Thursday, September 25, 2014

"Earning The Trust Your Horse Wants Give"

Howdy Friends,

Over the years I've known more than a few horses, loved some deeply. My mare Kessy took a long time to accept and offer trust, and love. She will always maintain her strong-willed independence; it's a huge part of her – that part that made her easy to be misunderstood. She uses her powerful independence now to offer a loving, caring bond. And I accept it with joy in my heart.
Kessy is always ready to pitch in ... Not bad for a horse who took 6 months to understand a hug ... Like me, she's a little weak on spelling and grammar, but she has great subject ideas to write about.

That deep trust can only be earned, in Kessy's case it took years. Oh she dialed in rather quickly, but the deep trust took years, and our bond continues to strengthen. She has been, and continues to be one of my finest teachers. 

We've been partners now for a bit over 4 years, and before we met her independent nature had caused her to be handled in a way that chipped away at her ability to find trust easy to give. She had developed a strong personality of resistance, defense and defiance. Not because she was mean or stubborn and liked to bite and snake people, but because she was misunderstood. It took 6 months for Kessy to accept a hug - six more for her to give a hug back.

I learned from my mentor, Diane Sept, a philosophy that works every time it's employed. "Ignore the negative and celebrate the positive." It works like magic, not as quickly as magic, but just as completely.

Gaining the trust of a horse can happen quickly, or as in Kessy's case take a long time, all it takes is respect, and not asking for things they are not ready for, can't do, or are afraid to do. In everything we must offer respect, trust and confidence. Then that list of not ready fors, can't dos, and afraid ofs, gets shorter and shorter. The list of Can and Will dos grows longer. Trust becomes deeper as confidence builds.

It also takes awareness on our part. An awareness of our horse's limits, worries and attitude. I believe it is wrong to push a horse beyond her comfort zone ... That to me is not trust building - that is bullying ... I believe we must understand their limits and stop short of them, relieve the pressure, then the next time that limit will be stretched farther, by the horse, not the human. That builds trust. A trust she can count on to be there.

Sometimes we hear advice such as, "push them through it." I'd rather give them the confidence to build up to getting through it on their own. Sure anyone can "make" a horse do something, but to build trust we need to invite them, and allow for time to build trust, in us and themselves.

Another piece of advice I find hard to take is "you can't let them win." I find that especially offensive. Win what? Usually that advice is thought to be useful when things are going wrong, the horse is thought to be disobeying, refusing, acting up, when almost always they are either not ready for what is being asked of them, are confused or afraid. In those cases I like to stop, let her relax; perhaps visit something she is totally confident in doing so she can feel the joy of accomplishment. Revisit the challenging thing another day, but ask for less.
Kessy is always ready to help me ...
Asking ourselves every step of the way ... "How does my horse see this thing I want, as a demand or a request? Am I building confidence and trust? Am I celebrating the positive?" ... builds trust she can count on and wants to give.

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry

Monday, September 22, 2014

My Mare's Diet

Howdy Friends

Recently a few friends asked about my feeding protocol for Kessy. I'm a simple fellow, and as in everything I do I like to keep feeding simple too. Sure years ago when I played in the Competitive and Endurance world I bought into feeding all this, and lots of that, all kind of seeds, grain, beet pulp, supplements, and on and on. But I soon realized what I reasoned to be the many problems with all that.

 As I said last week in our Coffee Clutch, "Practices For A Healthy Happy Horse," – "Horses are designed to be forage eaters." It is my belief that, just as with we humans, most health issues can be traced to diet and exercise. The epidemic of ulcers in horses is just one ready example. My personal rule for all things equine is, "No shoes, no stalls, no grain, limited grass, and seeing everything from the horse's point of view."

Kessy's feeding protocol is very simple, and part of that protocol is housing. Exercise is key to good health and I include it in diet discussion. Kessy enjoys a Paddock Paradise habitat in the trees, no grass, a run-in, no stall.

We use the one inch slow hay feed nets located at several locations in her paradise to encourage movement. We feed tested hay and I weigh each bag. Kessy weighs 925 pounds; she gets a total of 20 pounds a day in her nets. I fill the bags morning and evening, exactly 5 pounds in each of 2 bags – the one inch nets keep her happily busy for the day and night. I hang the bags so they just touch the ground so she is eating in the grazing potion.
Kessy and her pals enjoying the day
Morning she also gets exactly half of pound of soaked timothy cubes. In that I mix, 1 teaspoon sea salt, her enzymes and vitamins ... I have used Advanced Biological Concepts for 15 years, they are totally organic and gmo free, and I'm happy to recommend them, and their support team. I feed their ABC-Plus Enzymes, their A and B mix vitamins and Rush Creek minerals. Minerals are free choice as well as Redmond salt. Water of course is always available and tub kept spotless.

Evenings Kessy gets exactly half a pound of soaked timothy cubes with her enzymes and one teaspoon iodine salt. Bedtime she gets a handful of fresh vegetables, and a slice of apple.

That's it, simple. I see no need for costly and crazy supplements that can confuse the digestion system and even the immune system. Kessy looks great, hoofs rock crushing hard, coat as glossy as a new penny, eyes glistening, attitude sharp. She's a happy girl, and that makes me happy.

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry