Quantum Riding 10+

Besides blogging about horses and horsemanship I also am an artist. Right now I’m in the midst of a project entitled “Big Idea 10+” in which I draw a sketch that somehow builds off of the one just prior to it. Because I recently attended a clinic in which we focused on balance, energy, impulsion and other aspects of riding integral to optimizing the partnership, those topics entered into the flow.

So I’m including them in this blog.

#31 Rounded + Relaxed; Energized + Inspired

Rounded + Relaxed; Energized + Inspired

A horse that moves well and with energized athleticism is a desired outcome of initial groundwork.

#32 The Swingy Tail

A nicely moving quine will have a swingy looking tail

He’s not wringing it, nor flapping it about, but the energized, balanced horse will have tail movement that’s swinging rhythmically from side to side in a pleasing manner.

#33 – The Exaggerated Seat

A fun exercise - exaggerate your bad seat - then its opposite!

While being lunged on our own horses our instructor, Shelby Hume, asked us to try out bending ourselves into a very exaggerated version of what we consider a habitual bad posture. In my case I tend to grip up in fearful moments and act like a “Scaredy Cat”. Then we were instructed to invent an exact opposite of the bad habit pose which in my case was the “Sky Flopper”. Then we moved in between each posture – one into the next and lo, petunias, as we did so we flowed through the perfect balance spot – our “Sweet Spot”. I found this to be an excellent way to find this optimal position – quite unlike trying to just go about correcting from the sort of ratty looking one I sometimes adopt.

#34 The Sweet Spot Rediscovered

Ahhhhh.....equipoise personified

From that ugly low crouch through to the floppity backwards pretty unstable opposite there’s this beautiful balance point that just feels so right!

#35 – Your Core – The Physical Manifestation of Your Soul

Riding From Your Core Quantum

I’ve heard several excellent clinicians talk about ‘riding from your core’ as well as ‘riding with intention’. Intuitively I think I know what they’re talking about. So I spent some time with the concept and worked on this image to help me visualize it. I have done extensive reading through the materials available to laypeople on the basics of both quantum physics and intentional living. As an artist I work with and revisit concepts time and time again in all the media I play with. It is no wonder I would do the same with my own horsemanship.

#36 The Quantum Physics of Riding

The Quantum Physics of Riding

Your core, being the physical manifestation of your soul and its intention creates a flow of reality into which you then travel. Horses being the willing spiritual partners that they are pick up on this sort of thing with ease. It is from this created ‘reality’ that they mythic is then called into being. Your intentions are the root of what we think of as the magic of Pegasus.

#37 Becoming One

Disappearing as a Rider

As we progress with riding from our core, it’s sort of like our legs disappear and we take on a new shape with our equine partner. This isn’t accurate because it’s kinda freaky – but it’s also kind of sweet and looks a lot better than a horse body with 2 human heads.

#38 Physically You’re as Minimal as Possible

Riding with the Lightest Touch

Karen Rohlf likes to have her students imagine for a second that they have very long arms and can connect ever so gently to the sides of a horse’s mouth with their fingertips. This is how she invites you to think of the bit and the reins. I extended it to also be available for rear end urging if was really true about the long arms thing. Tap tap tap. That’s it. And even that becomes unnecessary the better we get with the above riding from the core stuff. This is for emergency reminding only.

#39 Invisible to the Untrained Eye

Sometimes the Potential is Quite Invisible

What you co-create with your equine partner may be completely unseen during the ‘down’ or unmounted off times. Then again, hints of it are obvious. For example, the horse is happily next to his rider, not turned away. Both are relaxed in each other’s company. This sort of stuff is meaningful and adds up.

#40 Strangely Beautiful Math

The Potential is Expressed in a 1+1=2+ Manifestation

When mounted all the pieces come together for the nicely balanced partnership. The core pf each join into a quantum bond that creates a being that exceeds the mere math potential of the individuals. 1 + 1 = 2+, where the + is the quantum.

These sorts of partnerships can’t be forced. They are co-created by the horse and the human working in congress. You can see evidence of such partnerships in some high level competitions, but you can also see examples of exactly the opposite in such places. What you look for is a relationship between horse and human that seems healthy and unforced. Look for happy expressions, signs of camaraderie and appreciation and an ease with each other that is inspirational. You’ll probably also be spellbound with their accomplishments and think it’s all so easy because you’ll be observing two partners who have a high regard for the other and that type of relationship often seems effortless.

You can find them on the trail too. Watch people as they tack their horses, there’s a lot of information about a partnership in that process. Heck look for how a horse comes in from a turn out! Something’s right when he comes running in – regardless of food opportunities, lol.

The Best Horse Ever. Ever.

My cute friend on her ultra cute paint

That was the Facebook status update of a good friend of mine yesterday after she had taken her young paint out on his first ever solo trail ride on her thoroughbred farm.

Who’s This Amazing Horse?

“BamBam” is a home bred out of one of her mares by a gorgeous paint stud. She also called me immediately upon dismounting. Call it gloating if you must. I did.

I had to! BamBam’s 2, MuMu’s 7 and those two have made progress by leaps and bounds ahead of ours. I know, I’m being petty. I admit that. Besides, there’s a whole big side of me that’s absolutely thrilled for them. Why wouldn’t I be?

  • For one thing my friend deserves an awesome trail buddy because she’s one of the more rare  in thoroughbred breeding and training circles — she guarantees the home-breds and claimers she races or breeds or foals out a forever home when they retire.
  • Also she’s been at this horsey thing from about since she could talk her folks into it decades ago.
  • Finally, she gets a pass for the rubbing it in because she also said she should start breeding the same mare to the same stallion and sell those babies instead of the TBs she foals out every year because “I’ll make more money.” I love dry humor.

So you can’t hate her.

I can’t anyway. Like many of my horsey friends ‘in the business’ she’s got some advice for me about how to go about things. I take it with a grain of salt – I know for certain she has my best interests at heart but I love and trust the advice I get from the clinicians and trainers I follow. My absolute favorite (Shelby Hume – you’ll find her in several posts here so far) understands all about safety and older ladies getting into their horsemanship later in life.

None of these horsier friends of mine have had their husbands end up in the hospital at this stage in their lives from a fall off a horse during a riding lesson. Nor have they fallen off their own horses right into a coocoo concussion lately like I managed to do two years ago. When things happen to Mikey and me – that’s it. We’ve got each other and whatever we’ve managed to accrue between us – but there’s no inheritance or trust fund heading our way should either of us become incapacitated. As a self-employed artist and designer I’m not keen to jeopardize my health by getting ahead of my horsemanship skills. Especially when they reach the years in life where they no longer bounce when they fall off the back of a horse like I have.

Full disclosure: These horsier pals are also the ones who advised me to wait for a nice finished, bomb-proof gelding to come my way rather than leap in and start my own colt. They are smart, caring people – but had I done that I never would have learned what I have learned so far on this crazy journey.

The Best Horse Ever. Ever!

So MuMu and I go slow. But there’s the thing – he is also The Best Horse Ever. Ever! That’s the thing about feeling great about your partnership it creates these awesome horses like my friend’s and mine – and yours too I bet. Am I right?

Finding the Sweet Spot Clinic Review

Energy, Balance, Relaxation + Freedom

This past weekend I gave MuMu and myself the gift of attending three whole days of nothing but improving our partnership. With the leadership of the wide-scoped talent and skills of Shelby Hume, horsewoman extraordinaire,  we got to learn with nine other horse-human teams new ways to delve deeper into the core concepts of:

  • Energy
  • Balance
  • Relaxation and
  • Freedom

under the auspices of the program developed by Karen Rohlf entitled “Dressage Naturally”. This clinic called “Finding the Sweet Spot of Healthy Biomechanics“. The focus of the clinic was:

  • Basic theory, principles of Dressage, Naturally
  • How to develop an eye for healthy bio-mechanics, including the ‘let loose’ posture
  • The Athletic Rider: How to improve your own relaxation, energy and balance
  • How to develop and expand your ability to communicate about relaxation, energy and balance
  • How to use these conversations in order to find the ‘sweet spot’… the best way of going for your horse in order to help them be the best they can be
  • The basic theory and techniques for riding in connection with the reins

Do You Qualify?

Below is a demonstration by Ms. Rohlf’s other endorsed clinician Breanne Peters, showing some of the prerequisites desired to be able to gain maximally from participating in this clinic:

The Clinic Unfolds

The days played out under Shelby’s expert and upbeat guidance in unforced succession that offered multiple challenges without overwhelming any participant; human or horse. Working individually and as groups we were invited to discover new, clearer solutions to what may have been old habits or patterns with breakthroughs and personal bests quietly happening time and time again throughout the entire arena.

Who’s Shelby Hume?

Ms. Hume has a style of teaching that draws deeply from her many experiences learning and practicing her horsemanship with other true Masters throughout the disciplines as well as her own ongoing inquiries with her own riding, her own equine partners and her own ever continuing education process. To me the best teacher is the one who never stops asking questions; never stops exploring concepts; ever seeks improvement for themselves. These are the people who tend to be able to convey those portions of their own journey to those of us perhaps not as advanced in the process with clarity and even a playfulness that keeps the undertaking both deeply meaningful and optimistically bright. That’s Shelby!

Shelby playing with her horse Querataro

She embodies this excellence into inquiry. She embraces elements from many varied disciplines that lead to the end goals we studied in our sessions: Balance, Relaxation, Energy and Freedom. She speaks fluent “Natural Horsemanship” and its multiple accents (Chris Cox, Buck Brannaman, Ray Hunt, Pat Parelli, et. al.) as well as Centered Riding (Sally Swift) and Reining, Grand Prix Dressage, and many more not as familiar to a backyard hack like me but significant to others in our group.

What Happened?

By trying out new exercises and observing the tries of the other teams MuMu and I got to experience the full range of knowledge acquisition and enjoyed some significant shifts towards improvement in our own partnership. Together he and I made some beautiful circles through nothing but intention, my eye gaze and maybe a quiet and subtle leg yield. Nothing for most to write home about – but a huge accomplishment for my left brain extroverted partner and me in such a social setting, lol. We also got three very well-organized, consistently energized and pretty dang round circles at the trot again in a socially charged atmosphere that usually draws the young boy’s attention away from the task.

I know others among us – if not all – enjoyed similar personal-best accomplishments – some at a faster pace than us, some with greater clarity and subtlety. But that’s the beauty of what Shelby does – she can level up or down her instructions for each horse/human team so each gains a measure of success geared specifically to where they’re at as individuals and as dance partners.

Should You Go?

I can’t recommend this clinic enough to you if you have a desire to go further with your own explorations into improving your partnership and communication with your horse. These three days are a gift you give this relationship that will go a long way towards helping you achieve things you thought maybe were out of your league. The intensity of the commitment of three days will help you embrace your own Journey with Horse in ways DVDs, books and online education simply can’t. Besides Shelby’s awesome leadership and teaching, maybe it’s partially being with like-minded explorers whose own pathways can be witnessed, maybe it’s the singularity of the focus for those three whole days, maybe it’s the most-excellent snacks people share at lunch! Whatever it is – these clinics contain an alchemy you just can’t get any other way.

MuMu was a Happy Camper!

The Next One

Shelby’s having another “Finding the Sweet Spot” clinic here in the Lexington area (Grasslands Too facility owned by the warmly welcoming Janie and Bobbie Elliot) in March 2012. What a way to start the season! Take it from me, a self-employed creative without a ton of disposable income, this will be worth the investment! She’s also making arrangements to take this clinic on the road – so “like” the Dressage Naturally page on Facebook for updates.

An End Goal

Oh, so of course you’re wondering; “Hey, isn’t Dressage just for “English riders?” Nope. Not at all. In our ten pair of participants I’m willing to bet a good half of us were riding in some form of Western rig. MuMu and I as recent converts. Check out this performance by the inimitable Eitan Beth-Halachmy at last year’s Del Mar Horse Show’s “Night of the Horse”:

Take the Time it Takes

A Graduation of Sorts

Last week my greenish paint horse and I went on a trail ride with some friends in a beautiful landscape on a gorgeous summer day.

Enjoying the summer glory as a team! (Photo courtesy Lindy Huber ©2011)

My wonderful friend Lindy Huber included us in her blog post about it here. Her words about our slow journey inspired me to make this post.

It wasn’t the first time we did it – because as it turns out I had blithely taken some seriously dangerous chances on him in complete ignorance as we went along.

It took us six full years to get there safely together as a team. We’re not done yet, not by a long shot. But we’re on our way.

Six Years Ago

When I bought Muon McHippus out of a field as a wormy, germy knee knockin’ yearling I had the broadest of hopes and the most magnificent of dreams for us to come together as a team; a real horse-human partnership. I saw us galloping ridges and scrambling up and down trails, doing tricks and spending quality time together in the barn, in the show ring and anywhere else a fifteen year old girl imagines she and her horse will go.

Our horizons are opening up!

Ignorance is Bliss – But I wasn’t 15, I was a 47 year old when I started this journey. Fairly fit, certainly willing to learn and of a mind to do the right thing by this horse come hell or high water. I wasn’t going to go down any bad paths and doom this pretty boy to an awful fate. My highest goal was always to steward this colt towards meaningful career opportunities so that should anything happen to me he would always be employable. I see far too many unemployed horses where I live in Kentucky and they’re at great risk of having an awfully bad end.

I Never Dreamed it Would Take This Long…or I might not have chosen MuMu after all. I would have gone with the advice every seasoned horse person gave me which was to “Go find a nice mature, bomb-proof gelding with a lot of miles on him.”. I did almost the exact opposite. I have since learned what they were getting and why. But had I done it their way, the safest way, I would have missed out on all the meaningfully deep learning MuMu has lead me to experience and embrace.

Horsemanship 101

As a horse, MuMu was born with an advanced degree in horsemanship. It’s built right in! For me, an urban transplanted dreamer I had a lot to learn. A. Lot. To learn. Luckily I chose my teachers wisely. I have been exposed to several brands of balanced riding and natural horsemanship and though we’ve had our bad days, and our very bad days no one event has been so terrible that this horse and I didn’t find a way to carry on with our journey together.

So far we’ve survived:

  • Whiteline Disease
    I almost lost the young boy to this dreaded affliction, but using every cent I had, a gifted farrier and in two years time he came to grow two healthy front feet after almost losing them both early on. That was a bit of a setback, but allowed us to improve his ground manners.
  • A bolt and buck Run Off
    where I lost my seat and cracked my helmet so hard I was weird and woozy for the rest of the evening (concussion). From this I lost a lot of my nerve and questioned my sanity. Luckily the week immediately following this mishap I had a clinic scheduled that I had already paid for -I wasn’t about to waste that money. We re-started under betetr guidance and fell in with a wonderful trainer, Shelby Hume.

With Shelby we worked patiently through the root causes of bad trailer loading, lack of a consistent whoa and general buttheadedness. Same root cause it it happens – lack of respect from the mindful young horse to me!

I Had to Step Up

,…and claim my responsibilities as a leader when we’re in the riding mode. That caused a lot of introspection and self examination I assure you. Not all of it pleasant – but the net effect is I’m better at standing up for myself. Because when you can stand firmly against the mindful, often dangerous whims of a 1200 pound horse, you have proved something to yourself.

Waiting for the next adventure!

Take the Time it Takes

I didn’t rush through this. I stopped whenever I got in over my head. My motto (not sure who originally said it) of “Take the time it takes” meant six years to lay in a good foundation. It has been a long, arduous, joyful journey. We’ve each become better individuals due to this partnership and if I were to disappear tomorrow for one reason or another, MuMu could always find work now. He’s a good horse. A safe horse. A healthy horse. A happy horse. And because of all of those things I am a happy, happy horsewoman who’s learned some very useful horse sense.

*Natural Horsemanship clinician Pat Parelli has been known to get good mileage out of the quote “Take the time it takes so it takes less time.” but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t claim ownership of it, and the whole saying wouldn’t fit in my case for sure being that it’s about saving time, lol! But it’s guys like Mr. Parelli and all those who’ve walked before, with and after him that allow we hobbyists to make safe negotiations with these huge flight creatures.

Bobbles and Doggles at The Rolex KY This Year

dog wearing gogles

They call 'em "Doggles"

What a perfect Rolex KY this year! The weather gleamed all day Saturday – when it really needed to for the teams to negotiate those insane jumps as safely as possible. For 6 years I’ve volunteered on Xcountry day to help keep people from entering the gallop lane at the “Head of the Lake” water jumps while horses and their riders figure those monstrosities out.

This year a gorgeous gray by the name Mojito tried to show us what he’s made of by sort of jumping one of the duck’s heads. Not his best thought of the day. He ended up catching a hoof and rather ungracefully dumped his rider, Kate Brown, into the drink. He was fine and so was she albeit soaked through and through and instantly eliminated. Well, here ya go one of my fellow spectators caught it on video:

kate brown and Mojito

See? They're fine - she's still laughing! Volnteer Jen Warner and Isi Brown helped catch the lad and untack him tactfully.

Kate was pretty much laughing and petting her buddy with embarrassment – which won the hearts of all us onlookers. I’m guessing she tucked into some liquid mojitos after she changed out of her wet duds. I would’ve. Well truth is I would have to drink heavily to even consider doing something this crazy so there’s really no comparison here.

I’ve declared for years that I was going to capture the true essence of “The Rolex” one of these days. And this year I have finally done so. You won’t see these scenes at Eventingnation.com nor on next week’s NBC recap coverage of this four star event (usually airs just before KY Derby coverage in an hour long show) – but you can always count on me to bring you what’s really important at any local horse event they let me in on. Thus I present to you the dogs of the Rolex Kentucky 2011:

happy dog

chihuahua, cheebie at rolex

A cheebie takes in the scene....

I began to run out of battery before I came near to running out of dogs to photograph. I shudder to think what my three would do when the competitors galloped by – and I will never, ever find out. SO don’t ask. Next year I think I’ll concentrate on the thousands of styles of muck boots that show up.

Oh have you not heard who won? Mary King out of Great Britain came in first AND second on two horses Kings Temptress and Fernhill’s Urco! I mean to say, what a weekend for English royalty, no? First time it’s ever happened in the 33 years of the event. Way to go your majesty! I should’ve had her ride one of my horses. We could use the purse. And the watch.

“Yike!”s on Very Game Horses – Do I Go This Year?

A typical course layout

The Rolex Three Day Event that spans four days (I know, it’s not that eventers are lousy at simple math – it’s that dressage takes forever, I mean two days, to judge) is coming to the Kentucky Horse Park later this month. I always start by being ‘on the fence’ (a very tall, wide or insanely dangerous fence) about whether or not I’ll go this year. What I love about “The Rolex” are:

  • the pageantry
  • the shopping
  • observing the dog/person look-alikes
  • the assemblage of large numbers of horse appreciators (all disciplines)
  • the fashionistas in their shorts, rain ponchos and four hundred buck muck boots.

Theodore O'Connor (and Karen O'Connor) jump a nasty wide one in Kentucky

What I don’t like are “the questions” constructed by (up until this year) Michael Etherington-Smith’s (course designer) crew. Frangible (break away) pins or not most of the thirty or so jumps strewn along the almost 4 mile long cross country course seem to be too much to ask of one’s equine partner, no matter how tall or fit. Mostly they all negotiate these monsters handily. Even beloved Theodore O’Connor, the 14-2 Connemara pony could make it around not just cleanly, but quickly too. Winner-quickly! But not all of them can, so not all of them do. And when they don’t it can be quite awful. Sometimes horses suffer not just a career ending injury, but a life ending one. That’s what we horse lovers don’t like.

These jumps test the trust and athleticism of each human/equine combo to the very outer reaches of ability. As a rider you have to be spot-on with your judgment before you send yourselves over. Not everyone is.

Sometimes the footing is slippery, or there’s a miscalculation or a horse simply refuses too late. However it happens when there’s an accident I feel instantly sick. I guess it’s like Nascar. No one says they like the crashes – but everyone’s always fascinated by them. Not me. I hate the crashes; horse or auto. When it’s going well, however, it is incredible. Amazing! Unless you’ve stood by these jumps and witnessed their height and breadth in comparison to yourself you cannot believe the size. Television tends to trivialize and flatten these things and the horses make it look easy. Like Henny (H J Hampton) and his rider Peter Atkins below. It’s a helmet-cam of the two doing their actual event run on the course at the 2010 Rolex. See for yourself:

So should I go and sort of support a sport that may not be the healthiest choice for horses? I could probably make a case for weekend trail riders’ accidents on any typical Saturday probably resulting in a number of accidents – and so should I boycott that too? We know what thoroughbred racing can do often enough, and dressage when practiced poorly can ruin good horses and the list goes on and on. Should I boycott it all? You know I’m not going to. Most of the riders I’ve seen and heard from in the world of eventing a truly wonderful horse people and love their partners to the max. They’re crazy people, you will never convince me otherwise, but almost all of them love their horses. It’s just not easy being a conscientious horse lover. I don’t think it ever has been. Imagine the atrocities when horses were used for actual transportation!

So I’ll go. I’ll volunteer as a crossing guard to keep horses in the gallop lanes safe from inattentive people come out for a day of gorgeous horse celebrating, like I always do. And if you catch wind of some special energy being directed to a horse down – add yours and know together maybe we can magically keep all horses in peril safe with our good wishes and tightly knit hopes.

‘Leveling Up’ in the Game of Horsemanship

pink unicorn, blue dog

It's the Decade of the Unicorn

It is the Decade of the Unicorn. I should know, because last year during the Year of the Unicorn I wasn’t finished considering these mythical beings, so I extended the deadline. ( For a quick tutorial on how to find unicorns in your area visit  “Finding Unicorns“) You can do stuff like that when you’re a SEHI (Super Empowered Hopeful Individual). I imagine you’re one too, or could be after I point out a couple of your own Super Powers.

For starters, there’s your love of horses. This is no small thing. You’ve allowed very large independent thinkers into your personal partnership realm. You probably learned fairly early on that you weren’t going to force those thousand pounds into willing graceful athletes any more than you were going to snack on kryptonite in between meals. No, you’ve learned the art of the ask using your knowledge of equine body lingo — and if you’re good, you’ve probably developed some darn fine listening skills too.

So list collaboration in a foreign language and sensitivity to nuance under the heading My Super Powers. Now let me ask you, have you ever gone out to the barn or into the pasture and just soaked up that subtle equine energy? You know, maybe you just stood there and breathed in annd out slowly in time with the horse? Yes? cartoon cowgirl with sorrel horseNo? What about — ever gone to the barn for ten minutes and an hour later wonder where the time went? That’s called Being in the Moment. As ever a noble Super Power there was. I mean to say, that. Is. Huge. Seriously! Big healthy cosmic stuff. Why? Because those times when we’re ‘in the moment’ are when our very souls are rejuvenated. Truly wholesome stuff. Very of the province of the mythic. Very unicorny. I know, corny. I heard it too.

But that’s what horses do for us. They let us be this perfectly of the moment versions of ourselves. They don’t just let us, they expect it. And being with them pretty much demands it.

Horses see through artifice. They know who’s faking it. They’re not always allowed to express that knowledge but they can’t suppress it either. And they invite us not to, too. They invite authenticity (hello, Super Power!). They invite letting go of the impedimenta of status that we often let stand in for power, and by their actions and reactions encourage us to replace those with these everlasting Super Powers.

cartoon rider on grey horse

Congratulations - you've attained a state of Grace!

That they let us on their backs and direct their movements is nothing short of a supreme demonstration of cooperation as any of us is ever likely to encounter at this stratum on this orb. When a horse acquiesces to this, you are witnessing or directly experiencing Grace.

Let that Grace inspire you to be your genuine Super Power version of yourself wherever you are. When a horse chooses you (comes running in from a far corner of the field, walks by your shoulder at liberty or allows you to ride her without a bridle) you have been truly honored. You, my friend, have ‘leveled up‘ in the game of horsemanship – you have been empowered for who you really are.

ps – the paintings or ones like these are available in my Songpony Etsy store.
That link is: http://www.etsy.com/shop/SongPony

Technology and Horses

Technology – It can’t fill a bucket.
When it looks at a stall it sure can’t muck it.
Nope, I’d say the digital course
couldn’t keep for a week an easy-keep horse!

miniature horse gives advice to barack obama

"Hey boss - toss me a flake. No, not someone from the House, dang it!"

Horse Whispering and Loud Trains

blue eyed dog, spanish menuWell before I moved into a two hundred year old log home set into the rolling landscape of the southern Kentucky bluegrass region I lived in a gritty rough-edged inner city Chicago neighborhood. I had an ice-blue eyed rescued fighting dog, Zippy, whom I counted on to accompany me safely past knots of loitering gangbangers (“Folk Nation” allies, a contingent of west side Latin Kings). We would walk briskly the several blocks to the Junior’s corner store to pick up emergency milk or dog food.

It was within these circumstances I found myself actively seeking reading material that would transport me up and away from these tense streets and the cacophonous sounds of the nearby elevated trains and the instant adrenalin rush triggered by random one two three four five six shots popping off somewhere down the street at night. I read “The Man Who Listens to Horses” by renowned expert ‘horse whisperer’ Monty Roberts. As a lifelong lover of all things animal, reading how Monty taught himself to understand the body language of horses I was richly inspired. His words renewed within me a longing to find a way to be with horses.

log home, kentucky log cabin

The 200 year old log home

Seeds of inspiration get planted within us all the time. When I moved to Kentucky I remembered Roberts’ work and picked up every one of his other books. I was keen to learn Equus, the name he coined for this subtly cued language of equines, myself. I enrolled in clinics and trainings (one a six month long intensive at the Kentucky Horse Park) whenever and wherever I could. All the big name clinicians started parading through my awakening consciousness. As a practitioner of non-denominational natural horsemanship though I am a disciple of no one method and remain open to the gems within them all. Still Monty’s words and projects always ring true for me.

Oh how I wish more of my new neighbors would open themselves more to these techniques. Traditionalist horsemen throughout every discipline here in the ‘Horse Capitol of the World‘ are sometimes shockingly obtuse when it comes to understanding horses. Bottom line motivated, many tend to create unstable equines they end up having to dispose of one way or another with far too many ultimately ending up on trucks bound for slaughter. Fear crazed saddlebreds, broken down standardbreds, arthritic thoroughbreds, beaten down quarterhorses and abandoned ponies are all too often  ‘run through the system’.

I understand Equus now. I’m not fluent and I have a decided canine accent (Zippy taught me a lot about communicating with animal partners) but what my full time professional horsemen neighbors call ‘rankness’, ‘stubbornness’ or flat out meanness in horses I now know is often just a fearful horse or a horse in pain; as do most who get involved in equine advocacy and rescue.

Chicago city garden, Bucktown studio garden, tipping point garden

The Garden of Hope the author planted just before the Bucktown neighborhood real estate prices went through the roof.

Back when I lived in Chicago I planted the first garden on the parkway between my studio building and the street. As I did so people walking to the train would shyly say hello and the more outgoing would suggest I was wasting my time. “It’ll get vandalized within the week.”, they’d say. But the sunflowers, giant amaranth and elephant ears grew sky high. As I watered them all on hot afternoons who passed would give me a smile. The next year — more gardens sprouted up in front of buildings up and down the street. If you’ve read Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference” then you’ll recognize the familiarity of such small gestures and the ultimate impact they have in affecting change.

Sometimes it takes a semi-ignorant outsider optimist to plant the first seeds. That’s me to a T. So that’s why it was always probably up to me to start EquineConnection.org the global network for equine rescue and advocacy. I simply don’t know any better. Here’s the thing about we gardeners of hope; we do what we do because we think we can. We’re too uninformed to know we can’t! But here’s the other thing – we’re getting our seeds from somewhere. For me in this case it was from the wise words written by a guy who also maybe didn’t know any better about learning the language of horses.Blue Eyed Dog, Husky Mutt, Zippy

So now you’ll know the deep significance for me this past weekend as an equine based new media workshop came to a close where I shared a conversation with the delightful Debbie Loucks (First Daughter, Monty & Pat Roberts, Inc). We discussed our own organizational Join Up© opportunities through our synergistic Missions; me in equine advocacy and rescue and the Robertses through their continued work in sharing the knowledge they’ve learned working with horses and humans. I love when the Universe supports we gardeners of hope like this.

Moving Forward – Integrating WegWag Here!

This blog began as a personal online journal to document the life lessons my young black and white paint was dedicated to providing me. The title was My Walk With Mu. At the same time I was publishing a much more pubic blog dedicated to building and capturing the excitement surrounding the World Equestrian Games that came to Lexington, Kentucky last fall. That blog I named WegWag. Well the games have come and gone and my pathway with horses (and Mu and his mini bro Iota) continues.

Today I’m expanding my personal horseman’s journey blog to include topics and issues that go a bit beyond my own barnyard. WegWag and My Walk With Mu are coming together. I’m going forward with this new name: HorseJourney! I’m really excited, because I will be able to bridge both my public and private admiration of all things horse and horse related.

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