Thursday, October 8, 2015

"We'll Have the Summer"

Howdy Friends,

“Her eyes traced every line of the solid wooden trunk. Sam had made it for them, for her and Callie. He painted it shiny red. Callie loved red. Red and silver. Mary always believed her daughter had gotten that from her because they were Mary’s favorite colors, too. She had to smile when she remembered sewing their costumes together, the three of them, Callie, Susan, and herself. Oh how Callie would fuss over each and every minute detail. Nothing could be less than perfect for that girl.

God, Callie looked beautiful in her costume. Through watery, stinging eyes, Mary stared at Callie. She was standing right there, in the tack room, fussing like she always did with the silver fringes on her vest. Then the vision evaporated.” ...  EXCERPT from my novel, “We’ll Have the Summer”

... I haven’t spoken much of “We’ll Have the Summer” recently and this morning having coffee with Kessy for no reason I can think of I thought of this scene in Chap 7, Mary ponders opening the long closed, not forgotten show trunk. “We’ll Have the Summer” has over 130 five star reviews on Amazon, if you’ve not yet read it I’d like to invite you to lose yourself in Mary and Sam’s love. And perhaps recommend to your friends ... If you have read it perhaps you’d enjoy spending time with them again. 

Gitty Up,
Dutch Henry

You can find it here on Amazon ~ 

Friday, October 2, 2015

"Traction in Mud of the Barefoot Horse"

Howdy Friends,
We’ve had over 5 days of rain now and more on the way. Streams are high, our yard, Kessy’s playground, and yup the logging roads we ride are muddy. Here in central VA we have what folks call, Virginia red clay and the logging roads are pretty much red clay, baked concrete hard in summer months, muddy and sticky in the rain. Especially this much rain!
Sadie leads the way up the soggy red clay trail.
We had a bit of a break for a few hours yesterday so Kessy, Saturday, Sadie and I set out for a fun ride. Wet leaves and boughs splashed me plenty as we tiptoed along, a light mist decided to drop in, but we were undeterred.

In wet slippery conditions I always allow Kessy to set the pace, which she’ll hold to a sensible, careful walk. We stop at the stream with 25 water falls to take in the beauty of so many tiny ponds laced with fallen yellow tulip tree leaves.
Saturday and Kessy wade in the stream of 25 waterfalls.
After the stream we move to the logging road and into an area of a few hills. Kessy navigates wisely the grade changes and slick clay, her hooves making sloshing sounds with each step. But what they don’t do is slip.

I thought as we moved along about the marvelous traction a barefoot horse has in the mud. I did not feel a single slip or slide—and yes we were only walking, but still it was impressive. At one very level place she even stepped up to a gentle running walk, not a single slip, slide or misstep.

As we went along, confident and happy, I thought back to those years long ago, before I accepted the barefoot way and all the many benefits to the horse. I thought of one horse in particular, my magnificent Spotted Saddle Horse, Diablo, and the shoes he wore—and the slipping he would have been doing today.

That was back when I was certain, and no one could convince otherwise, that horses must be shod. And yes, we did different shoes for different circumstances. I even remember putting shoes on Diablo with cogs, to handle mud like yesterday’s ride. What damage do those cogged shoes do to the suspensory tissues inside the hoof? I can only imagine ... but I can compare the better traction Kessy displayed in the slippery red clay.

Kessy’s entire foot, every inch of sole and frog can, and does, touch the ground, supporting her and me as those magnificent feet had been designed. And providing great traction, mobility and surefootedness.

Riding in the red Virginia clay is a treat on a horse with bare feet.

Gitty Up, Dutch Henry

Friday, September 25, 2015

“The View From Coffee Clutch.”

Howdy Friends! 

“The View From Coffee Clutch.” Often I write of the goings on during my favorite time of day, our Coffee Clutch, and now that I have this new-fangled phone that’ll capture the moments like tin-types of old ... from time to time I’ll share a few sights. Thought I’d start with the view looking out from my chair settled next to Kessy, Saturday and Sadie lying by my side. The kitties have begun to rejoin us for Coffee Clutch, but they keep a safe distance, still wary of newcomer Sadie—This morning they huddled behind me in the hay mow which adjoins Kessy’s bedroom watching Sadie with not-yet-trusting eyes ... You’ll notice under the trees the bird feeding station where cardinals, chickadees, titmice and a host of other feathered friends drop in for a visit many mornings. It is also the station I scatter a bit of cracked corn for the chickens. There, above the trees, is where I gaze as I thank God each morning for a beautiful day. Sending you wishes for a most beautiful day! 

~ Gitty Up, Dutch Henry

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

"Sadie Adopts Us"

Howdy Friends!

Starved, worried and confused Sadie slipped cautiously through the trees near our barn. Kessy spied her first, then the chickens and cats scattered. The dangerously, skinny black dog looked at me and I saw fear in her eyes, but also saw want of, and offer to, love. At first she made a move to run away, but I think she was just too tired. She offered a feeble tail wag. I knelt by Kessy and talked to the frightened pup and suddenly she bounced to me. She fell on her back begging for a tummy rub, which I offered for as long as she needed.
Sadie gobbles her mid-morning snack on her glider
She and Saturday followed me to the tack room where she gobbled down two servings of Saturday’s dog food. I sat with her as she gulped her first meal in who knew how long. She was heavily laden with flies, ticks and scabs. So next stop, our bath tub and two successive baths. Boy howdy did I lather her up! She listened pretty darn well, only struggled a little. It was during the baths that I realized how sharp was this little gal. A slight exaggeration, but it seemed, if I thought it, she tried to do it.
Ravishin' Robbie & Sadie's first meeting
Ravishin’ Robbie came home a few hours later and was in total agreement that little Sadie, as she named her, needed to be part of our critter clan. Worn and tired, standing a frail 20 inches tall, and weighing only 28 pounds young Sadie had been running on her own for some time, and the wear showed in her body, and eyes. I’ll never understand how folks can drive to the woods and just discard a bundle of love like so much unwanted trash. But they do. Every cat, and every dog we’ve ever had have been strays who have found us ... Unrecognized by others as gifts from God.

 Sadie arrived last Thursday and in addition to several baths (Saturday got one too) we fed her every few hours and gave her tons of lovin’—and she reciprocated. We allowed her in the house much of the day, but she slept on the porch glider Thursday night. Friday morning the changes in Sadie were not only noticeable, but downright unbelievable! She joined Saturday, Kessy and me for Coffee Clutch ... The kitties though did not. Our chickens have taken Sadie under their wings and treat her like part of their flock.

After breakfast on Friday I planned on a ride, but what about Sadie? I didn’t want her to use all the energy, but Saturday always goes along. Before I rode out I checked on Sadie and found her sleeping on the glider. Saturday was with her, so I snuck out alone.

We were about 10 minutes out when I noticed Kessy turning her ears back. I’m not able to look back over my shoulder anymore so when I want to look behind I ask Kessy to turn around and when we did, there on the trail behind us was Saturday ... and Sadie! I kept the ride on Friday short, for Sadie. She loved the adventure!

Sadie enjoyed numerous evenly spaced good meals, and lounged on her porch glider most of the rest of the day Friday, then joined us for TV time in the evening. We were gone a bit during the day and we risked leaving her in the house with Saturday. All went well! She is quite the well mannered young lady, we guess her age at about 5 months. We did leave her out on the porch overnight though, not sure of the night time potty habits.

Saturday Robbie and I were gone the best part of the day, I had a book signing, so Sadie and Saturday were on their own. In the evening we had them join us for TV time—and even had Sadie spend the night inside. Remarkably at 6AM she woke us asking to go out! Seems the potty details are as natural to her as they were with Saturday when he found us 6 years ago.

Sunday as I took Kessy through her pre-ride exercises and saddled up, Sadie sat with Saturday and watched every move. When I rode out they both fell in line and jogged along. Sadie performed as if she’d been a trial riding pal for years already, always keeping a safe distance, not straying, and stopping whenever Kessy did. Of course I understand Saturday is a most perfect example of a trail riding dog, and a fine mentor on all things dog, horse and human. We rode an hour on Sunday. Sadie again slept indoors Sunday night; she has been awarded her certificate of excellence in house manners.
Sadie & Saturday on the trail with Kessy & me ... Yesterday Sadie decided she also likes to run alongside Kessy, sometimes under my stirrup!
Yesterday, Monday, we rode out again, into a light rain. Sadie has mastered the pre-ride activities and now along with Saturday, monitors Kessy’s and my preparation with eager anticipation. Yesterday we rode an hour and a half—and that bouncing, skinny black bundle of fun, silliness and sweetness simply amazed me. She has in three ride become a trail riding buddy, perfect in every way.

A bit different from Saturday though, who almost always trots just at Kessy’s heels, Sadie does that but adds buckets of energy to her adventures on the trail. She’ll trot behind with Saturday, then on a whim break away and run lightning fast loops around us, sometimes disappearing from sight only to explode from the brush next to us, in front of us, or behind us. Kessy never shows any sign of being startled, her only reaction is an ear turned to Sadie. I came to two realizations on yesterday’s ride, my bird watching from the saddle will most certainly be affected ... and I doubt I’ll ever ride up on a bear again!

I noticed Sadie, like Kessy and Saturday are so in tune to me I pretty much need only think what I wanted and she’ll do it as we ride. It’s as if we’d been partners for years. I wondered yesterday was there perhaps a bit of Sweetness and Jigs’ spirits (my two long gone trail riding pals) in Sadie, running with her, offering advice. She reminds me so of them. We had a most perfect ride yesterday and none of us minded the rain!

The kitties have just begun to accept Sadie, some more than others. Coffee Clutch today was wonderful, Sadie moseys about a bit, but also lays content with Saturday, Kessy and me. The kitties watch from a safe distance, Bullet even joined us today briefly.

I weighed Sadie this morning, she’s up to 31 pounds. In a few weeks when she has really bounced back we’ll have her spayed, get her rabies shot etc. She is a sweet, sweet girl and I’m sorry for the bad she had to experience, but she’s home now.

We thank you God for this gift of abundant love!
Sadie and me grabbin' a winks ...
Gitty Up, Dutch Henry

Friday, September 18, 2015

"Posture and Horse’s Health"

Howdy Friends,

Recently, while scheduling a few clinics, I found myself explaining the absolute importance of a horse’s posture to their overall health, physical and mental. Unfortunately many horse owners and caregivers do not recognize poor posture in a horse—or have a reference point of good horse posture. Why?

I believe Thomas Paine explained why when he said, “A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right.” Now I don’t believe one of our most outspoken founding fathers was talking about a horse’s posture when he imparted that wisdom, but it sure fits, and might explain why posture is so overlooked, or misunderstood in horse care.

I happen to subscribe to the understanding that poor posture in a horse can be, and is one of the most powerful detriments to not only a horse’s health, but also its comfort, contentment, mobility and longevity ... That’s why I write the blog posts I do, and wrote my book “It’s for the Horses: An advocate’s musings about their needs, spirit, gifts and care,” and it’s why I began to offer clinics—to help folks realize, recognize and promote the importance of good horse posture.

No matter the discipline you play in, correct horse (and human) posture will lift everything to higher heights. Play, performance and health, physical and mental, will all not only benefit from proper posture, but will excel at more exciting levels of accomplishment and fun.

Everything from attitude, awareness, soundness, performance to organ function, digestion and all bodily functions can be, and are affected—positively or negatively by the state of a horse’s posture. Often reoccurring mystery lameness, or temperament swings, gut problems and a host of other nagging issues are directly related to poor posture and body carriage.

What causes poor posture? In most cases—We do. Much of what we do to and with our horses can cause subtle, or not-so-subtle deterioration of a horse’s posture. Many things can and will contribute either positively or negatively such as, hoof care, diet, housing, saddle fit, discipline we pursue, our own posture (or lack of), dental care and a host of other interactions. But in most cases it is we humans who effect equine posture. 

How can we recognize correct posture? When we look at our horse standing relaxed on level ground we should see a picture of a relaxed neck, soft eyes and back, and legs
supporting all four corners straightly not on an angle ... In motion our horse should carry herself softly, not rush, crowd or stumble—those are not signs of “discipline” rather they are clear signs of poor posture, and a horse trying her best to both avoid pain and maintain balance.

 How can we help our horses achieve proper posture and body carriage? “Proper hoof care” is paramount, and our Coffee Clutch and Facebook friends know I believe that starts with going barefoot—but even barefoot horses can have toes too long that make correct posture impossible—that simple fact can, and will, set up a cascade to impact the likelihood of achieving, maintaining, or preventing correct posture. “Housing,” horses must not live in stalls, they need to, and want to, move about at will. “Diet,” horses thrive on an all forage diet. “Dental care” like hoof care impacts, everything. “The things we do.” Many activities we pursue with our horses have goals, or perceived goals, that not only chip away at a horse’s ability to carry proper posture—but sadly too often Demand their posture be ruined for a certain look or performance.... We can help overcome some of that that with exercises that help create proper posture, and I highly recommend every horse caregiver learn them. They can easily be part of anyone’s management routine. 

Exercises for your horse. Having had the honor and privilege of working for a number of years rehabilitating Tennessee Walking Horses with my mentor Diane Sept, a Senior Certified Connected Riding® Instructor, I learned from her, and the horses, many things. Among them the techniques of Peggy Cummings’Connected Riding and Groundwork® and Linda Tellington-Jones’ Tellington TTouch®. They are the foundation for everything in my clinic ... And can be the foundations for helping your horse gain or regain proper posture... I recommend Peggy's and Linda's books and clinics. 

One of the most important easy to do exercises is the “Rock Back.” Many horses carry themselves on their forehand, which begins to create a host of problems. This little exercise will help a lot (but don’t stop there, learn more exercises). .... Standing in front of your horse, very gently touch her shoulder point and say, “Rock Back.” We are looking for only a shift in posture and weight off the forehand, not a step back. If she steps back, start over. Watch for the slightest move, at first it may just be her pectoral muscle moving. Stop asking as soon as you see the slightest movement or change. You may need two inches of rock back to get her correct and off her forehand, and you may need to get it an eighth of an inch at a time. (see photo) (Excerpt from, "It's for the Horses.")

Kessy and I demonstrate the "Rock Back" - Her weight has clearly shifted to her hind end-she is relaxed, and soft
The importance of correct posture and body carriage to the health of a horse cannot be overstated.  Many more exercises and ideas are in my book, "It's for the Horses:An advocate's musings about their needs, spirit, gifts and care."... Kessy and I hope this little story will encourage you to examine your horse's posture.

Gitty Up, Dutch Henry

P.S.  You can find my book “It’s for the Horses: An advocate’s musings about their needs, spirit, gifts and care,” at 

P.S.S. To ask about my clinics to help your horse achieve proper posture and body carriage email me

Friday, September 11, 2015

"What We Say—to our Horses"

Howdy Friends!

What we say to our horses ... it matters. Words have meanings, we all understand that, but do we sometimes ignore the unintended consequences?
I believe politeness matters. I believe our horses recognize politeness ... and indifference, selfishness and rudeness in speech, action and body language.

We hear so much about partnering with our horses and the overabundance of techniques for gaining that partnership, or sometimes perceived partnership. Most of these discussed and sought after practices for producing partnership are centered on training the horse. I believe that just may be backwards. I’ve often written about my deep dislike for round penning, and any other technique that “teaches” the horse. From the first instant a horse meets a person they get them. And as the old saying goes, “It takes a long time to overcome a bad first impression.” But horses also analyze every step of the way, and they remember everything. Forever.

How can we achieve a deep, trusting and caring partnership with our horse? Easy, we earn it. In everything we do with our horses we should ask, not demand. Remember horses are keen preceptors of feelings, signals and vibes. That’s why what we say, and how we say it matters so very much. Don’t believe me? Try this, think of the word “stupid”—and concentrate on how your body and energy feel. Now think of the words “good boy”—and concentrate on how your body and energy feel. Big difference right?

I’m always amazed at people who act and speak rudely to their horses, I hope most of us are. Not all that uncommon though is it? What about folks who are sweet as pie with their horse, until something goes in a direction that person did not want? Then the sweetness falls from the pretense and rudeness, demands, or condescension come out and the horse is called, lazy, stupid, stubborn, unwilling, and actions, body language and vibes come with those words. And the horse hears, feels and sees them—and becomes confused ... Which person do I follow?

That confusion chips away at trust, and trust is the keystone to any partnership.

I believe to achieve a deep, trusting and caring partnership with our horse; politeness must be the very foundation on which we build. When I hold a clinic before we begin I always explain, in everything we do we will be polite, and there will be no discipline.

In everything we do, if we are polite in our actions and words our horse will pick up on that, and bond with us in a way that far surpasses any training technique that focuses on demands, and a power play.

Always conducting ourselves in a manner rooted in politeness also teaches the horse to be polite, willing and trusting. It really is that simple.

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry 

I invite you to have a look at my book, "It's for the Horses: An advocate's musings on their needs, spirit, gifts and care," here 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

"A Compliant Horse or a Willing Partner—There is a Difference"

Howdy Friends,

There is a difference between a compliant horse and a willing partner. A horse trained into compliance by the use of dominant tactics, force or stiff unrelenting repetition and gadgets will always feel the need to test each new rider, owner or caregiver. They will not test out of rebellion or defiance; rather they know no other way to understand what is expected of them.

Kessy walking on a loose lead in a circle, in good posture with her inside shoulder up. Note her left ear to me, happy and willing. To see more exercises see my blog, "Restarting your horse" HERE
Never knowing the connection that comes with existing as a willing partner, the compliant horse understands no other feeling than worry. The compliant horse worries ceaselessly about “getting it right.” That limits their ability to welcome their person into their heart. It limits their ability to truly soften, think and become the partner they could be, and want to be.

Worry may not always be easy to recognizes, horses hide worry. But simple things like tight lips, ridged or semi ridged posture, distant eyes, sensitive to touch, crowding, hurrying when leading, dancing about on the lead or when tied—anything that seems restless, unsettled, IS restless and unsettled. Yes, with what folks commonly call discipline, training, gadgets and “firm” commands a worried horse (too often referred to as a “disobedient” horse) can be made to be compliant.

Repetition in training (I despise that very word), schooling, perfecting movements, over correcting, over schooling, our impatience, all build roadblocks to creating a willing partner. Those things build walls around the horse that prohibit her ability to see you as someone with whom she would like to partner ... Don’t get confused here by thinking, “My horse loves to drill and practice.” Sometimes a horse will give flashes of willingness and excitement during repetitive drills and practice, because they have become familiar with them. It can actually become a safe place for the compliant horse ... But the softness, contentment and ability of a truly deeply willing horse will far outshine the ability and contentment of a compliant horse.

But what of another paradigm? One of, putting the horse first. Yes we have horses because we want to do things with them. With them should mean, “With them.” With their willingness, happiness and love of being with us, playing with us, competing with us. That is putting the horse first.

How do we do that? How can we have a willing partner? A major component to building that partnership is to “put the horse first.” Ask yourself, “What’s in it for the horse? What will my horse get out of this?” We all know what we want ... Why should our horse care or want it if they are not our partner?

Little things like allowing the horse all the time she needs to understand. Whenever I work with someone and there horse the first thing I say is, “We are now on horse time, not people time.” We must always, “Ignore the negative and celebrate the Positive.”

Our human instinct is to correct, we must stop that. Replace correcting with leading. Gently show her the correct way—replace correcting with leading, show her what you are asking and give her time to understand. And be sure to reward the slightest attempt with grand celebration. NEVER, ever not a single time, scold or interrupt or discipline. Go with it; allow her to progress with encouragement—do not push her with force, harsh words and demands. To do that is the very definition of rude behavior. Never be rude.

Everyone who knows me knows I believe the most important thing is giving to the horse. We must give more than we ask, we must meet them more than halfway. A part of building any relationship with our horses I believe must be their housing, diet, exercise and comfort. I believe a regular routine of release and relax exercises (Peggy Cummings Connected Groundwork®) that encourage proper posture and movements do so much to “give to the horse” and build that bond—they truly do give to the horse and ask nothing in return.

The secret to having a willing partner is really no secret at all ... Be one yourself. In everything put your horse first.

Gitty Up, Dutch Henry

P.S. If you’ve not yet gotten my book, “It’s for the Horses: An advocate’s musings about their needs, spirit gifts and care,” you can order it HERE 

P.S.S. If you’d like to schedule a Dutch Henry clinic email me