Sunday, January 3, 2016

Barefoot Success at Horse Shows, 2015

by Mary Gallagher

Back in July, I wrote about Freedom Farm’s barefoot, herd-dwelling horses. With the end of the year fast approaching, it occurs to me that we’ve had quite a year outside the Farm, at a number of horse shows with our young riders in the Hoof Beats competition team. Looking back on their consistent success, I just wanted to bring our readers up to speed on our experiences showing, as possibly the only barefoot, natural-lifestyle competition stable on the circuit.

By any measure, you could say our riders had a phenomenal year, bringing home multiple wins, championships, reserves, and high point awards at every outing. With the consistency of their success, something had to be working in their favor. A few things were, actually, though here I want to focus on the barefoot aspect.

Healing by Secondary Intention: Bob's Story

by Kip Tulin M.D.

Bob's wound, Day One
In early December (a month before this writing) Bob, an older gelding in the Farm school program, sustained a deep laceration to the right side of his face, cause unknown. (Mary Gallagher discovered his plight in the course of a morning feeding and checked around the pen, with no luck.) As you can see from the photo, the cut went from just below his eye and way down the cheek, gaping open almost an inch. Mary examined the wound carefully, noting some places where the wound went all the way through; she could hear a sucking sound as Bob breathed.

Obviously such a deep cut needed to be stitched, right?

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.