Friday, May 15, 2015

Don’t Desensitize your Horse!

Howdy Friends,
We’ve all seen it, owners, trainers or friends working in round pens or rings, with a worried, sometimes terrified horse, waving a bag, a towel or some other object at the horse to “Desensitize the horse.” I understand some reading this think I’ve described an exaggerated scene, others will think it’s got to be done, and still others think they would never do that. I’m in that last camp—I would never do that or anything close. Nor could I recommend it.
“But they need to be taught a bag can’t hurt them,” some say. Or a pile of other explanations why “desensitization” is an important part of “training.” Training, another word I’m not real fond of. I don’t want to be “trained,” or “desensitized.” Do you? I’d rather be educated, or coached. Semantics, you think? No. Words should mean things, and they do. Take just a second here and truly ponder the difference you feel when you think, “train” ... or “educate.” They make you feel different inside don’t they?

So how do you help a horse understand flying bags and blankets, falling branches, loud noises and a mountain of other scary things won’t harm her? Easy. Education and confidence building. When a horse has confidence not much will frighten her. When she’s confident in herself, and her person, the scary things are simply, things—not life threatening monsters.

Confidence building is a long term strategy, and we can make it happen by being confident ourselves, and consistent in our manners, actions and support. Yes it takes longer than a weekend clinic on desensitization—which will surely get a horse less worried about the bag, flag, bucket or bang the weekend was designed to make unscary ... But in most cases it will not build confidence. What it most often builds is a worried compliance. I must point out that many horses are skilled in hiding their worry with compliance. But worry and fear can resurface in the blink of an eye, in a most dangerous way, when the next “scary thing” that had not been used to desensitize, suddenly appears out of nowhere. The weak link is the lack of confidence building.

It is totally impossible to desensitize a horse to every scary or worrisome object a horse and rider might ever encounter. And that is the flaw. And it is a big flaw, for when the desensitized horse has an incident after training, and the rider momentarily gets scared themselves and disciplines the horse for what is a natural reaction, the bond between horse and human suffers a strain, a little damage. That’s not a good thing. Not for the person, not for the horse.

Building self confidence within the horse is the answer. Conducting one’s self in a manner steeped in confidence, support and I might say mentorship, builds confidence in the horse.

Take time to understand the horse, as much time as she needs. When riding, doing groundwork, playing games, never push beyond what the horse is comfortable, confident with. Ever. In everything you do make sure the horse is ready to go to the next level. Revisit often things she has mastered, and enjoys doing. This will create layers, upon layers of confidence. Those layers of confidence will build a suit of armor ever present for any scary, unexpected or surprising thing that suddenly appears. And she’ll handle all the never-before-seens with inner strength of self-confidence—not suppressed fear.

Don’t desensitize your horse ... Empower her!

Gitty Up, Dutch Henry

 To have a look at my latest book, "It's For The Horses, An advocate's musings about their needs, gifts, spirit and care," CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

"It’s for the Horses," now available!

Howdy Friends,
Well by golly It’s for the Horses, An advocate’s musings about their needs, gifts, spirit and care is finally released and available here on Amazon ... Or you can email me to order an autographed copy (by Kessy and me).

With this book I hope to help horses and their people everywhere realize the most wonderful partnerships possible. Spirituality, communication, understanding, nutrition, health care, horsemanship, exercises, foot care are a few of the important subjects discussed in “It’s for the Horses.” No matter your discipline, I promise every horse owner or caregiver will find more than a few things of interest in this book.

Here is what Bobbie Jo Lieberman—Editor-in-Chief, trailBLAZER magazine had to say. “Dutch Henry is on a mission to help people see their horses with new eyes, to listen with new ears, to touch their lives with greater sensitivity and awareness. It has often been said that our horses are our greatest teachers. Dutch Henry, who has opened his heart, mind and soul to the horse, is living proof of that statement. Enjoy the learning as we join Dutch on a remarkable journey.”

And Yvonne Welz—Owner/founder “The Horse’s Hoof Magazine” said, “I received a free review copy of this book, and it was an absolute pleasure to read. Dutch's genuine and compassionate love for horses shines through every single page. Written in such a conversational, friendly tone, his stories will keep any reader entertained, yet here is a wealth of practical, useful information and how-to advice for all horse owners. The major theme of this book is seeing things from the horse's point of view, which expands into his practical advice for more natural methods of horse care and overall good horsemanship. One of my favorite parts of this book is the section on groundwork, stretches, and pre-ride exercises - simple, useful techniques that you can put into practice immediately, for the benefit of your horse. Just about every horse topic you can think of is touched upon here: communicating with your horse, understanding the horse's nature, building trust, diet, barefoot hoof care, natural dentistry, teaching manners, gaited horses, saddle fit, the spirit and emotions of the equine and so much more.”

You can order on Amazon here. I promise it will help you to hear, and bond with, your horse on a level you may have not even imagined.
Gitty Up, Dutch Henry

Monday, May 11, 2015

"Motivational Monday— Adversity as a Blessing?"

Howdy Friends,

Life is a vast conglomeration of many things. And isn’t that a most wonderful gift? We are offered so much as we traverse this world, love, wonderment, beauty, friendship, adventure, families, friends and the list could more than fill a book. Along the way we are blessed, each of us, with our share of adversity too.
Our Fringe Tree in Kessy's yard is a beautiful and fragrant gift.
 Adversity as a blessing? I’m pretty sure none of us feel that way in the midst of a visit from the trouble making adversity monster, but when it’s behind us we are most often strengthened by the trial. Still I suppose I’m not real sure about calling adversity a blessing, how about more of seasoning? Or just simply a part of our wonderful life.

Being happy is much more fun than being angry, stressed or worried, so let’s think about the adversity challenge just a second, and how we can turn sad into happy. Many of our Coffee Clutch and Facebook friends know of my motto, “Ignore the negative and celebrate the positive.” That’s the first rule, works just as it sounds it might. Now of course not every bad thing can be ignored, some things simply need to be faced head on, dealt with. But every good thing can, and should be, celebrated.

Here is the trick, face the bad head on, with only as much effort and attention it requires to deal with it. No matter if it is a big bad or a little bad. Don’t dwell on, procrastinate, worry and fret as that only feeds it, empowers it. It can turn little bads into big bads, and empower big bads to consume you. No, instead jump right in, take charge and fix it, even if your fix is not perfect, that will starve it, weaken it and it will become resolved and go away. I’ll never forget what a friend told me once as I struggled long and hard with a mighty big bad, “A year from now you’ll look back at this and it’ll be okay.” He was right.

Don’t worry about getting it just right, that’s what bad wants you to do, so you hang out with it. Then it can grow. But if you deal with it so it’s over, gone and out of mind, it disappears into nowhere land and your world is swimming in happy. And you can look back at it and know it’s okay. Remember this, our first reaction, strategy and plan is almost always our best and strongest plan ... I’ll bet you’ve noticed that already. So why dwell on the bad trying to make it perfect. Bad cannot be made perfect, only handled. And each time you handle it, your happy becomes stronger, and a larger part of you.

Then you can focus on HAPPY ... Celebrate the POSITIVE! The more energy, thought and time you focus on happy the stronger that part of you becomes. Just like building muscles. The more consumed you become with seeing good, being happy, the harder it is for negative to touch you. It’ll become afraid of the powerful happy you!

The wonderful thing about focusing on happy, celebrating the positive, is how easy it is to get started. Go ahead and give it a try, quickly you’ll see how happy takes charge, and adversity becomes just a little seasoning in life. The main course is goodness, if you feed it.

Gitty Up, Dutch Henry

P.S. If you’ve not yet signed up for my newsletter please follow this link - and join our newsletter family ... Be part of the fun! AND just a head’s up my book “It’s for the Horses, An advocate’s musings about their needs, spirit, gifts and care,” will be released MAY 12 ... you can email me to order an autographed copy or watch for the  link to Amazon on my Facebook page tomorrow.