Friday, March 8, 2013

"FEATURE FRIDAY-Wounded Warrior Equestrian Program-Bridget Kroger"

Howdy Folks, 

Bridget Kroger sat at her job in Iraq as she had been for many months. Her duties caused her to ponder how she might be able to help her fellow soldiers. How could she help the soldiers going home to heal, rebuild and carry on? Bridget had been around horses her entire life; she knew the magic in their healing spirits. It was that day, sitting in Iraq some 5 years ago that the idea hit her. She would start the Wounded Warrior Equestrian Program (WWEP). But what would it be she wondered?

Bridget and a rescued Friesian
Over the last 12 years Bridget worked with many horses and while serving as an Army Officer( graduated from West Point in 1996) she worked with many Soldiers and their families in ensuring they are well taken care of. 

Upon her redeployment from Iraq in 2010, she kept the idea of WWEP in the back of her mind as she still wasn't sure what it was going to be. Bridget loves working with all types of horses. Especially horses that have had a rough go of it. She loves showing them how great their lives can be.
Then suddenly it all came together. The WWEP would help give Veterans and horses a new lease on life. "I truly believe the spirit of the horse and the warrior lives on forever," Bridget said.

One of the facets of the Wounded Warrior Equestrian Program is to reunite Warriors with their favorite mounts so they can heal each other ... Photo by Mary Khoury Whitelaw
Her vision for WWEP was not to start another therapeutic riding center or horse rescue, but rather to create a way to connect as many of those wonderful organizations together as she could. The purpose of WWEP would be to build a vast network of Professional Military and Horse Professionals to maximize opportunities for Veterans and Service Members to engage with horses of all disciplines, breeds and levels of riding.

The WWEP works to raise awareness of the Healing Powers Of Horses and to help raise money for Equine Therapeutic Programs and Horse Rescues across the United States. WWEP is dedicated to bringing horses, rescue owners, therapeutic riding centers and Veterans together and assisting them all in having a new start and raising the money they need to operate.

Bridget started the WWEP facebook page May 2011 and launched their current website in Mar 2012. A brand new dynamic website will launch June 2013. 
If you can help add to the list, or know of a Veteran, horse, rescue or therapeutic riding center who could use their help, the Wounded Warrior Equestrian Program would like to hear from you. If you’d like to be part of this wonderful network of helping and idea sharing please email Bridget at

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

"A Fun Day of Learning with Trainer Diane Sept and Kessy!"

Howdy Folks,

Kessy, like all horses, just simply loved Diane Sept's gentle ways of teaching and encouragement. We had started Monday afternoon to work on the trailer loading thing, but as with all important lessons and accomplishments there was much more underneath that Kessy needed to understand and feel good about. The first thing Diane did yesterday was to spend about an hour just introducing herself to Kessy. They had never met.

Diane, Kessy and Saturday getting to know each other
It was so much fun to watch. At liberty, Diane walked with Kessy all through her treed pasture, mixing in relax and release exercises along the way, and weaving in and around the trees while connecting. Eventually Diane took her to the barn to do some serious relax and release exercises, and it was wonderful for me too, because while over the years Diane's taught me so much, she mixed in a number of new exercises, too.

The purpose of this body work is not only to connect, and deal with the areas that Kessy was "stuck," but to gradually let Kessy understand Diane was the leader. That was new to Kessy, because while I like to think I'm a great partner, I'm not a good leader, and as Diane explained many times to me, that's not fair to the horse. She did tell me though, that the work Kessy and I had done together made it possible for her to do the things she did with Kessy Monday and yesterday, the groundwork had been laid physically and mentally.

After an hour in the barn Diane took Kessy back out to play among the trees and in our yard, teaching her that it's okay and proper to do what she is asked, and showing in a kind and giving way that there are certain boundaries. That folks, is the most remarkable thing about Diane. Before she ever works at "teaching" a horse, or person, she takes as much time as it take to get to know and understand the horse, the person, and the underlying information that may be the issue. Be it health, confusion, or any number of things seemingly unrelated to the situation she is asked to address, she works with and for the horse building tiny steps toward the end goal.

Monday afternoon and evening she worked with Kessy two and a half hours before they ever ambled to the trailer. Kessy stepped right on. Then Diane went in with her and spent a good while with her just helping Kessy understand the trailer is a comfortable place.

Yesterday started with Diane doing more of the same with Kessy, release and relax exercises and then leading her among the trees in ways that seemed difficult for Kessy to do. In the most patient and encouraging way, Diane taught her that even though to Kessy, the "other way around the tree might make more sense," Diane wanted her to follow her path. Follow her leader. Over and over (and by golly I wish I'd have taken a few pictures of this) Diane worked with her among the trees, instilling the thought that Kessy must learn to politely do as she is asked, and showing her we would never ask her to do anything she could not accomplish.

Then it was back up to the trailer, for some on and off practice. Our good friend Chris Cooper had come by to watch, and before we took Kessy for a test drive, I took Chris and Diane for a ride in the trailer. They made an astonishing discovery. With top doors off the trailer exhaust fumes came in! Is that why Kessy quit loading after I'd taken her for a few trips? We put the top doors on before we went any farther.
 Kessy steps right in as Diane watches
Diane and Kessy practiced a few more on and offs, and Chris took a turn, too. Then it was time to hand Kessy over to me. Kessy clearly mastered it, but Diane now needed to transfer the lead to me. My weakness, with my own horse, is that I have a harder time "being the leader" which again Diane explains is not fair to the horse. I do better with other folks' horses. Diane explained that is not all that uncommon either.

Diane handed Kessy to me, I loaded her easily, spent time in the trailer with her, and loaded on and off a few more times. Then we took Kessy for a test ride. All went perfectly, and she loaded again nicely after the ride. It was a long day for Kessy yesterday. Diane started at 8:30 and it was about 2:30 when we called it a day. I can tell you, Kessy loved every minute of it.

I loved every minute of it too, and not only had a terrific refresher course on how to be a better partner by being a better leader, but learned some great new exercises I can add to my "Therapy For Therapy Horses Clinics"

Thank you Diane for all you do to help horses and their people ... If you would like to talk with Diane about clinics or lessons please email her at or call 717- 336-6346

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

"Diane Sept is here and we're working/playing with Kessy"

Howdy Folks,

You may recall past Coffee Clutch blog posts about Kessy and her trailer loading adventures. If you do you'll remember things progressed nicely, Kessy took it all in stride and soon mastered it. Then she decided she really didn't like it and she quit.  Simply quit. No big protest, no revolt. She just quit. I started to employ other groundwork to help her understand, and that too seemed to be working. A little. But then this leg thing came along and groundwork got a little hard for me to do. So for a while we haven't worked on it. After all we have beautiful trails right here at home, and we were having plenty of fun.

I'm really good at helping a horse gain confidence, and pretty good at helping a horse feel great with the exercises Diane Sept taught me. And I'm pretty good at helping horses learn things they have a hard time understanding. But one thing I've always had a hard time with is convincing a horse to do something they positively don't want to do. I've never had that tool totally in my tool box. My standard practice is to just let it go a while and revisit it at some later time and usually, bit by bit, we get there. But if a horse still flat out refuses, well I need help ... Kessy told me, I need help with the trailer thing

Even though over the past 33 months we've mastered a lot of tricky things together, and her confidence has really grown, on this one, we need help. Kessy had developed a habit of "pushing back into pressure" long before I ever knew her. She will not be pushed or "driven." She had been over round-penned as a young mare. The more she protested, the more she was round-penned. And the more she was round-penned the more she protested. And that left her with a big fear of being pushed or pressured.

So I called my mentor, Diane Sept. She has a marvelous way of kindly showing a horse how to master things they are afraid of or make no sense to them. Diane and I don't get to see each other that often since Robbie & I moved to VA, and her coming is to visit and work with Kessy is just plain fun and exciting!

Diane arrived yesterday afternoon, and we sure had a sw. Then we went out and played a bit with Kessy. Part of the "get to know you thing," All of that she did "at liberty." After Diane and Kessy began to understand each other, they tried the trailer thing and of course Diane had Kessy stepping into the trailer.
 Then we went into town to watch rehearsal for the next play Ravishin' Robbie is directing.

Today is when the serious work with Kessy and the trailer loading happens. Can Diane fix it in a day? By fix I mean, transfer the tools into my toolbox that'll have Kessy stepping right in for me, too ...  Well a half day really, she needs to head back to PA at noon. I've seen her do it before … I'll tell you all about it tomorrow.

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry

Monday, March 4, 2013

"Update On Laura Leigh and Wild Horse Education"

Howdy Folks,

“Today we have a guest blogger, Marta Williams of Wild Horse Education. You may remember we featured Laura Leigh and Wild Horse Education and their efforts to help our wild horses and her legal actions and Federal Court cases she’s brought and won against the BLM as a Feature Friday on Nov 16. I asked for an update I could share here on the Coffee Clutch.” ~ Dutch

Update on Wild Horse Education’s Legal Action Against BLM

There are currently four active lawsuits in federal court against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for the agency’s handling of wild horses and burros on public land. All four cases were filed by Wild Horse Education, the only advocate group that consistently observes and documents BLM actions at roundups and conditions in BLM wild horse and burro holding facilities. The fact that founder, Laura Leigh, has witnessed over 400 roundups (and put 200,000 miles are her aging truck!) is what gives her standing in the court’s eyes as an expert on what BLM does.

Laura Leigh on the job
Wild horses and burros are supposed to be protected by the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Wild Horses and Burros Act, passed by Congress at the will of the people. Unfortunately, since 1971, BLM has engaged in inhumane handling, propagated herd limits and population counts that cannot be supported scientifically, contributed to the loss of genetic viability and diversity in these herds, sponsored poorly managed, unsuccessful adoption events for these herds, warehoused unadoptable horses in unnatural settings, and blocked journalists from getting access to and information about the wild horses and burros.
Warehoused wild horses at Broken Arrow holding facility -Photo by Laura Leigh
Leigh has documented the abuse of wild horses sufficiently to convince several federal judges to approve restraining orders against BLM for inhumane treatment. Leigh and Wild Horse Education attorney, Gordon Cowan, were also able to convince the Ninth Circuit Court that the BLM , not liking the footage Leigh was sharing with the world, started preventing her from getting close enough to see the condition of horses following capture, and started denying her access to holding facilities previously granted to other observers acting on behalf of the public.

The Ninth Circuit court, in a ruling that has made legal history, known as the "Press Freedom Case" ruled that the case had merit and remanded it back to the federal district court where it is now awaiting judgment by Judge Hicks in Reno, Nevada.

Dragging a roped foal - Photo by Laura Leigh
The other cases, dealing with inhumane treatment of wild horses and burros, are coming up for hearing within the next 30 days. Most recently, Wild Horse Education won a Restraining Order against BLM for inhumane treatment of horses at the Owyhee Roundup in November of 2012.
Horses chased by helicopter run into barbed wire fence (see video below)
 If successful, they may signal the implementation of a court ordered and enforced humane treatment standard for America’s wild horses and burros. This will still mean we have to be in the field monitoring and observing, but now any violation of the agreed-upon standards of conduct would immediately shut down an operation.

 To learn more about Wild Horse Education and to sign up for ongoing updates on these court cases, please visit their

Thank you Marta for this update and all Wild Horse Education is doing to help those without a voice.

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry

Video of horses run into barbed wire during Owyhee Roundup- 

Links to previous Coffee Clutch Blogs about Laura Leigh and Wild Horse Education