Friday, July 24, 2015

"500 Trail Rides Together, Kessy and Me"

Howdy Friends,
Yesterday Kessy and I enjoyed our 500th trail ride! We’ve been partners five years and two months, that’s about 100 rides a year. And Saturday has been along on nearly every ride. I keep a journal of our adventures and spent a little time reviewing our journey today. In the beginning we had a number of rough patches to sort through, I got a chuckle today reliving some of them. We had our first Coffee Clutch together May 17, 2010. Kessy turned 12 this past May.
The Coffee Clutch gang back in 2010
Most our rides have been between an hour and an hour and a half, due to my issues with my back and legs. I always say I ride so I can walk, equine assisted therapy. If we use 4 miles an hour and calculate the just over 650 hours we’ve logged about 2,700 miles, all bitless and barefoot. Kessy never had a bit in her mouth or shoes on her feet. We ride the woods surrounding our home, occasionally venture out to State Parks, but I much prefer saddlin’ up and riddin’ right out. After the pre-ride exercises for Kessy of course.
Saturday has run along for nearly every ride.  He missed a few this summer in the heat, he's packin' on a number of years now ... And he missed a couple in deep snow, too deep for his short legs.
She’s developed into quite a lady, taught me much and continues to teach me. I like to think she’s learned a thing or two from me as well. Does she do everything I ask, nope. Do I do everything she asks, nope. We understand each other, and each other’s assets and limits, and make a wonderful team.

Kessy has become quite the bird watcher, willing to stand quiet while I spot a bird, as long as I need. We’ve had adventures in the wild with everything from turkeys, coyotes and even riding up on black bears. Never once, not even in the early months, did she ever fail to stay under me, no matter the size of the spook. She has often modeled for pictures for our Coffee Clutch blog, facebook, and my book, “It’s for the Horses.” She’s helped teach folks those exercises, and even assisted for a few hoof trimming lessons. She gives the grandchildren rides when they visit.

Her gaits have developed into things of grace and beauty. She has a delightful flat walk and running walk. Her rack, which we discovered only 2 years ago, has become smooth, flowing—and fast. Her canter is as comfy as my recliner. Her gallop blazing. Oh yes she has a big trot too. Kessy is half TWH and half National Showhorse. Early on she did not know she had any gaits. The first time she held a running walk for more than 100 feet was May 30, 2010. I looked that up in her journal.
Comin' in on our 500th trail ride.
We celebrated a bit today after our 500th trail ride, Kessy had an apple, I had coffee and we talked and hung out together most of the afternoon. We look forward to many more years and trail miles together. I know she’ll never read this but, “Thank you Kessy for accepting me and taking care of me!”

Gitty Up, Dutch Henry

 P.S. To have a look at my book “It’s for the Horses: An advocate’s musings of their needs, gifts, spirit and care,” please go to .

Friday, July 17, 2015

"Writing about a hero - Peggy Cummings"

Howdy Friends

Coffee Clutch and Facebook friends know what an influence Peggy Cummings, her teachings and philosophies have been to me. She is positively one of my heroes. So much in the equine world has been changed by her dogged pursuit of understanding and teaching the importance of healthy, correct movement of the horse. And human.
My mentor, Diane Sept introduced me to Peggy’s, “ConnectedRiding/Groundwork” nearly 20 years ago. Diane is a Senior Certified ConnectedRiding instructor, and under her tutelage I mastered many of Peggy’s techniques. I even had the opportunity to work directly with Peggy at a few clinics. Those techniques have had profound influences on me, and the horses I’ve known over the years.

This week I had the honor of interviewing her and writing her story which will appear in my column, “Holistic Hall of Fame,” in the Jan/Feb/March issue of Natural Horse Magazine. (It’ll be a 2 PT, 2nd PT will be April/May/June). Talking with Peggy as we relived her life’s journey devoted to the betterment of horses proved emotional for me. An experience I’m so incredibly grateful to have had the privilege to do.
I chose to title her story, “A Journey to unlock the WHY of Horse Movement — Peggy Cummings,” because all through our discussions, and her journey she asked, “Why.” As in this excerpt when she discussed King, a lesson horse of her high school days. “King tended to float his trot which would scare the students, rear at the canter, and he bit at the leaders. Not acceptable lesson horse edict. Peggy realized there had to be a “why.” Why did King do these things? King was the first horse to clearly tell Peggy, there is always a why. She struggled to uncover the whys.”

From her first pony when Peggy was 9, she held a different view than most about horse comfort, manner and behavior. She did not see negatives as training or behavioral issues—rather she saw them as indications of an underlying “why,” as in this excerpt, “She watched his stiff movement, and subconsciously began again to seek the why. Why was moving gracefully so difficult? What causes a horse to refuse to go forward, balk or protest? Peggy knew there had to be a reason, a physical reason ... which then becomes an attitudinal reason. She knew he was not being bad, he had a reason.”

The more Peggy learned, the more she uncovered the “Whys,” her guiding principle here in this excerpt, “Over the next years teaching at summer camp, Peggy began to notice many things. What made horses “happy” to work? What caused them not to be willing? The horses at the camp had big jobs, and Peggy understood they worked hard. How could she help them to remain willing, and not sour of the confusion, demands and hard work? Beginning riders of all ages, sizes, weights and personalities took a great toll on the horses’ bodies and minds. Peggy saw this and worked to find ways to be, supportive of the horse. Horses, she reasoned, should be happy, engaged, not shut down and plodding.”
In this excerpt the “Why” of our posture. “Peggy had long recognized how sixty pounds of a stressed and rigid rider could cause one of her horses to not move well. She also noticed another sixty pound, soft rider, on the same horse would have a willing, soft horse. Why did a sixty pound rider have such an impact on a thousand pound animal? What about an adult tipping scales at 150 pounds or more?”

Peggy has devoted her life to finding answers to these and countless whys, and created a unique, easy to learn, modality for addressing them. Her work, struggles, persistence and devotion has changed lives for countless people and their horses. She is a true pioneer in teaching the way best to understand, and help our horses be happy, thriving and willing.
Thank you Peggy!
Watch for my complete story In Natural Horse Magazine— In the meantime, for your horse’s sake, visit Peggy’s website — Get in touch with her, and be sure to purchase her latest book, “Connected with your horse from the Ground Up.” A must have for horse caregivers, and I highly recommend it.

Gitty Up, Dutch Henry 

P.S. To have a look at my book “It’s for the Horses: An advocate’s musings of their needs, gifts, spirit and care,” please go to .

Monday, July 13, 2015

"Your Idea is a Good One! —Motivational Monday"

Howdy Friends,
Often we have good, or great ideas, thoughts, plans and positions and find ourselves doubting them. Others tell us we are wrong, too complicated, too risky, perhaps controversial. Then self doubt creeps in. Next uncertainty, sometimes leading to defeatism.
Me admiring President Monroe's grand oak, and the man, on Independence Day
Have you ever seen an acorn sprout? Tiny little white, fragile stem pushing its way from the acorn shell. It’ll have a dainty green leaf on top. That tiny sprout will one day be a majestic towering oak. It will of course take years, perhaps centuries, but without out an ounce of self doubt it will reach for the sky. Every day.

This Independence Day, Robbie and I toured President Monroe’s home The Highlands, in the front yard stood a grand white oak estimated to be over 300 hundred years old. Some speculate James Monroe chose the exact location for his house because of that tree, which of course would have been nearing the century mark at that time. Think of that tree, and that man—neither wavered from their ideas and convictions. Admire their accomplishments.

Second guessing ourselves is of course a part of human nature, and sometimes it can prevent mistakes. Second guessing though can also chip away at confidence, drive ... and success.
It is wholly correct to permit, and use, caution as a tool to refine and enhance a thought, idea or strategy, but it must also be managed in a way that it becomes an asset, not a hindrance.

Your idea was a good one, there is a reason it came to you. Stick to it and become a mighty oak!

Gitty Up, Dutch Henry

Thursday, July 9, 2015

"Rotation in the Saddle—Belly Button Exercise"

Howdy Friends,

Peggy Cummings calls this very important exercise she teaches, “Rotation.” I often call it “Belly Button Exercise.” By any name, I recommend you master it and learn to use it often. It’s good for you, and wonderful for your horse.

The benefits of this simple, easy to master exercise are many. “Rotating” can, and will, help calm your horse, because it will soften you, and also help sit you deeper in the saddle. It will soften your spine, shoulders, neck and legs. Even your feet will become lighter!

When your body is soft and relaxed your horse can relax, soften and lengthen, and she will. You can add to “Rotation” the exercise of “Combing the reins” to greatly help soften and calm a worried, hurried horse.

Sitting soft in the saddle put one finger in your belly button, the thumb of the other hand at your spine, and rotate, just your belly button not your hips, an inch or two to the right, and hold it a second. Then rotate back to the center, hold it a second—then rotate to the left, hold it a second, and back to the center. Now keep rotating right, center, left over and over.

As you rotate remember to breath normally, sit in neutral, and allow your body to respond. 
Feel the softness radiate up and down your core from your feet to head. You will feel your seat grow deeper, your legs lengthen and body soften. You’ll also feel your horse soften.

Begin your practice sitting still, but as soon as you are able, walk your horse on and rotate while walking. As soon as you master the feel of the rotation, you can stop using your hands, simply think of your belly button and rotate.

At first it will be difficult to rotate only your belly button, your mid-section and hips will want to turn along, and that’s okay at first, but concentrate on only aiming your belly button slightly right and left. In time you’ll feel the release and will be able to rotate subtly and your hips will not follow, you’ll only rotate from your waist up.

Remember the movement is slight, only turn an inch or so, then hold and return. Stay soft, sit in neutral and breathe. Allow the rotation to soften you, and your horse. You can practice and do this any time, sitting at your desk, driving, even walking. In time, with practice, you’ll learn to feel your muscles move lightly around your spine, you’ll feel an amazing release. So will your horse.

This exercise is something I do all the time, perhaps a hundred times a day. In addition to being a great thing for your horse, it helps a lot with back and leg pain, I know.

Do the “Belly Button Rotation,” it’ll do you and your horse good!

Gitty Up, Dutch Henry