Saturday, January 30, 2010


Thought I would continue from yesterdays blog. This was all done yesterday as I stated but thought it might be interesting to outline the tasks in the freedom course for you. We will begin with the 12 ground school tasks.
1. back up sending energy down the line. That is the lead rope line. It is telling the horse to back up by jiggling the lead rope with the least amount of energy needed to get the horse to step back and keep stepping back until the line is played out. A+ for both horses
2. back up sending energy with my body. That is without the lead line telling the horse to back up just by my body language using the least amount possible to get the horse to move. A+ for both horses
3. Back your horse out the gate. This they both do no problem just directional changes to get them lined up and going out the gate. I give them an A
4. send- no problem at all with this getting them lined up parallel with me and then sending them around me.
All of these exercises teach the horse to respect my space. The rule of thumb is whose feet move first is the follower. So I want to move their feet not mine when I am doing these exercises. Then they learn to respect me and follow my lead, that will be tendered down to the minimal amount of feel to get the job done. What I am after and pretty much have with these horses is a real light feel, ounces of pressure and they move.
5. saddle, the way Reis shows. I do it this way anyway and the horses stand still.
6. Lead- a horse isn't broke to lead unless you can move all the body parts in whatever direction you want when you want. And they move with the slightest pressure, they follow on the side I put them on and move as one with me. I can move their shoulders, the hindquarters, back up stop, just by my body language. Thus, they are not tugging on me nor running over me. I give these guys an A+
7. Send horse between you and fence- I call this the squeeze play and it measures the trust the horse has for me given that they are naturally claustrophobic. One might not think this is that big of a deal, but it is really huge. You never know the tight places you find yourself horseback and you want to have that control in tight places. This reminds me of the times that we as people are put in tight places, where we cannot wiggle free of the financial pressures or the relationship issues and we just have to learn to trust the Lord. Prov. 3:5,6 says alot about this. The horse learns by this exercise that tight places are not all that bad, and we do to. My horses do well at this. On the other hand I still have a lot to learn in my walk with Him.
8. Send around the arena- this is on a lead and free, I think. Again it is an issue of foot control. Changing directions is a great way to get a horse to respect you and follow your lead, this one my horses do well. They turn to the inside or outside according to my body language. You can judge resistance/rebellion in a horse by how well they are willing to change directions and with what attitude. What I am after is a fluid movement with no throwing of the head, just a relaxed change of direction without slowing the gait or stopping or speeding up.
9. Desensitization- this is tossing the lead rope all around them and even using other things to desensitize them. This teaches them to stand relaxed no matter what is going on around them. Dennis just uses the lead line for this task. my horses get an A+
10. Leg yield- this is from the ground on a lead. THey cross over one foot in front of the other while moving forward. A+ for mine
11. Lateral flexion- this is bending the horse side to side, getting them to free up the head at the poll. Lateral flexion is necessary to achieve the next task,
12. Vertical flexion- this is oftne called collection. It makes it possible for the horse to round his back and carry out the manuevers from horseback. Think of a weight lifter lifting a heavy weight. He has to get in the right position to lift the weight. He doesn't bend over and try to lift with his back alone. He uses all his body to lift. Teh same is with the horse, if he is collected then He can feel you on his back better and be in athletic position to carry out the movements you ask for.
As for my horses, they do both of these with no problem. So the ground school tasks are passed with what I would say are 9's and 10's.
Later I will talk about the mounted and mounted refined tasks. But this is enough for now.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Big idea

Had a great idea. Last fall I borrowed a friends copy of Dennis Reis Universal Horsemanship training course. I was supposed to watch the dvds and apply them to my horses. However, being the burgeoning  procrastinator that I am, I have only watched one of the four dvd courses. Now, guess what? She wants them back so she can go back through them herself. Therefore, I am on a mission aka my great idea. Over the course of the next 30 or so days I will watch the dvds and go through the course tasks to see not only what is taught, but where I am at in the course had I actually attempted to be certified by Dennis himself. Now then, my good friend Jaime Belcher who got me started and carried me along on my trek to become a better horseman taught me alot of the things Dennis covers in his course. And thanks to Jaime I think I am somewhere in the fourth and highest level in the course. But that remains to be seen. The four levels are Freedom, Awareness, Movement and Horseman. And each course has four classes Round pen, ground school, mounted and mounted refined. Each class has a series of tasks to accomplish before you can pass the class and move on. So my bright idea is to keep track of where I am at and test myself on the tasks. Now, since Dennis won't be testing me and Jaime, who got all but one of Dennis' certifications, will not be testing me either, you will have to trust me. Remember, I am a Christian and a Pastor so if my integrity is not intact, who can you trust? I will rate myself on a scale of 1-10, ten being the best no mistakes. passing is at least a five or six with room for improvement.
I started today with Raven and Jake on the freedom course. Round pen tasks are sending, haltering and changing sides. Sending is being able to point and send your horse around the pen in both directions. Haltering is haveing the horse stand calmly with head down low enough so that your elbow doesn't rise above my shoulder when I am putting the halter on and his head is bent toward me softly. Changing sides is accomplished without using the lead, but putting your hand under their chin to the opposite side and with slight pressure bringing their head around so that they change sides without me moving. Both horses do these three tasks with ease, a ten no problem. There are twelve ground school tasks. I will address those in the next posting.
Now you might ask, why are these tasks important to accomplish with your horse? Well the simple answer is the more I can move my horses feet with soft feel the safer I am. That is the main reason, safety. However, a few others are it gives me a task to accomplish, something to do with my horse so that I and the horse are not bored. It also promotes a unity, oneness or harmony with the horse that is almost as if the horse is reading my mind. That is just plain old cool. Have you ever driven a car without power steering? Its hard. But go to power steering and the ease of movement is nice. That is what it is like with a horse who has these things in its tool box. Another more important reason from my perspective is that God gave man the responsibility to rule over or have dominon over His creation, Gen. 1:28. Horses are part of creation. Also because we see it demonstrated by the Horseman of all Horseman, Jesus Christ when He entered Jerusalem the week of His crucifixion. He rode an untamed colt of an ass through a gauntlet of people cheering, throwing branches and clothing in front of Him, reaching out to touch Him and the colt remained calm as He rode. Most of us in a similar situation would have been for a wild rodeo ride. Not Jesus. That is why I want to be able to have this kind of relationship with my horse these tasks measure. In short, it must be in my blood. Why would I on a freezing cold day want to get outside and mess with a smelly horse? All of the above. So til next time, stay between the ears or on your knees.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

new song

This is not one about horses so you will have to bear with me. I like all kinds of music, country, blues, jazz, rock to name a few genres. I used whistle all the time along with the songs playing on the radio in my truck or in my head. There was a time I would sit in rocker at home and rock to Sugar sugar, or Hey Jude. Now however, I rarely listen to music if I have my druthers. I follow behind my wife turning off the radio in whatever room she has been in. At night I have to turn the radio off after she goes to sleep, if I don't get caught and I almost never play music in my truck. I'm not against music mind you. I just don't like all the noise. I like being able to think while I drive, try to go to sleep or read, or just plan chill out. Now having said all that, I was reading my Bible this morning in Ps. 40:3, and of course, the Psalms is a book of songs. It said 'He put a new song in my mouth. . . .' Some people play the song that says, "slow dancin' swaying to the music' or 'I did it my way' or Hee Haw's 'woe is me'. What song plays in your head influencing your attitude of the day. Is it a dirge, an Eeyoric kind of tune that engenders pity? Is it one of those fast moving, bone jarring, ear rattling kind of songs that make you feel like you are bumbling down the road? Have you ever thought how the tune playing on repeat in your head can influence your day or the day of others. Look at the verse again. It not only says we have a new tune, but also that when it comes out of our mouths it has the power to change a persons life for the good, 'to trust in the Lord!' So I wonder what tune is coming out of your mouth? As for mine, it is going to be 'Great is Thy Faithfulness' or 'Hallellujah, what a Savior' or 'Praise God from whom all blessings flow'.  Be careful what you sing.
"I sing the mighty power of God . . . ."

Monday, January 25, 2010

tending horses

Just got back from a good meeting with the Ifca in Smyrna michigan. It was a good trip with the Norton's. Not anytime for working with the horses today. However, one of the things that horses remind me of is sheep. They have to be fed, they need to be led, and they need to be protected from themselves. They need to be fed so whether I feel like it or not I have to go up to the barn and make sure they get their hay and grain and have fresh water. This morning because of my trip north for the meeting I had to do that at 6:30am. They need to be led so that whenever I am around them they must know and respect me and what I want them to do. They need to go where I want them to go. If I want to come into the stall they need to move out of my way and face me. If I want to walk up to them they need to face and stand and either come to me or let me come to to them. If I am working with them, and whenever I am with them I am working with them even if it is simply walking up to them to pet or groom them, they need to follow my feel. I keep them in a pen and or in the barn for their protection so that they don't cause problems for neighbors or traffic etc. Those are just a few of the things I learned at the meeting today. No, it wasn't about horses at all. It was about pastoring or shepherding sheep. But I thought of the analogy to horses too. So when I got home from the meeting, even though I was tired and would have liked to just relax, guess where I went? Yep, I took the dog for a walk and then fed the horses and made sure they were alright. Now here I am typing this out. The thought crossed my mind while I was up feeding the horses that the first thing a person needs to learn when taking riding lessons is to learn the work involved in taking care of them, like shoveling manure or getting a load of hay, and such. If you enjoy that then get a horse. I am just rambling here, but I see so many people get a horse, have it for a while and then learn the cost and effort involved in taking care of them so they get out of it. I think there are people who get in the ministry thinking they are going to have it easy and fun, but when they find out working with people is hard work, they get out of it. I just know that if you haven't got a 'nose' for it (horses or people) then get out of it. As for me, I love the smell.
Gotta go get dinner for the wife.
Stay between the ears

Sunday, January 24, 2010


This is kinda late, but thought I would post anyway. Yesterday I had an opportunity to ride Jake. I worked with him on the ground, really trying to get his attention while at liberty with him. I wanted to work alot on transitions just getting him to read my body language. It took a while but I was able to refine it alittle with him to move from a trot to a walk alot more consistently. It is easy to transition upwards, but to get him to slow down took me a while. And once again it is my fault. It is so subtle and slight the position to be in. If a am just ever so slightly to far back out of the 'sweet spot' then he reads that as keep going and maybe a little faster. To far forward and he wants to stop and turn around. So it is just a slight movement on my part. So I spent a good while just trying to get at that. But he did get it after probably 30 min. Of course we worked in both directions. When I was getting the transition consistently I quit and then rode him around. We went for a long ride and worked more on softness and leg and seat control. The rodes are getting pretty much so that I can walk on dirt instead of ice now if I stay on the sides. So we rode a a good three miles, but in addition to the round pen and work across the field we had a good hour and a half or two hour work out. I can't wait til this weather and conditions allows me to ride as much as I want to. The thing I have to be careful about is riding too much and not spending enough time with my wife. I don't want her to think I like the horses more. I don't. Or I would be in deep trouble. Anyway yesterday was a good day. Didn't get a chance to ride today, but got the rest I need for the week.
God bless

Friday, January 22, 2010

a good ride

Well today I had an opportunity to ride today. It was relaxing. I did some ground work with Raven and just worked at liberty with her to see she would exhibit any resistance, plus I wanted to work on her reading my body language to change gaits or even stop. I saw a bit on the movement of a horse with regards to their shoulder and how a bad fitting saddle could hinder them. It showed how to check the fit so when I saddled Raven I checked to make sure my saddle wouldn't inhibit her ability to mover her shoulder blades freely. After working her in the pen I took her across the road to an open area and practiced loping and lead changes in a circle for a few minutes. Then rode her down the road for a couple miles and worked on softness and leg yields and such. Boy was I glad to be out riding again. We ended with a smile and good attitude. Hopefully tomorrow I can get out again and work my horses.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Well today I tried toe warmers to keep my feet warm while I worked with the horses. They seemed to work or it wasn't as cold as I thought. Anyway, today I rode Raven. I went out with a plan, to work on the ground for 15 minutes, then from the saddle working on Leg yields, 1/2 passes, and various other things for 15 minutes each rounding out my hour of working with her. I gotta tell you it is so much fun. and I think the fact that I was focused on a couple different things for different parts of the hour made it more enjoyable. Not that I didn't work on other things like stops, backups, moving the shoulders or hindquarters or even just trotting and cantering around on a loose rein, because I did all those things as they fit naturally into various parts of the structure. It is the structure that gave me the freedom to do many things. At the end of it all, I was great, she was great and relaxed and we had fun. Jake even wanted to get in on the action, but not enough time today. I even had Raven kneel 2x and she did it pretty good. I don't know what it is but there is something about riding a horse and communicating with her in such a way as to get to do the movement with just my leg or seat. I did have to use the rein, but that is for position and posture of the horse, not for direction per se. Can't wait to do it again.

Friday, January 8, 2010

It's cold out there

It is clear that you can tell what a person loves by what they are willing to do or sacrifice in order to do it. So you can tell I like my horses. I was out there with Jake for an hour. It was about all my toes could stand. My riding boots with two pair of socks just doesn't cut it. Jake really moved out though. The snow was about up to his knees in most places where we rode, which was just across the road in a field. I got him doing all sorts of exercises though, leg yield, moving his shoulders, and hindquarters. I had him doing some turns on the forehand and hindquarters. We trotted and had some really odd kind of gait as he was trying to get above the snow. I thought he would really be sweated up because he really had to work, but he wasn't. We did some sidepassing which can't be easy in knee deep snow even if it is cut down by other passes. All in all I would recommend that you get out and have some fun in the snow too. I am ready for Sharon to get home so we can go on our date night. I can assure you though it will not involve snow and horses.
God bless.

Friday, January 1, 2010

just chillin'

Hey, I was able to get out there again and ride Jake. My goal is to get in sync with these guys so that I don't have to do anything noticeable in order to get the horse do a movement. Today we worked on moving different zones of his body, shoulders, butt etc. The one thing I have to make sure of is that my body is not hindering his ability to interpret and do what I am asking him to do. I have to be in balance so that he can be in balance. He did real good. I worked him from the ground lungeing him at liberty and asking for a stop in which he faces me and then when I kiss to him he comes to me. I got a few steps from each direction. In the saddle I really worked on the zones and then stops and roll backs. I have begun doing what I call a clock exercise where I ask him to stop lift his front end and roll back on his hind end and turn 1/4 turn to 9, 6 and 3 and then back and walk forward a couple steps after each 1/4 turn then stop and ask again. I do this from both directions. This exercise will help me and him to communicate more clearly with each other. That is what I want with the Lord too. My goal is to be in tune with the Lord in such a way that I understand His clear communication to me regarding what I should think and do each day. I am mindful of God's evaluation of Enoch in Genesis 5:22-24. He walked with God so much so that it was as if they were one. If you saw Enoch it was as if you saw God or heard Him, because he walked with God so closely.
I walk our dog almost daily. He is on a leash and sometimes walks in front when I let him, but he is constantly looking back at me for leadership. If I slow down he 'feels' it not only in pace, but also down the leash. If I stop he 'feels' it and stops too, then sits down.
I want that in my walk with the Lord too. God wants that kind of relationship with you and me.
Horses sure have taught me alot about myself, my impatience, my jerkiness (my habit of not allowing any lag time from my cue to the horses processing of that cue and then actually doing it, or not), or my being to general in what I am asking (which is akin to beating around the bush). Take for example, asking Jake to lower his head while I am standing in front of him. All I want to do is rub his ears, but he has to completely trust me, or give himself to me in order for him to be willing to lower his head into my hands. Remember he is  a prey animal, a lowered head with my body and hands blocking his vision and ability to see danger and thus avoid it is a huge step of submission on his part. I have to remember that when I ask him to lower his head and give him time to process this. Anyway, life is getting better between us and I hope it improves. These things also apply in my relationship with the Lord as well as with my wife and other people. I just need to chill out sometimes and take things a little slower. It will have a more harmonious outcome. Now, what about you?