Saturday, November 14, 2015

Transitions for Physical and Emotional Fitness

by Mary Gallagher

I am a big fan of transitions, both on line in the round pen and while riding. Longing, round pen work, and riding can all be improved when we allow our horse’s transitions, as opposed to not allowing, or preventing the horse from doing down transitions. The difference is in seeing un-asked for transitions as opportunities for communication, rather than mistakes to be corrected.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Horsemanship Connection and Communication Equation, Part One

by Mary Gallagher

In my experience, you can teach a horse anything if you can understand that his motivation is to stay safe and that his goal is comfort. In this series of articles, I’d like to explore this idea a bit, using a sort of short hand, or equations to express various facets of the human-horse working relationship.

Herd = Safety and (but not always) Comfort

One of the first things we learn in horsemanship is that the horse is a prey animal whose herd is its key source of safety. Let us also understand that horses are super sensitive and perceptive creatures; there are no shortcuts on the journey to trust and communication. As we begin to observe herds, we see a range of behaviors, beyond peaceful grazing, that demonstrate the herd as a safe, but not always comfortable place to be.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Small Steps to Connection, Part One

By Mary Gallagher

For several years in my early career, I had the great good fortune to ride for Jimmy Williams, renowned trainer of many Grand Prix and Olympic champions, in Southern California. Jimmy’s uncanny ability with horses was legendary; at an advanced age he would still ride most of his horses through complex dressage routines with no bridle. He achieved outstanding levels of success through an innate sensitivity to how horses communicate.

Lesson Notes: Connecting to the Feet

 by Mary Gallagher

I often stress to my students that riding is a process of connecting to the horse’s feet: our hands connect to the front feet, our legs to the back feet. Knowing this and training ourselves to consciously connect to the feel of the feet can enhance understanding and improve our communication with our horses. With attention and practice we can begin cooperating and synchronizing with our horse’s movement.

The key is to master one foot at a time. Getting connected to the feet is a lot like juggling. It's easy to juggle one ball, but when a second is added, suddenly things get complex. To get four balls in the air seems impossible when you are just beginning. So what do we do to make this easy in the beginning stages?

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

At Freedom Farm, 'Freedom' Starts With the Feet

 By Mary Gallagher

At Freedom Farm our horses are our partners. We make every effort, and feel obligated to understand who they are. In nature, horses are migrating prey animals who depend on their feet to survive. And feet are what I’d like to address in this post: specifically, why we not only advocate, but require bare feet for all our resident horses.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Remembering Kathy Benson

We lovingly remember long-time Freedom Farm friend Kathy Cooley Benson, who passed away recently. She was a good friend to the people and animals of the Farm, often helping with our events over the years, along with her husband Benny. She kept a sack of horse treats in her open locker for all to dip into, and was ready with a smile and a helping hand, as you can see in these photos we found from 2013 (see below).

At Kathy's request, a collection was taken up her memory, to sponsor a young rider at our youth beach camp this year. Thanks to all who quickly provided the full sponsorship, and thank you, Kathy, for your kindness, love and support all these years!

Lesson Notes: The Benefits of Head Lowering

by Mary Gallagher

When I was working for Jimmy Williams, I noticed that he was forever getting his horses to lower their heads. He would lower a horse’s head to put the bridle on, or to smooth the forelock out under the brow band. He would teach the horse to roll a barrel with its nose. With a squeeze in front of the withers, he’d get the horse to lower its head, and then he would throw a sugar cube on the ground for it. Thinking back, Jimmy spent a lot of time in this endeavor. He must have thought it was important.