Category Archives: Humans

Guts & Determination

“You have to have guts and determination if you want to look for what I’m talking about. If you don’t, that don’t make you wrong. 
What do you want to do or accomplish and what are you capable of accomplishing? 
It’s your concentration, your coordination and your reflexes in that order. But the concentration isn’t near deep enough.
You say ‘Oh he might spook, he might buck, he might fall down, he might rear.’ 
So look at what he’s working with!
He knows you can’t handle it and that don’t make him wrong to know that you can’t handle it. 
He might do any of those things because something might scare him or he might slip and fall at any time and yet the people can’t handle that……..but they want to go on with their horse. 
If he turns around quick, they fall off!
So confidence is knowing that you are prepared for the unthinkable and I don’t know how you are going to get that without experience……..that still don’t make you wrong. 
You know where you’re at, you should know your capabilities. That’s no sin and no crime. 
You’re being honest with your fellow man. 
You’re being honest with your horse; you’re trying to keep him out of trouble.”

- Ray Hunt.

From an article that appeared in The Eclectic Horseman Magazine ‘Words of Wisdom from Ray Hunt’ -

Unknown Photographer I own no rights to this Photo

Unknown Photographer
I own no rights to this Photo

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Filed under Handling Emotions, Horses, Human & Animal Interactions, Humans, Inspiration and Idols, Quotes

Sleeping In A Pack

On the road with my dogs, the moment I look forward to the most is going to sleep in my little trailer with a heap of blankets and all of my dogs surrounding me.

It really is a primal thing when you think about it – to not only share a space with others but to sleep in a “pack” or group. So long ago when people and wolves first started working together and slowly began living together, when dogs were truly working dogs, people and their wolves and later their dogs would sleep in the same space.

For safety or due to lack of abundant shelter, people and animals would gather together at night. You really become aware of how comforting it is when you close your eyes to the sounds of others deeply breathing.

So maybe a week ago I was in my trailer with three of my dogs. One was next to me and others were snuggled up in a corner. All were slowly falling asleep and the two boys in the corner were doing major synchronized breathing. I almost recorded it but, as always, when I got the camera out they fell quiet.

Snuggled into each other, they perfectly alternated their breaths – one would breathe in exactly as the other breathed out. Then they breathed in and out at the same time. This went on for a good half an hour or more. They were so synchronized and it had a major relaxing effect on the whole pack, including me.

After some time, they entered REM sleep and began dreaming… My Labradoodle began kicking his legs as he ran through dreamland and right as he did, the other dogs did, too! No joke! And after a while he stopped and continued breathing deeply and calmly. The rest followed his lead – all deep asleep.

This observation really moved me, how in-sync they all were even though they were sleeping. I closed my eyes and had the best nights sleep I’ve had in a long time!

Two of my dogs asking for snuggles in the trailer. Photo by Humanima

Two of my dogs asking for snuggles in the trailer.
Photo by Humanima

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Filed under Behavioral musings, Dogs, Human & Animal Interactions, Humans, Inspiration and Idols

Holding Vs. Pulling

I once had a teacher tell me that, when a horse pulls on a lead rope, to become a tree.

This meant a few things. I should be rooted and centered (not go flying off after the horse, but to “hold my ground”, in a way) and not to pull back on the horse. If the horse pulls, I just hold the rope but not pull or lean on it. So that when the horse stops pulling there is immediately some slack in that rope. If I pulled, I would consciously have to release the rope when the horse releases and my timing would be off. It would not be as fast as the instant release the horse would get if I simply held the rope. Even if that time difference is a mere few seconds – it makes a difference.

This concept came back to me in the form of a fence post while reading Zen Mind, Zen Horse by Hamilton MD, Allan J. On page 58 he wrote:

“For me, the fence post is the perfect symbol of impeccability because the post never gets angry or impatient. Many horsemen have pointed out that a fence post exerts pressure only when the horse exerts pressure upon it. It pulls back with precisely the amount of force the horse applies. If the horse relents the slightest bit – pulls a fraction of a gram less – the post “responds” and releases. It rewards the horse for his slightest attempt.

In its responses, the fence post represents total clarity, perfection and detachment. The simple fence post will therefore serve as our inspirational symbol of an impeccable teacher. The post’s responses are merely natural reflections of the horse’s actions. So, in a Zen-like fashion, we should endeavor to become fence posts and challenge ourselves to be as quiet, detached, and proficient as they are.”

Fence Post at Sunset Kansas Scott Bean Photography

Fence Post at Sunset Kansas Scott Bean Photography

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Filed under Behavioral musings, Handling Emotions, Horses, Human & Animal Interactions, Humans, Inspiration and Idols, Quotes

This Isn’t Normal!

For a brain surgeon, a brain surgery is a common occurrence. For us, it’s… a miracle.

As we progress through different levels with an animal (or life in general), things start to become “normal”. First, even owning a horse or dog is a miracleHow is this even happening? Then we start working on something, then we figure it out, can do it with ease, and it’s on to the next thing.

But someone who sees you do something that is simple in your eyes, might be blown away. Maybe a trick you taught your animal, a dressage maneuver, and so on. Perhaps even the fact that you’re horse isn’t freaking out, aggressive or your dog is being polite and not trying to kill you could impress them!

You teach your horse to spin. For a while it is simply amazing and you’re so proud. After a while you just do it and don’t really think twice about how long it took you to teach and how amazing it is. It just… is.

Sometimes we can get so caught up in all the stuff that doesn’t seem to be working and you feel as if you’re not getting ahead. But look at where you are! You’re riding a horse. A predator. How insane is that? It seems normal, but it’s not – it screams against everything that is wired in our brain as well as the horse’s. Or, you are working with your dog and just the fact that you are communicating with another animal is mind blowing.

When I stop myself to remember to take nothing for granted, I am astounded by the little things. That’s a mind set I am trying to adopt more and more. How grateful can I be for the “little” things, all that I have already, and still move forward, forward?

Practicing it, I take lots of little breaks, especially when I feel I am pushing too hard and think about everything I have accomplished with this animal so far – no matter how small. What has improved just the tiniest bit?

Unknown Photographer I own no rights to this photo.

Unknown Photographer
I own no rights to this photo.

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Filed under Behavioral musings, Human & Animal Interactions, Humans, Inspiration and Idols, Teaching Tricks

Golden Knowledge

So very, very perfect.

This is a quote that I want to print out on nice paper and hang up on by every door in my house and next to my mirror!

I need to be constantly reminded of the message it brings, because it is so important: in life, and very relevant also to working with animals. It’s the one lesson that everyone needs to learn…

“I am not interested in control. For control of another thinking being is an illusion. What I seek is the cooperation that makes the pursuit of control unnecessary.

To this end, rather than control a horse, I try to teach self control,
Rather than restrain, I try to teach self restraint,
And rather than discipline, I try to teach self discipline.

I am not always successful. But rest assured that whenever I fail, I realize it is because I have failed to set the example. Which means I have not been training hard, working out, studying diligently, and watching my diet.” – Unknown

Unknown Photographer I own no rights to this photo.

Unknown Photographer
I own no rights to this photo.

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Filed under Handling Emotions, Human & Animal Interactions, Humans, Inspiration and Idols, Quotes

What They’ve Learned

“The horse isn’t trying to do the wrong thing, He is trying to do what he thinks he is supposed to do. He is doing it, because it is what they, both horse and rider, have been living.”

- Tom Dorrance

Unknown Photographer

Unknown Photographer

This is a great thing to remember, especially if you work with people and their animals as a trainer. It is the human we need to reach and inform. They are only doing what they have been taught to do and have never been led by another example. What the human understands is then carried on to the animal.

The horse (or dog, etc) has only had the experiences with humans that their human has presented to them. So they might think humans are the worst thing in the world. They might be unresponsive, or over-reactive or even aggressive. But all of that comes from the human simply not knowing any better.

Any frustration or anger towards this pair – human and animal – will not help them. All you can do is lead by example and politely teach them what you have learned to be a better way.

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Filed under Animals, Horses, Human & Animal Interactions, Humans, Quotes

Almost Perfect

“That was almost perfect!”

Linda Parelli always says that after having a lesson with Walter Zettl, she would feel so good about what she achieved and proud. Mr. Zettl would just smile and say, “That was almost perfect!” Never did, or does, Linda receive that 100% praise (even though Mr. Zettl telling you your work is almost perfect is quite the praise!!).

This is definitely done on purpose. It’s not saying that Linda is somehow not good enough, but that she can always be better. That moment where we tell ourselves we are so perfect, is the moment we stop trying to improve upon what we can already do.

When I train, I try to pick up on this “almost perfect” habit. Even if I feel like I can’t do it any better, I still say, “Better luck next time!” The truth is, we can never do anything perfectly. It’s impossible! So we can relax and be happy about the fact that we can always improve and so can every one else.


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Filed under Animals, Horses, Human & Animal Interactions, Humans, Inspiration and Idols


Sometimes we need a little inspirational kick to get us back on track.

I found this great TedTalk video today. It’s not originally about animals, but I actually find it to be about every aspect of life! Especially since a key point in this man’s speech is repetition, inspiration (inspiring yourself) and moving forward with confidence. How can that not benefit our training and relationships with animals?

Repetition is something I love being reminded of, because I let it slide in my moments of laziness… when I really apply repetition to the things I want to master, the results are always unbelievable. Short sessions, often, rest, repeat… repeat… repeat…

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Filed under Humans, Inspiration and Idols, Video Discussion

Rabbits or Smart phones?

When I was little, I had a lot of different animals. One of them was a rabbit (which turned into like 16 rabbits after my friend’s bunny visited…). It was something I had to care for: we had bunny-kid adventures, and it was awesome.

That’s not enough for kids right now – they need something fast. A game or a show or something that gives them that “good feeling”, that “reward”, very fast and with little work on their part. They’re not learning how to care for something at a young age. If they get a pet, it’s usually a cat or a dog. Something most kids have to work up to. So the parents end up taking care of the animal and the child doesn’t learn anything from it (oh wait, they learn to put their responsibilities on others when they grow tired of them).

I read an article about this. It was easter-themed and bunny-themed and all about the decline of the house rabbits and the rise of the smart phones. Which may sound really dramatic, but the core message made me so sad. Maybe not every child needs (or can afford) to have a rabbit or other animal, but why are we replacing their free time with phones that turn their brains off? When I was nine, my neighbor and I walked up the hill to collect some eggs from my chickens. He looked at me standing amongst them with eggs in my hand and asked, “Eggs come from chickens???” Surprise! He was about seven…

What will happen if our world’s children only know how to interact with phones and computers?

Photo by Ivan Poljak

Photo by Ivan Poljak

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Filed under Article Discussion, Humans

The Final Picture

“(…) Precision comes from the ability to be anywhere, and correctness often comes from finding out what incorrect feels like. The key is to develop excellent skills, then play freely with them… with the final picture being just that, the final picture (4).”

- Excerpt from the Dressage Naturally… Results in Harmony book by Karen Rohlf


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Filed under Behavioral musings, Booklist, Horses, Humans, Quotes