My journey is long, slow and delightful. I learned horsemanship at summer camps and by watching my father. Western saddles, harsh bits, lounge lines, whips,boots and spurs. You saddled up and rode!
I was thrown, stepped on, kicked in the face, and never felt a partnership with my horse. Today is different!
Early retirement has allowed me to invite horsemanship back into my life. However, it needed to be different. I knew I wasn't going to reinvent the wheel ,but now with a chronic disease, I needed to observe a smoother way for the wheel to turn.
I started to look at the"Horses for Sale" ads in the Horse Trader. I wasn't sure what I was looking for. It was more about the qualities than the specific breed. Friends had mentioned the Icelandic Horse as a good option, but I wasn't going to buy a twenty thousand dollar horse! The beautiful mane and tail, the great disposition and being a smart safe horse wasn't going to get me to spend that much. So my journey continues.
Two or three horsetraders later an ad caught my eye. Palamino Icelandic for sale. The good news was the breed and color.
The bad news was he was 3 years old. I had to go see though, so off to Paso Robles my husband and I went. Upon arrival as the gate was being opened, I felt like I was on a first date. My hands were sweating and I was grinning from ear to ear. I had a feeling before I saw him. Seeing him was the best! He is beautiful! Notice I say IS! Yes he is mine!
While we were there the owners groomed him, showed me his gait (although that meant nothing to me at the time) and brought out clippers to show his great demeanor. I took him understanding that he would need training. I had thought about how that could be a really good thing to bond doing groundwork. It has been awesome! It's no longer about just getting on and riding! There is so much more that I never experienced!
Enter Natural Horsemanship! I absorbed myself with books, tapes and intelligent people. In combination with my own centering thru having learned meditation techniques, I realized how easy horses are if WE take responsibility first! Responsibiliy towards developing a relationship on trust and peace. Allowing forgiveness and patience.
At first I did not know where to go. It seemed 'the best idea was the last idea'. I needed to simplify. All the buzz words were there. TTeam, Parelli, Clicker training, etc.
A friend I called upon began helping with groundwork. I soon learned that although she was at one time a trainer of thoroughbreds it WAS a part of her past. The passion was not there. So again the journey continued to find a way to enjoy the training process and bond with my horse.
I listened. I waited. I found the answer! It was recommended to me to contact a woman who is an expert in clicker training. She was going to be moving into my area, as luck would have it! When she arrived at my house to meet my horse she immediately stood next to him, letting him smell her. Then she touched him everywhere never saying a word. Figures in the nose, in the ears, cleaning his sheath! And he loved her!
At that point I'm thinking I've just met the horse whisperer! Well close. He dropped his head, quivered his lips, and did whatever she asked! I thought 'I'm gonna pay attention to this !' She asked me if I would like her to do some clicker work? I looked at her blank-like and said 'sure'. She went to her car and came back with a old toddler toy piano, a clicker (of which I last saw at a seal show) and a fanny pack of treats. I'm thinking, I need to trust that something is going to come together here.
She let him sniff the toy as an introduction and he immediately played a key on the piano! (Did I mention how smart he is!) She quickly clicked her clicker and rewarded him with a treat. This continued with success. I had to tear my husband away from his televised golf program! We were both in awe at how much he was enjoying playing with her!
I decided to take him to a barn with other horses of various breeds were all involved in clicker training, so that we both be in a learning environment. In the next couple months we had come so far in our bonding. He truly wanted tp please and I was soooo pleased! It allowed me to do so much with him in a relaxed state without harsh aids. Just what I was looking for!
One fun day he was introduced to stepping up on a platform. At first I wasn't sure what this was about, but trailer loading is needed. Beyond loading though I was amazed at just how proud he was with himself! I also didn't realize the bio-mechanical benefit of telescoping the neck and using the complexes muscles. All the while rewarding him with the clicker.
Thru clicker training we have enjoyed the experiences of walking thru big cement sewer tunnels with ease, playing a game called "leap frog" with other horses on the trail, and pulling me up hills while behind him holding on to his tail.
As I can now ride him bareback he does think it strange that treats are not right out in front, but it's rewarding to know that with the bond we are creating, he also does things because he enjoys being with me. We both want a pleasant experience!