Thursday, March 26, 2015

Influence as Leadership

By Mary Gallagher

Recently I have been working with a young owner whose horse is challenging her leadership. He has managed, with great skill, to make her timid. He is very sensitive to her body language and how she moves away from him each time he steps into her space. He has figured out how to get her to step away with his head, his shoulder, his teeth, his hip, and his hind feet, to gradually gain total control over her. To be sure, she is young and small, and he is big and imposing, and when he asserts himself he is daunting. But this scenario is also quite familiar to many an adult owner and rider, who find themselves pushed around by their horses.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Let’s Start with Gratitude

Hi folks!

Let me welcome you to our new blog! I guess it’s a little funny to say, having already posted 74 articles, but this is the first real, live post, so I’m excited to get going. We’ve been talking about the idea of a blog for several years, and its time has come.  I will be sharing my thoughts and vision for these Freedom Farm Notes in future posts, but first, some thanks are in order.

The authors of all the newsletter articles-turned-blog-posts have generously shared their time and expertise over the years, bringing us all many gems of insight into horsemanship and health. Thank you all! I am glad to see all of your (and my) good work accessible and searchable, and I look forward to more! Working in tandem with this blog is our website, home of lots of basic information about Freedom Farm and its mission, as well as our calendar, videos, and downloads. The website has grown and changed along with us, and  I’d  like to thank its previous builders, Grace Lambert (who was also our founding newsletter and Facebook editor) and Angus McCullough (who also created our very popular welcome video and many superb photos), for creating and shaping our early web presence! And a big thanks to Mary Tulin for channelling all of the above into our new website, newsletter (with assistance from Thomas Gallagher), and this blog, along with many more wonderful photos, many by her husband Kip, of Freedom Farm and its community of people and animals.

I am grateful to you all, and all the people and horses who make Freedom Farm the special place it is, just by being here with us: students showing up for lessons, classes, camps, our instructors and camp helpers, and all who come to support kids and grandkids, friends and relations both horse and human. Thanks for partaking in and helping share our message of natural horsemanship and health with the world!

With deepest thanks,


Thursday, March 5, 2015

Zinc for Equine Health: a matter of balance

By Barbara Noble

In my last article, I briefly discussed copper. Today I'd like to explore the role of zinc.  Zinc's indispensible contribution in your horse's body is to be a part of many enzymes.  For example, enzyme activity is included in insulin production, blood clotting and wound healing. Zinc deficiency can also be seen in horse's coats, their hoof quality, immunity, persistent skin infections and ongoing thrush.

Clinic Report: Craig Johnson - reining and versatility

By Kathy Schmidt

My horse Hazelnut and I attended the Craig Johnson Clinic at Freedom Farm last weekend, and we had a great time! It was a bit out of our comfort zone, as we do Western about once a month for cow work, and otherwise focus on dressage and jumping, along with our usual chores around the Farm. It was a great group, including 8-10 folks and their gorgeous horses who show in western pleasure and/or reining. Craig was great, laid back yet very serious about his job, which has ranged from teaching individuals, to training and showing World Champions in reining, and now coaching folks in ranch versatility!

Lesson Notes: Our Horses, Our Teachers

By Mary Gallagher

Here at Freedom Farm we have the greatest teachers, our horses. Over the years, these great teachers come and go in our lives, but even as the horse passes on, the lessons remain with us.

New Years Message - January 2015

This post was originally our January newsletter, Vol 5 issue 1 (just as the 70-plus posts preceding this one originated in the past years' newsletters). I include it here as the sentiments are still fresh, and this coming year's calendar still forming! -MG

Dear Friends,

Our first issue of 2015 is dedicated to gratitude, acknowledgements, and events to start the New Year.
We look forward to another great year of growth and learning for us all.

Nutrition Supplement Awareness

By Barbara Noble, BS, CRNA

While others are thinking of holidays, my mind is on copper and zinc. The other trace minerals, iron and manganese are generally readily available. In our area (Pacific Northwest) iron is so available as to be an excess problem. Manganese is usually plentiful, and deficiency not a problem. However, copper and zinc are barely present in our soils and consequently are barely present in our pastures and hay.

Bridling Your Horse - Part 3 - Challenges

By Jessica Crouch

Over the last couple of months, we've talked about how to help your horse become more willing to be bridled.  It is not just about forcing a horse to stand and accept a bridle - it is about a series of good habits, communication, and careful attention to the feel you give your horse. Now I'd like to give you a few little challenges to play with. Just how good is your bridling skill? Can you:

Getting Hip to Horsemanship (and Hips)!

By Mary Gallagher

When I have seen photos of my riding position, I am always thinking, 'I need to get my leg under me, more perpendicular to the ground.' But when I adjusted my leg back, it wouldn't stay put!  In more recent photos and videos by Mary Tulin, my leg is right where I want it, but I can't say that I have been consciously working on it. What is up with that? I wondered. Here's what I realized: 

How Horses Shake Their (Dusty) Booties

By Kip Tulin MD

Did you ever see a dog shake water off of his fur after getting wet? How about a horse shaking the dust off after a good roll? I have watched Freedom Farm's horses do so in the arena and wondered, how well does it work?

Feeding Our Easy Keepers

By Mary Gallagher and Barbara Noble, BS, CRNA

When I was growing up, overweight horses were called "easy keepers", but now you hardly ever hear that term; instead, we call them fat, or in some cases, insulin-resistant. It's this group I'm going to discuss here.

Bridling Your Horse - Part 2

By Jessica Crouch

Last month, we discussed basic prerequisites to bridling your horse, which included physical issues to consider as well as exercises to ensure your horse is trusting and willing to let you handle his head. Now I'd like to share with you my favorite method of bridling.

Lesson Notes: Relationship, Partnership & Leadership

By Mary Gallagher
Horsemanship includes relationship, partnership, and leadership. You, the rider, must hold all three in balance as you and your horse engage with each other. In fact, pausing to reflect on where you and your horse are in these three areas is a great way to check in on your progress in general.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

What We Feed Our Horses

By Barbara Noble, BS, CRNA

Barbara Noble is a longtime horse owner and student of equine nutrition who has become a go-to advisor hereabouts on horse feed issues. She advised us on our recent hay analysis (see my article last month), which I found very helpful and clarifying. I hope Barbara will continue to contribute articles on various aspects of horse nutrition as she continues her studies with Dr. Eleanor Kellon, DVM. - MG
Writing for the Freedom Farm newsletter is a new adventure for me, and I plan to share information on horse feeding - and have it be interesting to read! My hope is that you will be able to incorporate some of this information for your horse's benefit.

Bridling Your Horse - Part 1

By Jessica Crouch

You watch enviously as your friend bridles her horse. The horse happily lowers his head, reaches for the bit, holds it softly in his mouth while the bridle is slipped over his ears, and blissfully chews up his little cookie reward. Soon they are off having a pleasant warm-up in the field and you are still on your tip-toes trying to jam a bit through your own horse's teeth. You love your horse, but are quite frustrated with this bridling problem. Why can't he just take the bit nicely?

Lesson Notes: Reading Your Horse

by Mary Gallagher

Today I wanted to talk to you about a lesson I often find myself teaching, many times over. It is about noticing how your horse is responding to you, emotionally and physically, at any given moment.

Trailer Loading Tips: Loading Your Horse (Part 4 of 4)

by Jessica Crouch
Last in a series

You've played with multiple simulations and developed trust, communication, and respect with your horse. It's time to finally use those skills to load your horse onto the trailer. Within this brief article I can only give you a basic formula to follow; adapt as you see fit, using all the skills you learned from the obstacle simulations. The general idea is to load and unload your horse in increments, so he gains confidence as he goes.

The Transformation of Niko, part 3

A Series by Michelle Grimmer

Upon Niko's arrival at Freedom Farm in December of 2013, we got to work. We had a general plan, but time would tell how Niko's transformation would go. The shoes came off (yikes!), we had a look at his teeth, posture, etc., but these particulars were embedded in a deeper process of healing Niko's mind and body through the environment of Freedom Farm.

What the Hay! An Ongoing Look at What We Feed Our Horses

By Mary Gallagher

You may recall that last month I sent a sample of Freedom Farm hay for analysis, and promised to follow up in this newsletter. Well, the analysis is back, and I feel like we are on the threshold of a wonderful process of learning about and fine-tuning our horses' feed! To better understand the hay analysis document, I met with our local friend and equine nutrition expert Barb Noble, who shared some interesting insights.

The Transformation of Niko, part 2

A Series by Michelle Grimmer

If you've been around Freedom Farm much, you have probably seen my big gray horse Niko. He came to me extremely unsound, mentally and physically. He was very crooked in his body and when I rode him he felt like two different horses depending on which direction we'd be tracking in the arena. To the left, he felt somewhat ok, but to the right he was crippled. No matter what direction we went, he was extremely worried in his mouth and curled away from the bit while constantly gnashing his teeth. He had to wear boots on all four legs because he bloodied himself by whacking them together if there was no protection. His feet were completely out of balance, due to well-meaning farriers attempting to work with the way his body wanted to travel. Crooked body, crooked feet, crooked legs.

Trailer Loading Tips: Approaching the Trailer (Part 3 of 4)

By Jessica Crouch

Over the last several months we've discussed several simulations to help you develop the foundation you will need to trailer load your horse. Having done those, how do you make the transition to actually asking them to get into the trailer? Horses are extremely sensitive to change, and often taking them to the parking lot where your trailer is to load is not near as successful as if you put your trailer in with the rest of your obstacles. (Or take your familiar obstacles out to the trailer.) That makes the trailer just another "toy" to play with.  

Feet and Feed: Insights from a Pete Ramey Clinic

by Mary Gallagher

I had the pleasure of attending Pete Ramey's clinic at Scott Roger's place in Port Townsend last week, at which he emphasized the relationship between our horses' diets and their feet. I came away with a few insights to share with you possible improvements we can all make at home and here at Freedom Farm.

Quittin' Talk

By Thomas Gallagher

It seems, nowadays, that there is this stigma attached to the word "quit". Even talking about it seems taboo. Well, I am going to tell you something you probably haven't heard before. There are two types of quitting: the 'I-give-up-and-no-longer-want-to-try' type of quitting, and the 'that-was-a-good-day-it's-time-to-stop' type of quitting. You don't need to be a genius to figure out which one is better and more socially acceptable. However, this article is not about quitting, but rather what will and should follow after one decides that it's quitting time. I urge you all to listen to what I am about to reveal to you, because my words are important...or at least they will be...someday.

What is Thrush?

By Kip Tulin, M.D.

The Transformation of Niko, Part One

A Series by Michelle Grimmer

In the ever-evolving quest for self-betterment and the improvement of training for my horses, I am constantly searching for ways to enhance my program with the horses that I am working with. A big part of this has been to involve Freedom Farm and all it has to offer.

Trailer Loading Tips (Part 2 of 4)

By Jessica Crouch

Last month I gave you my #1 safety tip: NEVER tie your horse in the trailer...... UNTIL the partition or butt bar is in place. This month I continue on the theme of taking the time to work with your horse until he can confidently load and stand quietly while you close the divider and latch it securely.  

Body Language and Reading the Teeth

by Mary Gallagher

Recently I had the opportunity to learn from Jerry Schmidt about telling a horse's age by understanding and reading the teeth. I learned that there is a world of knowledge inside the horse's mouth that can help me communicate better with my horse. I cannot fit all of what I learned in this short article, but I would like to share the insight that knowing even a little about how your young horse's teeth develop can improve your training and communication.

Trailer Loading Tips (Part 1 of 4))

by Jessica Crouch

Spring is here - show season's in full swing and the trails are beckoning. Since there's a good chance you are eager to trailer your horse somewhere, I'd like to share with you a few trailering lessons I've learned along the way.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Inspiration: A Goal of My Own

By Michelle Grimmer

Earlier this spring, I wrote about setting goals and working toward them as the year progresses. So far things are going well, and the horses I am working with are right on track...but what about me? Am I on track? My focus on my client horses' progress and my busy life has taken my attention away from my own growth as a rider. If I had to pick a goal, what would it be?

Trailer Loading Preparation: Yielding Sideways (Part 4 of 4)

by Jessica Crouch

Over the last three months we've practiced sending your horse to a specific point, backing with precise focus, and squeezing between narrow openings. Now we'll address  moving sideways.  What does yielding sideways have to do with going into a horse trailer? When you close the slant divider on a trailer, your horse has to yield left from you (or the swinging divider) INTO the pressure of the trailer wall or partition.

Noticing: What do the feet tell us?

By Mary Gallagher

Fourth in a series about noticing your horse's body language.

A complete view of the body language of the horse must include the feet. When I look at a horse, it helps to see what they are standing on and how it is working for them. If a horse is wearing shoes, there will be signs of the effect of those shoes throughout the body. If the horse is barefoot, I will look for balance, shape and wear to give me a better overall idea of how the horse is using its body.

Exercise: Sumo Squats

By Mary Gallagher, with Kenny Hall, fitness trainer
In February's newsletter, we presented Deep Squats, a powerful core and leg strengthening exercise for riders. In that article we focused on the basics and benefits of the exercise, performed with toes up and arms folded, back straight. This month we revisit the deep squat, but push the exercise a bit farther by adding the kettle bell, and calling it the "Sumo Squat".

Spring is here! And so is the risk of founder and laminitis!

It's great to see the lush, green grass of spring, and important to know that beautiful, fast-growing spring grass stores much more sugar than it needs for growth, and definitely more than most horses should consume in quantity. Too much of the good stuff can cause grass founder or laminitis, which is the inflammation of the laminae of the horse's foot, an extremely painful and dangerous condition.

Inspiration: Spring toward Goals

By Michelle Grimmer

Spring has sprung, and Swish (the wonder horse) and I are working hard to further our jumping skills development. We are looking forward to opportunities to test those skills, and so far in 2014 we have been fortunate to be able to attend three educational clinics and a jumping derby competition. These activities early in the year have given me a good idea of what Swish will need to prepare her for the upcoming show season where she will be competing in the sport of 3-Day Eventing.

Trailer Loading Preparation: Going Through a Narrow Place, Part 3 (of 4)

By Jessica Crouch

Over the last two months we have developed our communication in asking our horse to step forward to an object (step on a plate) and to back carefully and thoughtfully over an obstacle (back over a pole).  Now we are going to add in another challenge - go through a narrow place. I really like to play with 55-gallon plastic barrels. They are easy to move around and reconfigure according to your horse's needs. At the Farm, Jerry's been kind enough to provide us with plenty of barrels, but if you don't have any at home you can improvise - just make sure the object is safe, even if your horse bumps into it.

Noticing: Why Hurry?

By Mary Gallagher

Third in a series about noticing your horse's body language.

When you first look at the photos in this article, you might think 'gosh, Mary wants that horse to step on the tarp', and you would be partly right. I do want him to step on it--eventually. More important are all the wonderful things that develop while he avoids the tarp. So many times we get the end result fixed in our minds and we think we should achieve it right away. However, if we slow down and allow the horse to work at finding comfort, we achieve so much more.

Here I have my rope just long enough that this horse has to work at going around the tarp. As he avoids the tarp, he has to bend his head and neck around. He is also picking
up his shoulder and reaching underneath himself with his inside hind leg stretching and loosening the hips, ribs, and back.

Exercise: Toe Raises

By Mary Gallagher, with Kenny Hall, fitness trainer
My workouts with Kenny have helped me in so many ways. I just wanted to share with you another helpful insight about an often neglected muscle that is surprisingly important to our riding and horsemanship. A simple thing like limited range of motion or weakness in a particular area can impact our communication with our horse.

Trailer Loading Preparation: Backing Over a Pole (Part 2)

By Jessica Crouch

Last month we talked about asking your horse to go forward to a particular point. (Step on a plate.)  This laid the groundwork for the communication you will need when you ask your horse to go FORWARD into the trailer. 

This month's exercise will focus on an equally important piece - confidence in backing out of the trailer.  You might think - most horses can get out of a trailer in a hurry - that's not my problem!  But a horse who rushes out of a trailer is generally not confident about unloading, and the problem can gradually escalate to a real issue.  So teach your horse to back in all kinds of situations so they can be confident when asked to back out of a horse trailer.

Noticing Your Horse's Body Language

By Mary Gallagher

Last month I began this new series on noticing what our horse is telling us through body language. I shared my belief that learning to read the horse's head carriage, ear position, shoulder direction, eyes, feet activity, tail position, weight on the rope, and proximity to our personal space is essential in our development as horsemen and horsewomen. All these signs fit together like a puzzle, telling us what is going on inside the horse's skin. We can use this information to put together a plan for how we will communicate back to our horse, ultimately improving our training and enhancing our pleasure time together.

Exercise: Deep Squats

By Kenny Hall, Personal Trainer
and Mary Gallagher
MG: Kenny and I have been working together for two years now and as we combine our knowledge I am thrilled with the fitness knowledge and practice we can offer riders of all ages. As an instructor, I see focused exercise significantly improving riding, independent of our activity on the horse, saving our horse's good nature for the best we can offer. It is our responsibility as competent riders to be our best for our horses.

Inspiration: years of lessons!

By Michelle Grimmer

I have been riding for 33 years, and during this time I have always taken lessons. Am I a sucky rider that just doesn't get it? Do I have difficulty retaining what I learn? Maybe I'm just not very coordinated. Actually, I think I do ok. That said, there are always new things to learn, and new ways to get from point A to point B. Just about the time that I think I've figured it out, I get on a new horse that needs a different way of doing things, or a horse I ride all the time presents me with new

Trailer Loading Preparation Part 1 (of 4)

By Jessica Crouch

You load your happy horse into your trailer and off you drive - to a wonderful trail ride?  A fun show? Maybe a great clinic? In real life though, horses often worry about the trailer.  A lot.  Some arrive soaked with sweat. Some bang their heads or legs in their haste to get off the trailer.  Some simply won't go in at all. But it doesn't have to be that way. Training (or re-training) a horse to trailer can be just another relaxed progression in his education.  How you approach it makes all the difference in the world. The key lies in developing trust, communication and confidence AWAY from the actual trailer. Each piece of the trailer loading equation can be broken down. I'll be sharing an exercise each month that will help your horse learn the skills and confidence he'll need when you finally do ask him to load.

Noticing: Seeing What Your Horse is Saying - A New Series

By Mary Gallagher

Sometimes life imitates art, or more accurately, is inspired by it. I recently received some wonderful horse sketches from artist Carolyn Guske (whom many of you know as Remy's owner), and found myself responding to one in particular. I instantly noted its body language, thinking, this horse looks pretty concerned, and is about to move away from something worrisome, maybe I need a sketch of a calmer horse. Then I noticed my own response, and realized this was a pretty fine sketch, that my usual instincts kicked in and I'd seen it like an actual horse. Then it hit me: perhaps I could use such a sketch, as well as photos, to point out what I see when I look at a horse at any given moment.

Is Working Out Really for Me?

by Kenny Hall, B.Sc., TPI-CGFI

 I asked Kenny Hall, who is my personal trainer as well as the coach for our Riders Fitness classes, to say a word about getting in shape. He offers a general perspective here, and I hope in the future will give tips on exercises of special interest to riders. I recently watched a great video of Annie Kursinski, a world class rider, Olympian, and trainer*, who emphasized exercise for herself and all riders. She said that in a fitness class or with a personal trainer, we get to 'become the horse' feeling something of what they experience when we work them. An interesting thought! -MG

Remy's Journey: a testimonial

By Carolyn Guske

I bought my black Morgan "Remy" when he was 4 years old and 14.3 hands. His barn name at the time was "Rambo", and little did I know how appropriate that name was. Because of his young age I assumed the bratty behavior of ears back, and moving into my space on the ground, were easily fixable issues that his previous owners had never addressed. He was such a calm, lovely riding horse, curious about new things without spooking or jumping at anything.

When Should I De-Worm My Horse?

By Audrey Bryant
Over the years, veterinarians and horse owners have gotten into the habit of deworming too frequently, without considering the negative consequences.  The chemicals are hard on your horse's gut (they damage beneficial bacteria) and their overuse has created chemically-resistant parasites. Some veterinarians call them super worms.

Dr. Dallas goes to the Trailside Pharmacy:Sow Thistle

By Marilyn Crimmel and Dallas

An interesting thing happened just after the Farm Tour, while hand walking Dallas along the bike path. This walk is always a special treat for Dallas - she enjoys watching the cows, munching on grass and alfalfa flowers, and enjoying an occasional apple along the way.

Lesson Notes: The Precise Placement of the Feet

By Mary Gallagher

A huge part of our success with the horse is through placing the foot in an exact place over and over again. We need to develop knowledge of where the feet are in any given moment--on the trail, in the ring, in a meadow--regardless. When you know where the feet are going to land, you can influence the flight of a particular foot, thus producing a new outcome, whether it is speed, direction, tempo or balance. Yet we are forever settling for 'close enough' or 'I'm not sure where those feet are going!'.

Vitamin D for Horse and Rider

By Kip Tulin, M.D.

With the days getting short and sunshine a bit more scarce, it's a good time to think about Vitamin D, our friend in good health. In preparing a talk on the subject for the monthly Working on Wellness Forum in Sequim, I have been reviewing current research and meeting with a few surprises along the way. It seems that most of us, because of lifestyle, latitude and diet  are not getting enough vitamin D, even if we pay attention to that sort of thing. On a recent afternoon at Freedom Farm I also started to wonder about horses and dogs and vitamin D, so I did a bit more research and thought I'd share.

Fitness at Freedom Farm: The Purple Lump of Thanks

By Mary Gallagher
I am so happy to report that this week, once again, I thanked my personal trainer Kenny Hall (at Any Time Fitness) for my fitness health. Usually I thank him because I am performing something with my horse that I wasn't able to achieve in the past, but this week I owe him a big, purple lump of thanks.

Inspiration: When the weather turns chill...

By Michelle Grimmer

Fall has arrived, and the weather has turned. More rain, and chillier temperatures means that we must begin to turn our sights toward spending more time riding under the cover of the fabulous Freedom Farm arena.

So what are we doing in there while we're riding around in circles? What are we working for? Working towards?

Lesson Notes: Commotion

By Mary Gallagher
Arianna Llewellyn of Serendipity Farms in Quilcene invited me to co-host a horsemanship workshop last month, which turned out to be a fun afternoon of motion. We started by putting motion in ourselves with jumping jacks, just to see what our horses thought of it. Some horses crowded in, while others started jumping around, themselves. The ones that crowded in ran into our flapping arms, while those that moved their feet inspired us to get even more active with our jumping jacks. But soon, all the horses settled down and found a place to rest quietly as their owners caught their breath and digested what caused the change in their horse.

How Not to Die in a Trailer: For Dummies

By Kelsey van Dyken

In July, as I'm sure you've heard, the hoof beats kids took on an adventure at the Washington State Horse Park. It certainly was an adventure. Below, you will find a series of 'episodes' that will fill you in on what it takes to survive a horse related camping trip.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Variety is The Spice of Life - For Us AND Our Horses!

By Kathy Schmidt

This summer, I've been reminded of the old saying, "Variety is the spice of life."  It is so true, not only for us, but for our horses as well.  Variety can keep us from getting into a rut with our ground work and riding.  Variety can help a worried, grumpy, bored, or complacent horse become a willing and eager partner who meets you at the gate wondering,  "What are we going to do today?"

Lesson Notes: Taking Time to Play with Your Horse

By Mary Gallagher

For those new to Freedom Farm, let me introduce my husband and Freedom Farm co-owner Jerry Schmidt. You can learn more about Jerry here. -MG
Recently I asked Jerry how he gets his horses to accept all the crazy things he does. Of course he gave me a simple answer:  "I take time to play with my horses."

A Tenderfoot Hubby's Experience at Beach Camp

By Kip Tulin (husband of Magnum's owner, Mary)
When Mary and I moved to Sequim in 2010, one of the thoughts that did not enter my mind was, "Gee, now I can be around horses!"  I guess the universe had different plans in mind. Mary started riding at Freedom Farm last November and I would accompany her from time to time to watch what she was doing. My prior experience with horses was long enough ago that the rental horse I got at Rocking Horse Stables, Burbank, CA, was an eohippus....but still a bargain at two dollars an hour. What a revelation to hang around at Freedom Farm!

Inspiration: Creating a Program for Yourself

By Michelle Grimmer

Well, it's getting close to the end of summer, and everyone has been doing great work with their horses. I am truly inspired by the progress I am seeing! Just today, Tucker (Jess' horse) learned how to do a half-pass, which turned into HUGE improvements in his canter transitions. Marilyn's horse, Dallas, gets softer and more balanced every week. Mary's girl, Regan is just about ready to jump a small house, and Charlie trots like he is floating on air.

Lesson Notes: Where Does Your Horse Want To Go?

By Mary Gallagher

Some of the best lessons in horsemanship are those we once learned that come around again, as if to be understood more deeply in the present. For instance, one of my early teachers, master horseman Jimmy Williams used to tell me, "Allow your horse to escape in the direction you want him to go."
Where does your horse want to go?

Lesson Notes: Achieving Goals and Having Fun

by Mary Gallagher

As I muse over my teaching and training life at Freedom Farm I feel deeply grateful for having Kenny Hall as one of my trainers. So many things have become clear since we began my fitness journey. Even better, the things I have discovered in myself are true for my horse.


By Michelle Grimmer

Recently, I e-mailed Mary Gallagher a photo I'd found on Facebook of an amazing grey mare jumping spectacularly over a very large vertical at Spruce Meadows (see below). It is a fantastic example of the shape that we should aspire to create while jumping our horses.

Great Coaching

By Thomas Gallagher

I have been musing on the role of coaching in my own life, early on with equestrian trainer Jimmy Williams, and more recently with Kenny Hall, my personal trainer at Anytime Fitness. I asked my son Thomas, an offensive lineman at Georgetown University, to share his view on the role of coaching in achieving our aspirations not only in physical fitness, but in general. -MG

Humans are extraordinary beings; courageous, proud and resilient. Often times we hear stories of ordinary people performing great feats of strength, speed, bravery, compassion and so on. However these qualities both physical and mental are not inherent to humans. Environment is a key foundation, and people, like any great monument, need a base.

Giving to Pressure

by Grace Lambert

There are a variety of reasons a horse should be trained to give to the pressure they would feel when tied hard and fast to a hitching post, even if you never elect to tie them. One reason is that they do learn to give to that pressure, and not fight against it. If they fight against it, there is bound to be trouble, as you can see from this image of a horse resisting the pressure of a tight lead rope. A horse can hurt itself or its handler, or at the very least, be seriously traumatized by pulling back against pressure without finding any relief.


by Audrey Bryant

Colicky horse in "saw" posture

 Colic is one of the leading causes of death in horses. It can be a terrifying experience for any horse owner. If you haven't had the misfortune of dealing with it, consider yourself lucky. Providing your horse with a healthy lifestyle can go a long way in preventing colic.

Inspiration: George Morris

by Michelle Grimmer

My first personal encounter with George Morris was about 10 years ago. He was in Toronto doing a coaching seminar, and I volunteered to be part of the "ring crew." We were there to help adjust jumps, and to pick jumping rails up if a horse knocked them down. Simple enough job... except for the immense pressure one is under when setting fences for the Pope of Modern English Riding. I was standing not too far from a jump that seemed to come down way too often.

Lesson Notes
: Making Friends - Horse or Donkey Style

by Mary Gallagher

Here at Freedom Farm we have a welcome ambassador, his name is Salty. His special talent is making friends with any new horse that comes to the farm. Salty has a technique that is so effective that when a new horse arrives on the place I like to take time out to watch him work.
Salty and Friends

What Happens When We Don't Stay Fit?

 by Grace Lambert

We've been hearing a lot about fitness from Mary for good reason. She encourages riders to be fit because she has experienced changes in her own body as she becomes more fit, felt the difference in her riding, and has observed how it positively impacts the horses she rides. She's also noticed the changes in her students who are becoming more fit, and she notices changes in the lesson horses these students ride. I'm writing this article in support of all Mary says, but I am coming at it from a slightly different angle - and that is to describe (and show you images of) what can happen when we don't stay fit (or even get fit in the first place). These issues are not theoretical; they are based on facts gathered over decades about how inactivity can cause a host of problems.

Invisible Balance

Jerry Schmidt
Balanced Equine Services

 Horses were meant to graze 18 to 20 hrs per day. They have a highly specialized system of wear and eruption of their teeth that, if respected, will keep them alive for a very long time. They need freedom of movement in their jaw, side to side and forward and back. This free range of movement in the mouth affects the balance and movement of the entire horse.

Lesson Notes: 
Trail Walking

by Mary Gallagher

I'm so fortunate to have good walking horses. I don't know how I got so lucky. Maybe one reason is they are connected to the ground or grounded (barefoot). Maybe because they are free in their shoulders and back. Maybe because they are living as a herd, moving and playing with their friends all day.

The Importance of the "Give"

by Walter Zettl

Classical Dressage Instructor

I was talking to one of my students today about the importance of the "give." The horse has to know he has the possibility to go forward. I like to tell my students, even when you think you cannot give more, give again. Don't throw away the contact - this is just as wrong as riding with your reins too tight. The "give" should come from relaxing the shoulder and softening the arm - not from lengthening the reins or losing the contact.

Lesson Notes:
 What Really Matters to the Horse?

by Mary Gallagher

Respecting what really matters to the horse is what horsemanship is all about. 
We find out what really matters to horses when we observe their behaviors. Let's say we take a horse out of his/her herd and we notice the emotions come up while leaving her companions. How do we respond? That is horsemanship. If we continue without addressing the insecurity that arises in the horse, we are losing an opportunity to help the horse.


by Michelle Coleman Grimmer

Mary asked the other day, "Where does Michelle go for inspiration?" Well, that opens up a big can of worms right there. Inspiration is everywhere!

I have been very fortunate in my life to have access to some great riding instruction from the very beginning, in 1981, to the present time. Each instructor has given me things to think about, techniques to add to my Rolodex of horsey knowledge. Some items are used in my daily riding and teaching, and some items are filed away for possible future use. Some are immediately filed under the "NEVER EVER do this" heading. There are always new things to learn!

Rider Boot Camp Report

by Hannah Crouch

Why would I get up early and head to the gym twice a week, when my friends are all still in bed? Because it is really worth the effort! The Saturday and Monday Rider Boot Camps have really helped me become stronger and improve my riding. Before I started working out, I was too weak to even do a push-up or a plank! I didn't realize how much that physical weakness affected my riding until I actually experienced the difference.

The Sunny Side of Parasites

by Kip Tulin, M.D.

We tend to think of a parasite as:

a) a disgusting wormy-squiggly thing that inhabits our bodies and gives nothing in return, or

b) our 24 year-old nephew who is still couch surfing in our living room and continually raiding our refrigerator.

For (a) at least, the relationship might be more complicated than we think.  I'd like to take a running start at this explanation, from about 500 million years ago. Paleoparasitologists have found fossil evidence of parasites dating back to the lower Cambrian era. This means that both the host and the parasite have spent a long time climbing the evolutionary ladder together and have developed a remarkable balance. Twenty-five percent of the world's human population have parasites. In more primitive settings the percentage approaches one hundred. And, it turns out, even parasites have parasites.

Lesson Notes:
 Changes are not problems, 
and problems are just changes

by Mary Gallagher

Don't be afraid to look at things from another point of view.

Or start over with a different approach.

Here at Freedom Farm, things are very different than they are at most barns.

For instance, take the way our horses live in herds. When I was growing up, all the stables I rode at kept their horses stalled. When I started my own business, all my horses were stalled. It wasn't until I did research on natural living conditions for horses that I considered running my business differently. The changes came slowly and I am grateful for that. There was - and still is - so much to learn (and unlearn).

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Lesson Notes: legs and emotion

by Mary Gallagher

Why are horses' legs long?

I know you know the answer to this, but I will spell it out anyway. To fly away from fear. Those long legs on your horse were meant to outrun predators. And linked to those legs are emotions, which are hard-wired in the horse's brain for survival. So, that being said, can we use that natural flight instinct to produce a more emotionally fit horse that can be more comfortable in the human environment?

Lets start by considering two attitudes:

Testing, testing... unofficial first post.


This is the unofficial first post of Freedom Farm Notes, the blog of Freedom Farm in Port Angeles, Washington, a natural horsemanship training and boarding facility. The purpose of this post is to test the blog for its authors and editor, and let you know that we are front-loading Freedom Farm Notes with favorite horsemanship articles from our past newsletters.

So, if you've found us, welcome! Please subscribe and be patient as we ramp up to official  production in early April, 2015! Your host will be Mary Gallagher, owner and lead trainer at Freedom Farm.

Mary Tulin
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Freedom Farm natural horsemanship
Port Angeles, Washington