Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Welcome to the New Year

By Mary Gallagher

Sugar and friends
Saying 'so long' to 2018.  If ever there was a year of challenges—extreme ups and downs, deep happiness as well as real sadness—2018 was that year. As a result, this year's letter is a bit longer...

For me, with every challenge there followed reflection on why something had happened, and on whether it could have been different. And after sad events, thankfully, came healing and growth. At times the difficulties truly seemed like bullets striking home, one after another. On reflection, though, each painful 'bullet' brought with it the opportunity to heal old wounds and resolve old memories of similar experiences, as if the present situation had brought with it a kind of cleansing rain.

Thankfully, because of all those challenges and the process of getting through them, we leave 2018 enriched, with many growth opportunities ahead, and so much to remember. I have promised myself, as I write this, to try to do justice to the memories as well as the opportunities, but I hope the reader will be kind if I have missed anything, as it's especially daunting to wrap my arms around all of it!
Memory Garden
So many good byes. Our hearts are still healing after the loss of so many beloved horse friends. We said good bye to William, Bugg, Shariha, Polly, Shorty, and Sugar in 2018. Our memory rose garden, which is to the left as you enter the wooden gates, is a special place where we can pause and remember our departed equine friends. Once again, we learn from them the lessons of letting go and trusting Nature's perfect cycle.  (Notice their names on the wooden wall in back—still a few to add yet.)

It's my hope that we honor the memory and gifts of these horse-teachers by dedicating ourselves
anew to growing our horsemanship, whole heartedly and holistically. (More on that in a bit.)

So many wonderful people. I heartily thank the many incredible people that have supported us this year:

First, the veterinarians who showed up and helped us through some difficult and poignant moments with the horses mentioned above: especially Dr. Cary Hill of Sound Equine in Poulsbo, and  Dr. Tara Black of Sequim Veterinary Hospital.

Next, the people of Freedom Farm: Jerry Schmidt—teacher, wise horseman, hay provider, to name but a few of his many gifts as my partner in Freedom Farm; Lester Hardy—who left for the Florida sunshine but decided he missed us and the horses too much (right, Lester??);  Mike Stinson—who quietly handles so many important chores (and who saved my life with a timely Heimlich maneuver one afternoon, so very grateful for his quick thinking); Jessica Crouch, for being a resource to all of us while handling her busy training schedule; Hannah Crouch and Colton Crouch being so helpful while managing their training and horse care duties; Mary Tulin for continued excellence with our social media and support for my creative pursuits; Kip Tulin for being available for odd jobs around the Farm (check out the new accessory rack at the wash area!).

Special thanks to Isolde Chai-Lawrence for representing us so ably at the Equus Film Festival, and Lisa Dierson, Festival Director, for envisioning and inviting us there in the first place!

Again, my gratitude to you all for being there with a helping hand, a strong arm, and every now and then, a soft shoulder.

Welcome to Freedom Farm! We are very fortunate to welcome a new horse to our lesson program, 19-year old Simon, who was generously donated by Erin Bennett Thank you, Erin! And to the Freedom Farm experience we welcome Connie Paschall (Dexter), Fissi Davis (Raven and Geronimo), Becca Cheney (River Song), Wendy Comstock (Zeus, Harriet, Clemmie), and Diane Lacy (Jilly and Jazzy). Nice to have you with us!

Growing the Next Generation.  As you know, very dear to my heart is our Hoof Beats program, where young horse lovers seven and up learn all about caring for and riding horses. Several generations of student riders have passed through the program to become skilled horsemen and successful competitors. That continues in 2019, with a new addition: an advanced show team to be known as the Freedom Farm Balanced Performance Team.

Dedicated students can graduate to the Team as a natural next step after their Hoof Beats education; as BPT members they will further develop, focus and apply their horsemanship skills and education in the world. I envision these young riders as successful competitors in A-level shows who represent our approach to horsemanship as they go out into the world.

Principles to practice. Horsemanship education at Freedom Farm rests on principles of Lifestyle, Relationship, and Balanced Performance which shows up as Connection, Communication, Co-operation between horse and rider—as well as among the team, and hopefully with colleagues in the equestrian community.  If we want to positively influence the equestrian community at shows and elsewhere, we need to model that change, with our barefoot horses, minimal tack, healthy lifestyle and sympathetic (through feel) methods.

Learning resources. Wise Horseman, the new education effort that we started in 2018, is about developing and providing educational materials and methods for this more in-depth level of horsemanship, and advanced students will have access to this growing resource. We will have special classes and clinics, some with visiting teachers. My intention is to empower our advanced students to be able to articulate as well as demonstrate the value difference in our approach to horsemanship.

Special class sessions and public clinics will include:
  • Advanced ground work;
  • Focus on a project horse;
  • Horse Health – Natural lifestyle, hoof care, dental health, feeding and movement at competition, stretching and body work;
  • Human Health – Fitness, nutrition;
  • Equipment care and proper fit;
  • And as always, Advanced Hoof Beats Beach Camp (fun!).
All of these special sessions are aimed at helping students absorb and understand what we bring to the world in competition—the natural difference. Students who want to graduate to the Balanced Performance Team will be asked to demonstrate knowledge in these areas. I am confident that it will be doable for dedicated Hoof Beats students, and a whole lot of fun along the way!

Volunteering / Mentoring / Internships... are additional learning and growth opportunities for our Balanced Performance Team members who are interested in pursuing horsemanship as a career.

Lots to learn and do at every level. Our younger Hoof Beats team will still learn all of the above at their age and competition level, and will join with the advanced riders to represent Freedom Farm at local shows and special Freedom Farm schooling events.

New Publications.
Wise Horseman Knowledge Cards. Our first series of cards debuted in 2018 and were well received around the country. I still have decks left to purchase, either in person or on line.

Lesson of the month - Ground and Riding. Along with our blog [link]and newsletter, I will be posting a monthly lesson as a way for our students out of our area to continue to learn from us. Please feel free to contact me to discuss the lesson, or send a link to a video of your own lesson for feedback. ***This will be a free introductory service for 2019***

There's Another Way to Do That. Also, I will be writing a new series of educational posts, There's Another Way to Do That, to address aspects of traditional horsemanship—from horse-handling basics, to tack, feed, feet, ad infinitum—that we do differently. The idea is to acknowledge the constructive intention and intended results of traditional methods, and offer an effective alternative.

So, welcome 2019!! I am truly excited about everything I've just shared. As is my practice every January, I am hard at work on the schedule for the year, which will be ready for the February newsletter, and posted on our blog. A few highlights:
  • Dave Ellis will be visiting us July 17-21, so reserve your space ASAP
  • Through Wise Horseman, we will invite educators for some of the classes listed above, which will be open to Hoof Beats Balance Performance Team and the interested public.
I would love to see Freedom Farm educating, supporting and mentoring dedicated horsemen and horsewomen of all ages in our community and beyond. I invite readers to stay in touch with us through our newsletter, website, Facebook page, Instagram feed, YouTube channel, and blog. And remember that Fridays are all about Horsemanship with Mary Gallagher—four hours of ground training and riding, your horse or ours!

My very best wishes to you for a Happy, Healthy New Year,

Mary Gallagher
Jerry and me...

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