking forward to our clinic with Martin Black for months, and Martin did not disappoint! He is definitely a special horseman, bringing to us 6 generations of ranching wisdom, including the mentorship of many top horsemen. In his own career he has started tens of thousands of colts, ready within weeks to help managing cattle on the open range. Martin has also trained thousands of eager clinic participants, ready to absorb the horsemanship he has so finely distilled. Those of us fortunate to spend last week with Martin are the richer for the experience.

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.

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.