Category Archives: Inspiration and Idols

If mom was watching

Think about this when you are working with animals —

If their mother, or your mother, was watching… would she have a smile on her face? Would she be happy with how you are working with her child (fair, deliberate and graceful?)? Would your mom be proud of you and think, “That’s my kid!”

I always like to keep this in mind, especially when starting horses. Would their be a smile on a mother’s face, somewhere out there, watching this progress?

I hope so.

 

Photo by Rebecca Schmidt Pearl getting used to the saddle pad - Day 1 saddling

Photo by Rebecca Schmidt
Pearl getting used to the saddle pad – Day 1 saddling

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Filed under Behavioral musings, Dog-Horse Similarities, Dogs, Handling Emotions, Horses, Human & Animal Interactions, Humans, Inspiration and Idols, Teaching Tricks

Just sing along

I always tell people, when a situation gets a bit tense with an animal, or feelings of frustration and impatience arise, to start humming. Or go all out and sing! Take a singing break. Do it. It’s fun.

Why? Humming, singing, whistling… all of these things cause us to breathe, relax and get a bit distracted. You will feel your muscles loosen and a general positive energy flow through you. When I was a working student at David Lichman‘s ranch, I was absolutely in love with his arena speakers! We could ride around and play with our horses while blasting music. It was like one big party and we always made so much progress at the same time.

Today while working with the horses (here in Australia), I got my little iPod nano out (it clips onto your clothing – I really recommend this kind of iPod to anyone working with animals!) and put an earphone in one ear. Working with horses is fun, but when you’re listening to your favorite tunes, you get into a kind of flow. It really is as if you are dancing with your horse and it can be so inspiring!

If a horse is hard “to catch”, you will just take all of those pauses as a chance to listen to some music. You won’t get frustrated and this carries over to the horse.

For all of my dog owners – music will help you, too. It generally puts you in a positive state and makes you a calm leader. Which is exactly what all animals need. Try putting some (fitting) music on the next time you are with your animal/s and see what happens! Just remember, if you’re using headphones, don’t turn the music up too loud, especially if you are working with horses or bigger, exotic animals. You want to be aware of your surroundings and of any (warning) sounds – for your safety! Best is if you use only one earphone.
Tell me all about the results or past experiences in the comments!

Photo by Tiamat Warda Patches, the Appaloosa mare

Photo by Tiamat Warda
Patches, the Appaloosa mare

 

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Filed under Behavioral musings, Dog-Horse Similarities, Dogs, Handling Emotions, Horses, Human & Animal Interactions, Humans, Inspiration and Idols, Tasmania

Humanima in Tasmania, Australia!

In a previous post I mentioned that I would be in Tasmania, Australia for 2 months starting some horses under saddle.

That time is now! I’ve already been here for about 10 days and rode one of the Appaloosas, Lace, for the first time yesterday! Time has been flying by and I wish I could’ve found the time to write more, but it’s never too late to start, right?

It’s an interesting mixture of horses – a “reactive” yet playful, curious and confident warmblood; A very smart and sensitive warmblood who was raised out in a pasture with no human contact. She is as light as a feather and very good natured, but still needs to learn a thing or two.; A 2 year old Appaloosa-Quarter cross who was raised with Parelli from day one; An Appaloosa mare who has developed a hatred for the cinch; A little pony named Clara; Last but no least, a very calm and confident Appaloosa mare.

As they develop, I will try my best to share their stories with you!

Photo by Rebecca Schmidt

Photo by Rebecca Schmidt Me with Ty (2 yr old) putting on the bareback pad for the first time. Saddle prep.

 

Photo by Rebecca Schmidt Me playing with "Pearl", the reactive warmblood. Showing a nice, light circling game.

Photo by Rebecca Schmidt
Me playing with “Pearl”, the reactive warmblood. Showing a nice, light circling game.

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Filed under Horses, Inspiration and Idols, Tasmania

Training Opportunities

Throughout our day when uncomfortable situations arise, we avoid them at all costs.

You could be taking a relaxing walk with your dog and suddenly a frustrated dog leaps against a fence and barks angrily at you and your dog. It’s not nice. We don’t want to stay in that situation. Our response, most everyone’s (especially if you have a dog who pulls and barks back), is to do anything to simply get past and continue on. You pull the leash, walk faster, you know…

What we sometimes forget, is what a perfect training opportunity it is. Not just this one example, but any moment that you generally avoid at all costs. In this example with the dog leaping at the fence and barking, turn around and walk past him or her again and again and again. And again. Until your dog, at the very least, can walk past calmly. You’re safe, nothing can happen with the fence separating you. At most, you’re annoying the neighbors by continuously causing this dog to bark but hey, get the dog trained and he won’t bark anymore, right? It’s not your problem. Take advantage of it and teach your dog to walk past calmly.

The dog owners with misbehaved dogs in my neighborhood have grown to despise me. Why? Because I walk right towards them. That’s all. I don’t quickly turn in a different direction like the others. I walk past them, even if that means putting my own dog/s on a leash. It’s actually their loss. They could use these moments to improve the behavior of their dogs. But until they do, their dogs are perfectly horrible enough to help me train my dogs. I dream of the day when a person with a barking, lunging dog asks me, “Hey could we walk past each other one more time? I’m trying to teach him/her to behave.”

Why not ask that? In the end that’s all we want, yet most of us end up paying a dog school mountains of money just to practice walking past each other. Then avoid other dog owners in “real life”!

You see, if we always avoid these situations, our dogs will go crazy and completely misbehave when the situation arrises without you being able to avoid it.

The same applies to working with horses. If your horse spooks on a windy day, do this;

Look out your window on an especially windy day, the branches clacking against the glass, the trees swaying, the leaves fluttering, say, “What a perfect day to take my horse on a walk!”

Note: I said on a walk (like with a lead rope), not ride. Don’t face these situations without a trainer if you don’t feel safe/confident/capable!

At some point, your horse will be so used to those windy days that he or she won’t even blink when the trees make that swooshing sound. And your dog will calmly walk past all sorts of dogs because you took advantage of every training opportunity!

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, Dog-Horse Similarities, Dogs, Handling Emotions, Human & Animal Interactions, Humans, Inspiration and Idols, Teaching Tricks

Advancing Your Foundation

We all get caught up in the fancy moves – getting our horse to piaffe, our dog to do some insane trick, and continue on to more advanced levels. Admit it, you want it, too!

Here’s something to think about and it’s something most people ignore completely; how good are your basic moves and communication? Sometimes we focus so much on complicated tricks that we let our foundation training completely fall apart.

Some ideas and inspiration;

  • How subtly can you ask your horse/dog to do something? How light are they? Work on that.
  • So they can back up and go sideways… how fast? Can you canter sideways? (This is something I did with my horse on the ground as well as riding).
  • Could you improve a simple, everyday move like picking up hooves? Teach your horse to pick up their hooves on their own without you touching them.
  • How well does your dog heel? How often do you have to correct them? Can they heel without a leash or with a very loose, hanging one?
  • Can you ask them to sit, lay down, heel and stay without speaking? These are all basic commands and you can make them advanced and more challenging, simply by not talking.
  • There’s a reaction time between when you asked for something and when your animal does it. How fast can they react? How can you motivate them to go right when you tell them to?
  • Can you teach your horse to put the bit in their mouth or head through their halter without your help? If you just held it open in front of them today, what would they do?
  • Does your horse come to greet you at the gate or do you have to wade through the muddy puddles to “catch them”?

So these are just some ideas, I could go on and on. I would need a separate blog! But I hope it inspires you and gives you some ideas.

Let me know in the comments below what you are teaching your animal and how it’s going! Thanks for reading and make sure to subscribe for my email updates.

Unknown photographer I own no rights to this photo

Unknown photographer
I own no rights to this photo

 

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Filed under Dog-Horse Similarities, Horses, Human & Animal Interactions, Inspiration and Idols, Teaching Tricks

The Lazy Cowboy

As some of you know, in California I was a working student for David Lichman (a 5* Parelli Instructor and a fantastic horseman).

I remember one day we were sitting on the fence of the coral when we went to look at a young horse for Karen Rohlf. David got to telling me about this time he was starting (wild?) horses with another absolutely fantastic horseman – Honza Blaha. So David is walking after this horse, around and around in circles, putting pressure on him until he turns and faces him (which is when David took the pressure off).

Now Honza was doing the same thing, but with slightly different approach. He pulled up a chair into the middle of the arena, took a seat and, to put pressure on the horse, would simply lift his stick, toss a pebble, or stand up. It was a hot day and David was sweating. Looking over at Honza sitting comfortably, he wasn’t sure what to make of it! But in the end they got the same results, one of them was simply more tired than the other…

It’s a funny story that I think of quite a lot when working with animals. It’s not so much about how much pressure you put on an animal. They are aware of any kind of pressure or suggestion. Besides that, it’s the release that counts. We can learn quite a lot from this story and it becomes more and more interesting to me the more I think about it… thanks for sharing, David!

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, Horses, Human & Animal Interactions, Humans, Inspiration and Idols, mustangs

The Left-Sided Myth

You must get on your horse from the left and only walk a dog on your left side, or else… Something horrible will happen! Right?

Okay, rules like that have their place. Soldiers with swords would mount from the left side to keep their sword, hanging from their belt, away from the horse. (Yeah, horses that can do things like THIS.) And hunters going out with their hunting dogs had their dog on the left side, to keep their right hand free to hold the gun. That’s how these rules came to be.

That’s great and all, but no reason for all of us to have these rules about which side our animal is on. We want our horse to be balanced on both sides. In order for them to be, we have to be balanced, too. That means being able to mount from the right side just as well as the left.

If you haven’t done that in a while (or ever), give it a try. It’ll feel awkward… It’ll feel like you’ve never ridden a horse in your life… but it’s worth it!

I’m also so tired of hearing people talk about how dogs can only be walked on the left side. Why? Sure, everyone has their preferences. Maybe you are right-handed and want to have your hand free to open doors and hold things. But every dog should be able to walk next to you on either side.

Sometimes I walk with a dog who has never been walked on the right side. The entire time, he’ll try to swing behind me to the left side. Just like mounting a horse from the right side, it can feel awkward for a dog who has only ever walked left to suddenly be on the right. I find that very limiting. I want to be able to take any dog on either side if I need to and have them be relaxed and ok with it.

The dogs and horses don’t know about these rules… that’s just us. They only know our habits and how we’ve trained them. So, naturally, it feels weird for them when we switch things up.

That’s my challenge for you… do everything “backwards” for at least a week. If you mount from the left (or right) side, do it from the opposite side. Walk your dog on the other side and switch up anything else that has become a habit for you.

Tell me how it goes in the comments!

Unknown Photographer I own no rights to this photo - found on pinterest. This is a photo of Sylvia Zerbini.

Unknown Photographer
I own no rights to this photo – found on pinterest.
This is a photo of Sylvia Zerbini.

 

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Filed under Behavioral musings, Dog-Horse Similarities, Horses, Human & Animal Interactions, Humans, Inspiration and Idols

Know Your Capabilities

“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, again, is knowing 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.

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?
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.”

- Ray Hunt

Excerpt from an article in the ‘Eclectic Horseman’ -http://www.eclectic-horseman.com/content/view/314/

Image of Ray is from the November 1998 issue of the Western Horseman.

Image of Ray is from the November 1998 issue of the Western Horseman.

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

The Paradox

”I believe that going through traditionally taught methods (whether it be the riding instructor down the road or the college program) does not encourage riders to think out problems. Case in point – how many riders have come to me with their hands frozen to the saddle pommel! They fear moving them because they might ‘ruin the horse’s mouth’. But the paradox is that now they have gained the dead and unfeeling hands they wanted to avoid in the first place!”

- Bill Dorrance

From the book ‘True Horsemanship Through Feel’ by Bill Dorrance which is available through his website:  http://www.billdorrance.com/index.htm

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Image of Bill is by Mindy Bower

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Filed under Article Discussion, Horses, Human & Animal Interactions, Humans, Inspiration and Idols, Quotes

Jane Goodall

What a wonderful interview with one of my idols, Jane Goodall!!

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Filed under Behavioral musings, Human & Animal Interactions, Humans, Inspiration and Idols, monkeys, primates, Quotes, Video Discussion