Category Archives: mustangs

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

Fear Of An Object

What is it? Plastic bags flapping in a tree? Oddly shaped objects? The hose? Flags? Balls?

Most horses will have a fear for that one odd object, especially in the beginning. It seems natural to comfort our horse. Pet them with it (well, try to at least), talk to them about it, or chase them around with it so they might just decide to accept it.

First, I never (I guess I shouldn’t say never… usually) don’t bring the object to my horse. Instead, I allow my horse to approach the object on their own. If they’re worried and snorting about an oddly shaped garbage can, I hang out and let their curiosity, which always wins, take them to it. I’ve found this to be the fastest way to allow a horse to investigate. Then I have them follow it, then I can start bringing it to them and having them relax in that scenario.

Another important part that the horse has to learn in order to overcome their fear is having them yield to the object.

The horse should not just be tolerating the object – we want them to accept or become desensitized to it. Let’s say we have a stick (whip, etc) with a flag or plastic bag tied to the end. It’s usually not enough to just pet them with it forever. In that case the horse will just stand there, perhaps collecting nervous energy and not releasing it, and tolerate it. But it’s still something they worry about – if a plastic bag jumped out of the bushes, they would jump with it.

So we have them yield. I might wiggle the flag at their hind quarters and right when the horse moves them, I rub them with the flag. This shows the horse that they can start something with it. They know what to do when they see a flag flapping at them. Or we wiggle it in front of them as we ask them to back up and then rub with it again. This simple exercise can excel their desensitization immensely.

Remember: desensitize, don’t teach them to tolerate.

"Stallion Dances" Carol Walker photo

“Stallion Dances” Carol Walker photo

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Filed under Handling Emotions, Horses, mustangs

Take A Break!

I want to remind all of you to take a moment to process and breathe!

In the “animal training world”, we can get these goals in our head, or start comparing ourselves to others, and we just want to train as much as possible. It’s my job to work with animals, so I do it everyday. But, especially with my own animals, my subconscious is always telling me, “You didn’t work enough with him today! You have to keep moving forward!”

Besides the fact that this can be a very frustrating state of mind to be in, I generally don’t move forward when I think like this. The times when I move forward with an animal is, ironically, when I don’t train with them. Giving them time to soak and taking a day off has brought me such amazing results.

I mean it makes sense – a human training everyday (without breaks) won’t have a clear mind to work or perform properly… that’s why we have holidays, vacations, weekends – that sort of thing. Just recently I was teaching a dog something that she didn’t seem to get at all. Even after a week, nope, not getting it. Then she ended up having a bit of diarrhea and I didn’t work with her for a day. The day after that she did everything amazingly! It actually felt like I was working with a new dog. These sort of “unintended” breaks from training always get my animals and I back on track and moving fast.

This is also why I keep sessions, especially when I’m starting or taming horses, very short. I will usually have a short morning and evening session, or just one short one. With this method I’ve accomplished much more than drilling them for multiple hours! I’ve mentioned in previous posts the importance of letting animals “soak” in information – don’t underestimate it!

So don’t be afraid to take a day off. Don’t worry that you’re wasting time or not “getting anywhere”, because there is a lot being processed in not only your animal’s brain, but yours, as well!

Unknown Photographer

Unknown Photographer


Filed under Behavioral musings, Dogs, Horses, Human & Animal Interactions, mustangs, Teaching Tricks

Foundation Training

Problems that come up at a walk and trot, won’t go away when you’re going faster.

When I (re)start horses (mustangs, colts, or horses who have not been handled in a friendly way), I focus on tension and misunderstandings while the horse is standing or walking. When I find tension there – if the horse is pulling on the lead rope or reins, or not “listening” – then I will not ask him to trot, let alone canter. Because it will come up in those gates as well, except with speed and more power behind it. It makes the whole thing worse for you and the horse.

I don’t see the point in going faster. I work until we are as light as can be at the walk and then slowly move to trot and slowly to a canter… this moves you along faster in the development, because you are not trying to solve this problem in all three or four gates – just in one. I find that if I take the time to get my idea across to the horse, it isn’t much of an issue when I later ask him to do it while going faster.

On a horse’s first ride: if I can’t stop, back him up, or ask him to yield at a walk, he definitely won’t do it at a trot or canter. So take it slow and work through the sticky spots before rushing on – they grow bigger when unattended to…


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Filed under Behavioral musings, Horses, mustangs


In less than a week, I’m moving from California to Germany. So, in the past few days, I’ve been filming as many videos as possible!

First off, here’s an update on how the mustang project, Eclipse, has been coming along. This is his fourth ride, and it went amazingly!

Then, because I will miss the Californian coast so much, I filmed a bit of my dog Mowgli and I playing on the beach (below)…


This last one is simply silly and purely for laughs. My boyfriend, Daniel, and I, along with Mowgli, filmed a last video in my orchard. Farewell Californian apple trees!


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Filed under mustangs, Video Discussion

Some New Inspiration

I get such a kick out of working with different animals and seeing how far we can go together, so it’s always inspiring to see others do the same! Here’s a video I found on Youtube. Hope it inspires you!

Here is another update on my mustang halter project, Eclipse. He got his first ride this morning! It went so smooth and calmly, that I just can’t wait to hop on again and see where we’ll go.

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Filed under Inspiration and Idols, mustangs, Video Discussion

Picture Update

I took one of the “mustang girls” out the other day, along with my McNab puppy, and took some pictures!


Below: Spanish walk and smiling!


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Filed under Inspiration and Idols, mustangs

Limiting Ourselves

We can always advance and approve upon what we’re capable of. We either take it, or we slouch a bit and mumble, “Oh, you know, I’m not quite there yet. I wouldn’t be able to do that, because I’m not good enough. Maybe I’ll just stick with the basics for another year or two.”

The funny thing is, if any of us felt what we were truly capable of, boy would we be surprised…

While I do believe in a solid foundation, and taking the time that’s needed to build confidence and great communication, we have to challenge ourselves. When are we good enough? I thought about writing this post while playing with my mustang project this morning – such a smart, playful and confident boy! He surprises me every second. I ask him to do something and then stand there, with my jaw on the ground, watching him do exactly what I asked for with perfect ease and calmness. As if he’s been doing it all his life! When in reality, he was wild a month ago…

If we limit ourselves and “pull on the reins” too much, we won’t ever get anywhere that will take our breathe away. You never know what you’re capable of until you’ve tried it, and it will amaze you. Really. I’m always learning when I play with my animals, and I feel as if they’re just waiting to do something even more unique and crazy. They can do it! We have to keep our minds wide open and not have boundaries and limitations deciding what we can or can’t do.

Here are a few pictures of Eclipse, my mustang project, this morning:

In the picture below, Eclipse is standing on a “bridge”. Seconds before, he was snorting at it and acting pretty spooky. It would have been easy to say, “Oh, gee. Better stay away from that bridge! He’s scared of it! Let’s avoid it!” Instead, I let him calm down and investigate. A minute later he was standing on it! The only other thing he’s stood on, when I ask him, was a pedestal in the arena.

A minute or two after the picture above was taken, I thought I’d see if I could ask Eclipse to walk across the bridge. He walked right over without any spookiness or worry. He knew I wouldn’t ask him do anything he wouldn’t be able to manage!



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Filed under Behavioral musings, Handling Emotions, Human & Animal Interactions, Humans, mustangs, Teaching Tricks

Clean Slates

“A lot of people approach their barn or horse like they are going to war, because it’s been going badly. So you pick up the next day in a defensive mode instead of cleaning the slate and starting fresh. Animals live so much in the moment, so if you’re bringing baggage from yesterday you’re already at a loss. We do that with people too….” – Cindy Meehl

This is a great quote to live by when it comes to horses, but also with every other living species. If yesterday went badly, don’t pick up on that note the next day. When that becomes a habit in our lives, we won’t get anywhere. Start by  cleaning the slate and starting fresh. Good luck!

Here’s an update on how my mustang project, Eclipse, is doing:

Make the image full screen or, even better, go to the video’s Youtube page to view these videos!

Somehow, the subtitles aren’t fully visible if you don’t do that.


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Filed under Handling Emotions, Human & Animal Interactions, mustangs

Analyzing Our Frustrations

I guess I could describe the epiphany I had this morning as the crossroad between optimism and pessimism. Since that says hardly anything, I’ll elaborate!

Just to be clear, these are mere generalizations. Pessimists have an easy time lingering on the moments that weigh a person down and all-things-negative jump out at them. This is not necessarily always a bad thing if the person is merely observing and being honest about the negativity that happens to them. An optimist will put quite a bit of effort into ignoring the negative and trying to only focus on the positive, lovely things in life. Both of these life styles have their pros and cons and there are, of course, different kinds of optimists and pessimists of varying extremes.

What I was musing about this morning (playing with the mustang at 6 am at a quiet, foggy ranch) is, indeed, a crossroad. Thanks to Eclipse, my mustang “project”, I was reminded how important it is to be aware of and pay attention to the things that frustrate, confuse, or anger us. Face them and ponder why this thing, what ever it is, is having such an affect on you. But don’t act on it. That is, don’t let your frustration out, but see what it is that is causing it and deal with that.

Sometimes, working with animals can frustrate us. We might think: Jeeze, I’m making this just about as easy as possible to understand! He must be “disobeying” me on purpose.

No, no, no… This is where we should stop and say: Well, he’s obviously not understanding it, so I have to find a way to make it even more clear. Don’t let frustration out, even if you think you’ve made it as clear as possible what it is you want. Even if you’ve spent the entire morning working on it and they still haven’t got the slightest clue. Something’s obviously just not clicking. Sit down for a second and observe, without getting frustrated. Emotional control is the name of the game when it comes to animals. Even being able to admit or discover what it is that is frustrating us will take us huge leaps forward.

Here are a few updates on how my mustang project is doing!

Make the image full screen or, even better, go to the video’s Youtube page to view these videos!

Somehow, the subtitles aren’t fully visible if you don’t do that.

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Filed under Behavioral musings, Handling Emotions, Humans, mustangs