Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Cowboy Joke

From The New Yorker July 8 & 15 2013

Monday, July 8, 2013

Forward is Flying

I had an epiphany this weekend and I think it's because I was schooling my grand-daughter and got to see it from a different perspective.  It's a basic, basic, basic truth our teachers are telling us all the time.

Keep your head up and your eyes on where you're going.

How many times has an instructor told me this, let me count the ways.  Infinite and infinite.

But here I am teaching my 9 year old grand-daughter to lope for the first time and as I'm warming up, Cowboy keeps dropping his shoulder.  I start to think something's wrong with him and then the epiphany--I'm looking at his shoulder!  I'm looking at the ground in front of me, too, as if I'm steering him clear of potential mishaps, and as I look down, of course he goes there.

It hit me--how in the world can I know his feet better than he can?  They're not my feet.  Certainly, the one who can best decide where to put his feet is him!  So, for the first time in all this long time with horses, I finally made a real decision to trust that he knows how to run without falling, and I just looked where I wanted to go and, lo and behold, we went there as easy as that and it was the closest thing to flying I've ever felt.

I was telling my grand-daughter the many things I've been told--when you look at where you want to go, your body directs your horse there...when you look up and move with your horse, he can move freely under you...you're buoyant and you're light and your horse can finally do what he does best.

I wonder which thing makes you get that flying feeling most--the actual loping on your horse or the trust you give him.

I'm thinking maybe the trust.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

TTouch Interview With the Author Linda Tellington-Jones

Do you remember spring '12 when I was throwing myself into the study of TTouch?  I was so exasperated trying to find a solution to Cowboy's head shaking problem I turned to a system I'd already heard about, believed in--TTouch.  My horses loved it.

I was pretty serious at the time, so I hired a TTouch practitioner to come to my home and help me.  She taught me the tail work, leg work, and all the basic body work.  It was fascinating.  Now I know it so well it's just a part of my every day interaction with them.

Pretty quickly it did some great things for Cowboy. It helped solve his left leg out problem--(the previously broken P3 that now has arthritis).  He had stood with that leg out so often, it was throwing off the rest of his body.  When I started doing the work, especially the tail work and the head bends, it helped him stand correctly on all four feet.  The work in the mouth, however, did more for Cowboy's mental health, and Linda Tellington Jones tells me WHY in an interview I was recently blessed with.  Cowboy has always been super head shy for reasons I do not know since I didn't get him until  he was 8.  So, when he gives up his head, his gums, his lips, his nose, to me, it takes trust and I get a different horse when we're done.

You can listen to the show on my website Minstrel & Muse.  Linda tells you ALL about the history and explains how to do it yourself.  It's a long interview--over an hour--and I had to cut out about 20 minutes more.  There's just so much to her life.  An amazing woman!!  She's 75, but still traveling around the world teaching it.  In fact, she has a huge worldwide following and is only rarely here in the States.  She will be in Portland in November and I plan to go see her in person then.

The benefits to my horses of TTouch were immense--Beautiful brought her stress level (and her head) down and has had a more correct horse stance ever since TTouch. She's less fearful and reactive. Jasmine, my pony, would have tears coming out of her eyes (probably relief from the stress of a tumor which caused her to eventually go blind), Red, my 33 year old gelding, just got relief in general.  When they saw me coming I was like their human sugar cube.

Here are some highlights from my spring 2013

Fractured Nose: My dear Shadow, fearless herd leader, came in one day with a smelly cut on his nose.  Uh oh.  I cleaned it up and spread the skin apart and you could see immediately there was a gaping hole oozing out puss.  We were getting Red's teeth floated that day, so we loaded Shadow up, too.  Turns out he had a severely fractured nose.  There's not much a vet can do about that except flush it out really well and put him on a huge dose of antibiotics, which is what happened.  He was on antibiotics for a  month.  I had to administer morning and night and apply ointment on the wound to keep it from developing proud flesh.  I always look at these episodes as moments for me to bond with whichever horse is sick.  I had lots of Shadow time and loved it!  He's a good ol' boy and he recovered to 100 percent of his old self.  (Minus a bit of the bully).

New Pony:  I was blessed this spring with a new pony, Lily.  I love the name.  I love the horse.  She is an absolute doll.  She loves people and is literally in your back pocket all the time.  When I say literally, I mean it--you feel her nose on your back pocket whenever you're out walking or working in their turnout!  Our grand-kids are moving closer to us this year, and we have one amazingly talented animal/horse granddaughter who is going to love working with Lily.

Red: Red is old, but Red is great!  Feeding him Equine Senior all winter helped him survive and thrive!  He doesn't have a lot of tooth left at 33, but he has enough to eat green grass.  Every night I go out, he comes in to me, I feed him LMF Equine Senior, he eats it, I let him out.  Repeat every day with lots of love.

Julie Goodnight had a great article on caring for older horses and in it she said she isolates her old horses into their own pasture for retirement.  I would do that for Red, but he's just too happy taking care of the younger ones still.  He has a high place in the herd order (2nd or 3rd...can't tell anymore) and they respect him.  I think it keeps him going--gives him a reason to live.

Cowboy: Those who follow the blog know we found a fix for Cowboy's head shaking, but this year I wanted to try something different--I wanted to isolate stress from the problem.  Just where is the point of stress in the leaving, tacking up, grooming, riding, trailering process and how can I help him through it.  The year of the extreme head-shaking left bad memories in Cowboy.  He was stressed about his own head-shaking--didn't know where it was coming from or how to get relief.  That imprinted on the whole process of trail riding.  So, even though the root problem was subdued, there were residual behavioral effects leftover that I dealt with last summer/fall.

I want the whole horse, not part, so this year I'm riding him at home and helping him through each step.  Until I see a horse without stress at each level of the process, I won't take him on the trail.  It's not fair to him.  In fact, I struggle with the idea of riding him at all--thinking it's best to just let him retire, but my farrier has encouraged me to ride him for his own good.  He needs the exercise to fend off some other physical issues.

So, I do it and I intermix each step with T-Touch principles.  After a ride I give him his Equine Senior and then do the tail work (which he LOVES).

Me: The other factor in the whole horse life thing is the horse caretaker--me.  The years dealing with Cowboy's problem had a tremendous impact on my enjoyment of my horses.  Not knowing what was causing it, whether to ride Cowboy or put him out, losing my main horse, but not really losing him, being with him when he pulled back, threw himself around, and was otherwise dangerous--I was shaken.  Something traumatic happened at each step of the riding process at different times.

When I work with Cowboy getting over each step--I'm really working with myself, as well.  I need to do the TTouch work as much as he needs to get it.

Beautiful Girl: Which brings me to the simple and wonderful relationship I have working with Beautiful Girl.  She's young and healthy--maybe the healthiest in our herd--and she does what you know a horse should do. There are no grand mysteries surrounding this or that--just a sweet, responsive horse.  Working with her is refreshing.  I still haven't rode her out, and that has everything to do with me and nothing to do with  her.  I just haven't honored her with that opportunity yet, even though she is almost demanding it.  Every time I go out there she pushes the horses aside to get to me.  She knows she's mine and I'm hers and riding together is our mutual destiny.

Embrace destiny, Linda.