Friday, June 1, 2018

Leadership Learning with the Boundary Box, Part 2: Safety and Emotional Fitness

by Mary Gallagher
I’d recommend reading Part One of this new series first. The Boundary Box® is a process I am developing, and my last post describes the basic premise and practices. -M
Horses are big scaredy cats—that’s why they have those long legs, you see, so they can get out of Dodge fast when Dodge turns into Scary Town. And as we all know, that happens incredibly fast with our equine friends. Everything is going great and then BOOM, a threat appears—a blowing tarp, shiny puddle, unfamiliar dog—just about anything sudden and unfamiliar can trigger their flight response. Our understanding of just how instinctively quick horses are with their feet when threatened can help us help them to become braver. 

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Leadership Learning with The Boundary Box

by Mary Gallagher

Good leadership means good boundaries. Human psychology has taught us that healthy relationships require boundaries, or a personal sense of safe limits on the behavior of others towards us.* Horses are keenly aware of boundaries, which are crucial to the safety of the herd; they test boundaries as a matter of survival. So when our horse gets in our space—gets us even a little off balance, fishes for treats, has us stepping back, or a million other seemingly harmless intrusions—they are testing our boundaries in order to test our leadership.

The way we establish leadership in a healthy relationship with our horse, in my experience, is by acting with unaffected emotions while setting clear boundaries that we can fairly and effectively enforce.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Catching the Eye

By Mary Gallagher

From how far away can you catch your horse’s eye?
Laredo and Mary

I caught one of my horses watching me the other day while he was grazing, facing away from me. But he definitely had me in sight, peering around his front legs and under his belly.

As prey animals, horses are visually astute, noticing things well before humans do. They can see up to a mile away, detecting movement in the distance. The horse’s eyes are set well apart on the sides of their head, so with minimal effort they can monitor their surroundings, front, back and sides.

Just yesterday I was working with Grasshopper in the round pen. He became alert, noticing something toward the back of our property—a section we call the Emerald Forest—a good eighth of a mile away. Well before I could figure out what had caught his attention, Grasshopper had picked up that his brother Laredo was coming through the trees, in our direction. By the time I realized it was Laredo, Grasshopper had already relaxed, knowing it was his herd mate coming through the woods, and not a predator.

I make it a point to be aware of my horse’s attention, especially in relation to me; when we are together, I want him connected to me. Fostering our connection in this way affects every aspect of our relationship, and definitely, my horsemanship, making the difference between my being a passenger or a partner.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Pattern Learning: Accepting the Bridle

by Mary Gallagher

Horses and humans are pattern learners and that's a good thing. The first thing you need to know when comparing horse to human learning, however, is that the horse learns quicker. Way quicker.

We humans tend to see tasks as wholes—bridling, saddling, mounting—and get frustrated when, for all our best intentions and care, things don’t go well. The horse, meanwhile, has catalogued a lifetime of minutiae regarding his experience as a prey animal. So to him, that thing that happened that time, probably before you two had even met, affects the seemingly simple, matter-of-fact activity you are attempting.

Let's say bridling your horse tends to be a less than satisfactory experience—he has learned to evade the bridle, and is a bit shy around the ears. How will we go about setting a new pattern? We will start by deconstructing our habitual putting on of the bridle, identifying steps which will address different aspects of the whole process. Then we will install new steps, one by one, setting a new, happier pattern for both of you.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Grateful to Serve in 2017, Welcome 2018!

A Message from Mary Gallagher

I always look forward to writing this New Years message as a way to process the year just past. I am inevitably amazed (and a bit overwhelmed) at just how MUCH a year can hold at Freedom Farm! And as always, I feel so grateful for this ongoing opportunity—also known as “my life”— to serve others through horsemanship—watching, advising, trusting and supporting our students, clients, boarders, and community.

So please bear with me as I try to put into words something of what 2017 has meant to me. What a year!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Lifestyle series 3: Conversation with a young trainer

By Mary Gallagher and Colton Crouch

Colton with two young trainees, Kiveaho (left) and Hilo (right).
I was talking to Colton Crouch, a former Freedom Farm student who now has his own training business, the other day. He said something that made me proud, and I was inspired to share it with you:

CC: Doing things the right way takes more time, and you have to work harder, but the end result is worth the extra time and effort.