Wednesday, July 23, 2014


Howdy Friends,

Do you approach your horse wearing your expectations on your sleeve? Sometimes it's hard not to, and in fact sometimes it's the right thing to do. For without expectations there can be no results, right?

What if we think about our expectations from the horse's point of view? Would we see ourselves in a different light? Expectations to some are goals, to others dreams, to still others demands. Expectations, I think, are best when used as gentle guidelines.
Kessy and me having no expectations
It is wholly correct to expect our horses to be polite and respectful, as long as we are too. In our day to day relationship with our horses many things go unsaid, they simply happen. Waiting politely to go through a gait, walking quietly beside us, standing while saddling, mounting, trimming hooves, these are routine and expectations that have become learned, practiced and … expected. They are part of politeness.

There exists another world of expectations, those when we pursue our chosen activities with our horses. Things we need to learn together, whatever they may be, trail riding, showing, dressage, barrel racing, the things we might love to do, they may be the reason we love horses. There will be expectations as you learn to be a team together. Even if your horse did these things before you knew her, you'll both have expectations. If it is new to your horse, or you, you'll both have expectations.

Horses see, feel and hear expectations differently than we do. If we wear our expectations on our sleeve, our horse will see them as confusing demands. It will be difficult for her to relax and understand. When we allow our expectations to drive our thoughts and actions, the horse cannot feel the tiny intricacies that make up the whole picture leading to the outcome we seek.

Our horses need us to keep our expectations as part of the whole, not the main focus. If we see our goal as part of the picture, and also see and feel the tiny steps required to get there, the picture we paint for our horse will be crystal clear. Our expectations will become theirs too.

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Heny

Monday, July 21, 2014

"Madi Was 12 When I Taught Her To Drive"

Howdy Friends,

Watching the Waltons this morning, while feasting on my standard bowl of 6 grain oatmeal, the scene where John-Boy teaches his mother to drive reminded me of the first driving lesson I gave my sweet sister-in-law, Madi. It also put me in mind of the first lesson I gave our wonderful daughter, but that's a story for another day.
Kessy, Saturday and me workin'
Ravishin' Robbie and I still had our dairy farm when Madi asked to drive our old farm truck. It wasn't really a very old truck, but I had managed to flip it one day, that's another story, too, and I had cut the cab, windshield and doors off with a torch so we could use it on the farm. It was a neat roust about rig, no muffler but by golly it had a rocking 350 engine , 4 speed manual transmission and a radio that cranked out what today is older than "golden oldies." Gosh I miss Ferlin Husky, Loretta Lynn, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash and Roy Clark. (And many others)

Back to the story. Madi was spending a few days with us on the farm and tagging along with me when I had to fire up the cut down Chevy to run out to the back pasture. We had the radio rocking, and even though Madi didn't join me in song, I'm pretty sure the air blowing her blond hair straight back, the loud engine and a little too fast driving had her as cranked up as I was. I seem to remember a smile as wide as that open cab and a her yelling, "Faster." Of course I had to cowboy a little, a few fishtails on the dusty bumpy field road added to the excitement.

Before we started back I asked her if she really wanted to drive. I don't remember any hesitation when she declared, "Heck yea!" Keep in mind we were pretty stoked, and giggly, and all alone in a field far from Ravishin' Robbie's stern looks. I shut off the engine, slid the bench seat all the way forward, and helped her to the driver's side.

She was a little gal, and looked adorable sitting on the edge of the seat and looking out through the steering wheel, her toes barely reaching the peddles. The clutch on that old truck was mighty stiff but Madi managed to push it in with her toes, a grunt and giggle. We took a few moments and ran through the basics, like where the gears are and shifting, how to gently let out the clutch while giving a little gas to pull out, and of course steering.

Now this old rig had one of those 4 speeds with what we called a granny gear; that is a very low first gear. On the road you would use second gear to pull out, but I knew Madi would do better and not stall if she started with the granny gear. After a few tries she nailed it! We took off like a jet, back wheels spinning, kicking up dust clean to the next county. Got to give it to her, she stayed straight and true on that twisty, bumpy field road, squealing with glee all the way. I think it was the first time I ever saw that old truck hit 30 miles an hour in low gear!

I had her rein the old girl in before the house came into view, you know to keep from getting Robbie all upset at our craziness, and we drove smooth as silk right up to the porch. We had a few more outings together in that chopped down Chevy, but I don't think either of us enjoyed them as much as that first day.

One of these days I'll tell you about the first day I taught our daughter Abbie to drive.

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry

Friday, July 18, 2014

"Feature Friday–American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign"

Howdy Friends,
For today's Feature Friday we have a guest blogger, Grace Kuhn of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC). AWHPC is dedicated to preserving American wild horses and burros in viable free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage. I hope you'll read and share this important information about a coalition of dedicated people giving voice to the voiceless. And please, for the horses' sake, and our future generations, consider joining and supporting AWPC. ~ Dutch Henry

"The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) is a coalition of more than 60 horse advocacy, public interest, and conservation organizations dedicated to preserving the American wild horse in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage. AWHPC was founded by Return to Freedom, a national non-profit dedicated to wild horse preservation through sanctuary, education and conservation. RTF operates the American Wild Horse Sanctuary in Lompoc, CA and is AWHPC’s parent organization.
What would wild horses tell us if they could speak?
Wild horses and burros are fenced in, fenced out, given the scraps of forage in Herd Management Areas after the BLM allocates the vast majority to livestock. They are forced to live under unnatural conditions. They’re being set up for crisis by BLM’s failure to utilize fertility control and to reduce livestock grazing in designated wild horse and burros' habitat areas.

This policy of favoring private livestock over protecting wild horses and burros continues, despite the fact that livestock grazing on BLM land is authorized solely at the discretion of the Secretary of the Interior, whereas protection of wild horses and burros are mandated by an act of Congress. 
Across the West, ranchers are threatening illegal action against the BLM to defend what they believe is their "right" to graze private livestock on our public rangelands, even during extreme drought conditions, and, all too often, the BLM caves in to their demands.
Recently, the BLM revealed that in designated wild horse and burro Herd Management Areas 77% of forage is allocated to livestock, leaving less than a quarter of forage resources for federally protected wild horses and burros. Public lands grazing is a remnant of Washington's interest in settling the West by providing a financial leg up to covered-wagon pioneers and private interests alike. Ranchers pay a fee, far below market rate, for each mother cow and calf they turn out to graze on BLM acreage.
And things may be getting even worse for our cherished herds. Just this week, a bill was introduced by U.S. Representative Chris Stewart (R-UT) on behalf of ranchers and their local representatives that aims to bypass a Congressional prohibition on the sale of wild horses and burros for slaughter.
Americans need to take a hard look at the brutal and inhumane practices the federal government uses to erase wild horses and burros from our public lands to clear the way for commercial interests. Each and every wild horse or burro that falls victim to this program is a lost icon of the freedom and untamed beauty that make this country great. Americans have got to speak up and demand an end to these practices before it’s too late."

Please join us in this important struggle,
Grace Kuhn
American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

"Let Your Horse Understand You"

Howdy Friends,
Does your horse understand you? Have you spent the time, not teaching her, or "training" her, but simply allowing her to understand you? Recently I spent the evening watching a versatility show and noticed riders operating in a different realm than their horses. I noticed too how some riders seemed to possess two different personalities. One personality outside the ring while waiting their turn, and a totally different one inside.
Kessy understands me!
We hear so much about bonding, partnering and joining up with our horses, and too often what's forgotten is simple understanding. Before you and your horse can truly bond, she needs to understand you. Sure she understands your signals, cues … and you think you understand her, but have you allowed her to understand you?

There is a huge difference between a horse cooperating with their person, and truly understanding their person. Remember, a horse is very quick to read us and understand our attitude, posture and motives, and these barriers could prohibit them from deeply understanding their person.

What do I mean by understanding us? Think about your friends and family. Do they always communicate in the same manner with you? Do you with them? … But when they do something that seems out of character you realize it's out of character and "understand" them. You understand they may be upset, anxious, even hurt or angry. You understand they are not displaying their true inner being in that moment, and you take it in stride.

Sure when you act "out of character" with your horse they will respond, obey, even cooperate, but it will also confuse them. And each time we do this, it chips away a tiny bit of their trust in us. Think about friends you might have, around whom you sometimes feel as if you must, "walk on eggshells." That is the feeling your horse will develop around you, if you haven't taken the time to allow them to truly understand you.

It's easy to help your horse truly understand you, and requires no special training, clinics or instructors. First we must truly want our horse to understand us, in our hearts, and thoughts. Second we must spend time, a good deal of it, just being with them. Not feeding, grooming, riding or training – Just being in their company ... Walk with her, sit with her and very important, talk with her. Slow down, allow her to come to you, mentally. The neat thing is, as she begins to understand you more deeply, you will her as well. That then, is a true partnership, and when folks watch you and your horse they'll see two beings so in sync they act as one. Not two beings each operating in their own realm.

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry

Monday, July 14, 2014

"They buried her on the hill at sunrise"

Howdy Friends,

They buried her on the hill at sunrise. She'd loved that hill in her final years, the trees, the other horses, and the warm sun in late afternoon. A long journey through many hands, homes and hearts had charted her life's trail, leading her to this peaceful pasture. She could often be found lying in the sun gazing out over the rolling hills in late afternoons, as if thinking of those she'd known in years past; other horses, people and friends. Scars and blemishes suggested not all those memories were pleasant, but her sweet persona would never offer a negative clue.
 Her life had been blessed with adventures great and small. From mastering the many different skills her varied people had asked of her, to giving life to two darling babies. Not all the activities suited her, and from time to time she struggled, but never once failed to give her best effort. Even when she was misunderstood, and mistreated. Several activities she did excel at, and had enjoyed time spent pleasing those riders, owners and spectators. There were moments she felt the praise, and understood the applause. She understood the hugs, and kind words too. And the tears. 

She welcomed being many friends' confidant. With patience born of true love, she listened to countless stories of joy, worry and sadness. Always she offered a thrilling, happy gallop to celebrate good news. And a mane to cry in, to help shoulder sadness.  Her spirit touched many lives on her journey through the years. Some only briefly, some much longer.

They buried her on the hill today, now she frolics as a spirit horse with old friends she's never forgotten.

Gitty Up, Dutch Henry

Friday, July 11, 2014

"Birds, Fans and Coffee Clutch"

Howdy Folks,

We are surely stuck in a pattern of hot, humid and rain here in Appomattox, VA. Coffee Clutch started at 73 degrees and very still heavy air at 6:15 this morning. As I went about feeding the chickens, Saturday and Kessy the woods were alive with birdsong. I'd been missing that lately, a combination of birds not being very active and that doggone fan in the barn.
The Coffee Clutch bunch
Chores complete, I settled into my chair next to Kessy, and poured my first cup of Folgers from my thermos. The fan whirred. It's not too loud, but makes enough of a drone to muffle the bird song, darn it … I could faintly hear our busy little Wren chattering and singing, and thought I heard a Cardinal, and perhaps an Indigo Bunting too. I knew I heard the Scarlet Tanager. I tried hard to listen, but it was a muffled chorus, not a glorious symphony.

Kessy's barn is very open, only the north wall is closed, and that wall has widows. But nestled snugly in the trees as it is, when the summer humidity rolls in, and it's been exceptional this year, it gets very damp and heavy inside. So for most of the summer that fan hums, whirrs and moves air. And bother me. Kessy loves her fan and divides her time between the cool shade of the tall trees and standing in the breeze of her fan. The fan also help with flying pests. I have friends who have fans in their run-ins just for the purpose of keeping the biting flies out. And really, Kessy's bedroom is not much more than a run-in with a hay room, tack room, and storage room attached, and a twelve foot over hang running the 40 foot length. I always figured the big openings and long overhang would create plenty of natural ventilation, but not in this weather!

So as I sat sipping and trying to take in the morning birdsong I decided the fan must take a break. Switching it off instantly allowed the beautiful songs to drift inside, and I reveled in it. Kessy's munching added the perfect touch. Delightful.

We enjoyed the magical music show for exactly 2 minutes … Then the rain started again, heavy. All the chickens, and roosters, ran at warp speed for cover inside with us … The roosters lighted on the half wall, all 3 of them, and began to crow. And crow. Drowning out any hopes of listing to the Cardinal, Summer Tanager and the rest. I smiled to Kessy, switched the fan on again, and poured my second cup …

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry