Sunday, April 11, 2021

Remembering Meho (1990-2021)

Meho
by Mary Gallagher

I admired Meho from the moment I saw him, a handsome weanling owned by the mother of one of my students. They raised racehorses, and Meho was a good one, earning well over $50,000 at the track before being sidelined with a bowed tendon. I couldn't believe my good luck when he came up for sale and I was able to buy him for Freedom Farm. I began training him as a hunter/jumper, and one of my boldest young students, Chelsea Crabb, rode him at a number of shows. Meho did well, and, I realized he could benefit from more focused time with me.

At the time, I was deep into the Parelli training, spending weeks at a time at the Parelli center in Florida. My Parelli horse, William, began having lameness issues and needed time off. Enter Meho, the speedy OTB with a big personality. He made the trip with me to Florida and boy, did we ever learn a lot--quite a bit through mutual struggle, which I have shared in many a ground work class since. How we came around to our lasting partnership is a tale of its own, but suffice it to say, I had to let go of what I thought I knew and allow him to show me who he was and begin to really understand him. I've never forgotten that time with him.  He in turn learned to be present, accept contact, and slow the heck down (early round pen sessions with him at the "canter" wore quite a groove in the sand, shall we say...).

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Observe, Observe, Observe!

by Mary Gallagher

Pecan responds to Mary while keeping an eye out

Imagine standing on the ground, watching a horse in the process of spooking. What can we observe?

  1. Thought exits: “Yikes! What is that spooky thing?!” Their mind goes blank—run! They turn around, get ready to run again—head up, lots of blowing.
  2. Thought returns: They turn around, freeze—stand still (testing the stop) run again, stop without freezing, take a few steps. Then—
  3. Extend nose, while blowing and smelling.
  4. Stretch and reach with nose and neck.
  5. Cautiously move in the direction of the nose, engaging the feet.

Spooking is something all horse people have witnessed, but I’ve made a point here to break it down to predictable components—sort of a slow motion camera to show the process. We can expect this pattern in a spooking situation, and that kind of predictability gives us options, if we can train ourselves to 'observe, observe, observe'. Now extend that expectation to all horse behavior. What if every movement is the horse testing to see if it is safe to linger or better to leave...?