Friday, February 21, 2014

"Feature Friday – Ride For Their Lives – Robynne Catheron"

Howdy Folks,
Languishing in Federal bureaucratic bogs and quicksand is the bill that would end the slaughter of American horses forever. The Safeguard American Food Export (S.A.F.E.) Act, has sat untouched now for almost a year.
Horse lover and advocate, Robynne Catheron is mounting a personal and extraordinary effort to raise awareness of, and help pass the S.A.F.E. Act. She is setting out on a 1,150 mile "RIDE FOR THEIR LIVES" along the American Discovery Trail from Cincinnati, Ohio to Cape Henlopen State Park, Delaware starting April 20, 2014. She'll be taking two horses; George is her own horse, and Sampson who is on loan to her from the woman who rescued him from a killpen awaiting slaughter.
A happy Sampson all recovered and loving life!
Sampson was a Big Lick "Performance" horse, his lower legs sored, his hooves padded and chained, and dumped at auction by an owner who no longer found him useful. "Sampson is hoping to find his forever home during this ride. Anyone interested in meeting Sampson (or any of us) please contact me on Facebook." Robynne said.

"The S.A.F.E. Act (H.R.1094, S.541) will not only protect American horses from the nightmare of slaughter, it will prevent toxic horse meat from being shipped overseas for human consumption. Horses in the United States are not raised as food animals. They are routinely given drugs for parasite control, pain, and certain medical conditions that typical food animals are not given. For example, phenylbutazone, or "Bute," a common equine pain reliever and anti-inflammatory, is highly toxic to human bone marrow." Explains Robynne.

Robynne's plans for RIDE FOR THEIR LIVES began several years ago as feelings of helplessness, frustration and sorrow overwhelmed her for America's young and healthy horses being sent to slaughter. "I needed to do something significant to spread the message that slaughter is never an option, whether in abattoirs in Canada and Mexico, or in cattle rendering plants on American soil. I have extensive information to share about horse slaughter, sent to me by several experts in the field. Much of it is the result of undercover investigations." Robynne explained.
George and Robynne rollin' along
As she rides the thousand miles she'll spread the word of the stuck-in-place S.A.F.E Act and not only raise awareness, but shine the light on the horrors innocent horses face in the overcrowded trucks, pens and brutal slaughterhouses. Her youngest granddaughter, Chelsea, will be gathering with Robynne each night for dinner, and to feed the horses. She'll also be coordinating with media a few days before arriving at each town, so that maximum exposure will be achieved.

This RIDE FOR THEIR LIVES is a wonderful thing. Horses and their people everywhere thank you, Robynne, George and Sampson!

Join them on Facebook HERE – and follow their route. Robynne invites you to join them in camp, or along the trail. Have a look HERE at her fundraiser page.

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

"Get Out Of The Way And Let Your Horse Learn"

Howdy Friends,
We've all been guilty of over-correcting our horses. We've all been guilty of demanding too much, too soon, too … enthusiastically. Thank God, and the Spirit Of The Horse, our horses have the patience to deal with us, our miscues, over stimulation, impatience and if I may risk saying it, our ignorance.

I understand training, trainers, lessons, competing, and all the human things about horse and people relationships. And yes I understand the benefits and need for clear and consistent messaging, demeanor and posture. What I worry about is all the training, schooling and drilling tends to make us sometimes, and for some folks a lot of the time, overcorrect. My mentor Diane Sept makes a valid point often, "If we are not consistent we are not being fair to the horse." I get that, too. But … 

We've all seen people standing with their horse on lead, and when the horse dances and fidgets, the lead gets yanked and the person yells for the horse to, "Stand Still!" The horse reacts, jerking its head high, stands still for a second – then dances again – then gets corrected in the same fashion again, and the correction follows again, and on and on it goes. And most likely this is the case every time that team goes away and stands together.

I submit yelling for the horse to "stand still" while tugging on the lead is what I call, "overcorrecting." It short circuits the learning curve, does not allow the horse to learn. And I'll wager it is not as Diane says, "consistent" with how that person normally carries themselves. Oh yes, it most likely IS consistent with how that person acts in that same situation, every time, and so the obliging horse is taught to dance, every time it is expected to "stand still."
Kessy and me
So how do you fix that? Easy. Get out of the way, and let your horse learn to stand quietly with you, all day if that's what you want. Just do it. Simply stand still, don't over correct, in fact, don't correct at all. Choose to encourage instead. Sure some horses are nervous, even scared sometimes, and are going to be high headed and fidgety by their nature. But how does barking at them, or jerking the lead rope help reassure them? It can't. If we want them to feel safe and confident standing by us, we must exude safety and confidence, so they can mirror it.

It may take a number of weeks to accomplish this, especially if there are old habits to break, but simply standing with your horse, calmly and politely, on gravel or anywhere they won't be tempted by grass, hold the lead with your hand close to the halter at first, and just stand with her. Encourage her to be confident, self aware. Allow them to look around, if she moves, politely put her back where you want her. Don't correct, or say, no. I like to use the word "stand." Not whoa. We are in fact standing, not whoaing. Just do it with smiles, happy and support, and after a while it'll be second nature for both of you.

I only used the "standing still with me" as an example, but there are many other times where we might be tempted to over correct or interfere with our horse's movement or expression. Ultimately, yes we have goals we want achieve, things we want to do with our horses and we need to direct them, teach them, but try not always correcting. Try going with a mistake, see where it takes you. Follow your horse's spirit and not your blueprint. You can, and must, come back to your blueprint, but go with the flow, too. You will most certainly be given a gift.

Let me leave with another example of not correcting and receiving a gift. I was in a spell when my back and legs were not good; those spells come and go, and in fact goof up my riding. Kessy and I were on the trail, had been a while and even though we did our pre-ride exercises, she was a bit frisky and gaiting down the trail with glee, and some speed. She kept asking for the canter, finally I said, "Okay," and she went for it. I sit the canter, and feeling as I did that day, I couldn't keep my balance and in her attempt to stay under me she kept bouncing in and out of canter. I was laughing, and did give a slight tap on the rein to help her, but didn't correct her, I was just going to go with it and wait for her to come back to her running walk. What she did was discover, to the surprise of both of us, she has a smooth and delicious ground covering rack! Before that moment neither of us knew it!

I wonder, had I corrected her, forced the canter, or the running walk, would we have discovered her awesome rack?

Of course there are times when correcting is necessary, and in fact the proper thing to do, but giving things a chance to work out, perhaps blossom in ways we aren't even aware of, is important too.

Gitty Up ~ Dutch

Monday, February 17, 2014

"Let's Think With Our Horses"

Howdy Folks,
Heavy hung over the day. Clouds blocked the sun, and gripped her thoughts, and heart. Work was not going well, and other decisions must be made. She'd be late today, wouldn't matter anyway, so she dragged her feet as she made her way to the barn. Before she opened the door, a soft nicker greeted her. Before she opened the door, her heart lifted. A smile forced its way to her face. She flung open the door with more purpose than she thought she could muster, and went inside to her thinking place … with her horses.

We've all done this, carried our woes, sorrows and issues like backpacks strapped to our hearts. Friends, spouses, and our children can all help, and surely they do. Dogs and cats too, I can't imagine a life without any of them. But horses, the magic their spirit has to lift and understand ours is as unique as it is powerful. All we need do is think with them. They will hear us.

How many times have we all pondered a question, or some difficult issue while riding, grooming, or simply sitting with our horses, to have an answer mysteriously weave its way through our fog? We've all experienced it. Is it a coincidence? Some would suggest yes, a coincidence. I subscribe to a different belief.

We need ask nothing of them. We need only to allow them the connection. We've all heard and read the stories of wonderful healing places where horses do the healing. I've written about dozens of them myself.

There is a sweet power in the way a horse can touch our consciousness, even our unconsciousness.

Do they send us ideas, or do they simply empower us to solve our problems, to celebrate our joys? I say, you bet!
I often take my contemplations to Kessy -

I promise, it's great to take your contemplations to the barn - "Let's think with our horses."

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry