"It's the thought that counts!"

"It's the thought that counts!"
Samantha Harvey & Taylor to Perfect
Alternative Horsemanship with Samantha Harvey & The Equestrian Center, LLC Copyright 2017. Articles and/or photographs posted on this site may NOT be reproduced or copied without written permission.


Humans, Horses and Pressure


Horses, Humans and Pressure
When we work with a horse we primarily use two forms of pressure to communicate, physical pressure (the lead rope attached to the halter, the rein, the leg, the seat, etc.) or spatial pressure (not touching the horse but able to influence his brain and movement.) Vocal commands are the third, less common form of pressure.
A horse’s natural response to pressure is to flee from it, become defensive towards it, or to physically “challenge” it, which causes him to be unable to “hear” the person.  The horse needs to learn that pressure offered by a person can be a positive way to communicate.
It should be thought of as a tool that affects the clarity of communication between a person and their horse.  It can be used to teach the horse to be respectful towards personal space, defining literal and imaginary boundaries.  Whether from the ground or in the saddle, teaching the horse to follow, soften and yield to the pressure of a lead rope, rein, leg or your seat are quality and necessary aids.  It should and can be used to teach the horse to become mentally available before offering physical movement.
The term “pressure” often has a negative association due to the misuse of it through a person’s attempts of controlling and micromanaging the horse.  Pressure forcing a horse into submission whether through physical dominance, using gadgets and devices or physically wearing down the horse tends to evolve into a battle of the wills.  Pressure by forcing something upon the horse until he has to choose between the “lessors of two evils” has no quality outcome. Physically aggressive pressure or “driving” the horse as a tactic basically scares a horse into doing something (crossing water, trailer loading, passing the scary spot on the trail) and contributes to distrust between horse and person.
Due to a misunderstanding, inattentiveness, distraction, and lack of awareness, many people unintentionally communicate a constant barrage of chaos through both spatial and physical pressure.  A “busy-ness” from a person in their activity with the lead rope/rein/leg dulls the horse and teaches the horse to ignore the person and become defensive towards pressure.  Having slow, after-the-fact critical responses towards their horse, inconsistently allowing behaviors, and not establishing clear boundaries are common contributors leading to a horse’s resistance towards any form of pressure. 
People tend to hurry in life and often the same applies to their horsemanship.  Accomplishing the “task” often becomes the focal point, rather than addressing the quality of communication they have with their horse. As long as the horse mostly “goes along” with what is asked, people tend to accept the horse’s behavior.  But without effective “tools” (I don’t mean gadgets, rather how a person uses pressure to communicate) they often wind up at the “mercy” of the horse or “surviving” the ride.  This then creates a cycle of worry, fear and insecurity in both human and horse.
Take a few minutes to evaluate your relationship with your horse, considering the following questions:
If you walk into the pasture/stall does your horse automatically move away from you (fleeing from your spatial pressure)?  Does he approach nicely but “hover” in your personal space (delegating the pecking order of where you’re at in his herd)?  If you raise your hands to halter him does he move his head up, away, or “dive” into the halter (defensive, anticipative, disrespectful)?  When leading him is he lethargic and slow in response, does he try to “hide” behind you as you walk, does it feel like he is “leading” you and rushing, or does he constantly walk with his head cranked over his shoulder with his body bumping into you? 
If you walk past grass or a buddy horse does he try to drag you over to where he wants to go?  If you ask him to stop moving using the lead rope lightly does he respond slowly, is over-reactive, or completely ignores you?  If you walk faster or slower does he mimic your energy with his, or does he only offer one speed irrelevant of what you’re asking? 
If he is tied does he paw, wiggle, chew on the lead rope, pull back against the rope, or move away from you as you groom/tack him?  When you mount, does he stand still, walk off before you’re ready, or fidget if asked him to stand longer than he wanted?
If you’ve answered yes to any of the above questions, there probably needs to be a re-defining (even in “accomplished” or “broke” horses) as to their interpretation of pressure and the quality of your communication.  A person can be actively supportive of the horse through the use of respectful pressure.  But if the horse feels defensive towards pressure, you are limiting your tools and options when communicating, helping and supporting your horse.
The mental availability and physical behavior your horse offers while working with him from the ground typically decreases in quality when you ride.  If you dislike what your horse is offering now, don’t wait until later to address it.  The horse feels a fly land on him, he can feel you.  If he disregards you when you ask something minor, what will happen when you ask more of him?  Any initial display of resistance will only increase as you put him in situations that are stressful or not his idea.
Taking the time to refine the quality of the basic use of pressure while on the ground will set the standard for the upcoming ride.  Remember, the conversation starts with your horse the moment you halter him and does not end until you turn him loose again.  At times it may feel like you are going “slow” but in the long run you will accomplish more with a quality physical outcome and at the same time achieve a rewarding partnership between you and your horse.
Sam

Gratitude


Today is a day of celebration here in the USA, and it is fitting that I have had an ongoing “theme” in my head that keeps becoming more apparent in everything I do.

In my lifestyle every time I check one thing off of the “to do” list, I always seem to add four more things.  There is never enough time nor enough hours in the day.

But I’ve come to accept that it is not selfish to make time for myself to mentally, emotionally and physically re-center; this of course affects everything that I do.  So after a 10 year gap, I have finally prioritized taking the time to restart practicing yoga.  For me it isn’t about physically contorting myself into what feels most unnatural and difficult positons.  It is about allowing me the opportunity to mentally, emotionally and physically learn to be “still” and to regroup.

One of the many things taught in yoga is gratitude.  This concept has been running through my head for a while over the last few weeks, but as I was mowing in the blazing heat today (my time-to-think) urgency came over me, that I should write a blog about it, so here it goes. 

This will be more of a rambling of thoughts to put out there into the universe.  Perhaps you’ll be able to relate to some of my thoughts, laugh at some or they may be something for you to consider in your own life and time spent with the horses.

I am grateful that during the past 20 years of working with horses I have learned to listen more and more to that little “voice” in my head that has steered me through many “forks in the road.”

I am grateful to all the horses that have taught me much more than I will ever teach them.

I am grateful to have “been there” in the last moments of a horse’s life, and to watch the moment they have accepted “letting go” and peacefully passed.

I am grateful of the moments when I have been overwhelmed and emotionally hurt, and having a horse walk up and gently rest his head near mine, breathing softly down my neck, as if he were attempting to comfort me in my moment of pain.

I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in the on-going journey in both horse and human lives.

I am grateful for all of the clients who have put their faith and trust in my words and teachings and have felt the benefit of it, not just within the partnership with their horse, but also the trickle down affects it has on the rest of their lives.

I am grateful for all the kids in pigtails on resistant ponies who I have watched grow, evolve and mature into quality human beings now leading fulfilling lives of their own.

I am grateful for the resistant, difficult and troubled horses that force me to be the best version of myself in order for me to be able to help them.

I am grateful for clients’ kind words that give me energy, reinvigorate and feed my desire to continue helping those who are truly committed to learning.

I am grateful that in all the ups and downs and inconsistencies in the horse world that I found enough resolve within myself to not “change” the quality of what I offered in lieu of making more money.

I am grateful to everyday be mentally present enough to slow down and watch a butterfly land on a flower or a mama deer teach her newborn fawn how to cross the big infield, as I sit on a horse learning how to just “stand and wait.”

I am grateful for the hours of sweat, labor and dirt that goes into running The Equestrian Center and am proud that when people and horses arrive, they immediately respond to the “stillness” and sanctuary the facility often provides.

I am grateful for all the quality horsemen who opened their ranches and shared their knowledge with someone who didn’t “come from their world”.  Their stories of the vanishing west, their innate understanding of the animals and their profound respect for nature still continues to have a daily impact on my life.

I am grateful to have witnessed “behind closed doors” the drugging, politics and abuse of the animals that during the initial years was the only way I knew about “doing horses.”  The opportunity to have to make a choice, go against the “grain,” stand on my own and make a moral and ethical choice at a major fork in the road were the first steps leading to the journey I continue, even to this today.

I am grateful for small local groups to nationally recognized organizations that have taken a risk by inviting me to share my “alternative” perspectives and teachings with their groups.

I am grateful for the varying folks from all walks of life who have allowed me the opportunity to share my world and spend a few weeks to a few months here on the farm.  Their initial goals of learning about horses tend to evolve into life lessons and seem to have lasting effects.

I am grateful to the challenges nature and her weather has served me over the years; from extreme down pours, freezing temperatures to scathing heat and 80 mph windstorms with severe damage; it is always humbling to remember just how little “we are” in the grand scheme of things. 

I am grateful for having to learn how to do things that don’t come naturally, running and fixing equipment, building and mending fence… Learning how to manage pastures, grow gardens and develop sustainable farm practices.

I am grateful for learning how to back the 42’ horse trailer for the times I’m in a jam and have to “squeeze in” to some inconceivable spot while traveling on the road.

I’m grateful for the always seemingly happy tow truck drivers who have repaired and assisted in 2am snowstorms all the while maintaining a smile on their face.

I’m grateful for the random folks who have arrived at the facility during their own personal growth journey and quickly realize the shared connection we have in living a proactive life.

I am grateful for all the times I’ve proved to myself I could do things I’d never imagined doing years before, and that years before choices I’d made had prepared me for the moment I was at.

I am grateful to have found a calm and inner peace that allows me perspective on anything that seems initially overwhelming, and as I’ve learned, a few minutes, a few hours or a few days later, it just doesn’t seem that bad anymore!

I am grateful for the hilarious antics I’ve witnessed the horses get in to over the years.  To watch initially shut-down, unavailable horses re-emerge as curious creatures is an amazing experience.  The brightness in their eyes, the lightness in their movements, it is breath taking.

I am grateful at the end of a long, hard day, to watch the wild animals and horses comfortably graze in the fields with not a care in the world. As I always say, a field just isn’t the same without a horse in it.

My list goes on and on… but I just thought it was appropriate to share on this day.

May you carry gratitude with you in all that you do…

Sam

Gratitude


Today is a day of celebration here in the USA, and it is fitting that I have had an ongoing “theme” in my head that keeps becoming more apparent in everything I do.

In my lifestyle every time I check one thing off of the “to do” list, I always seem to add four more things.  There is never enough time nor enough hours in the day.

But I’ve come to accept that it is not selfish to make time for myself to mentally, emotionally and physically re-center; this of course affects everything that I do.  So after a 10 year gap, I have finally prioritized taking the time to restart practicing yoga.  For me it isn’t about physically contorting myself into what feels most unnatural and difficult positons.  It is about allowing me the opportunity to mentally, emotionally and physically learn to be “still” and to regroup.

One of the many things taught in yoga is gratitude.  This concept has been running through my head for a while over the last few weeks, but as I was mowing in the blazing heat today (my time-to-think) urgency came over me, that I should write a blog about it, so here it goes. 

This will be more of a rambling of thoughts to put out there into the universe.  Perhaps you’ll be able to relate to some of my thoughts, laugh at some or they may be something for you to consider in your own life and time spent with the horses.

I am grateful that during the past 20 years of working with horses I have learned to listen more and more to that little “voice” in my head that has steered me through many “forks in the road.”

I am grateful to all the horses that have taught me much more than I will ever teach them.

I am grateful to have “been there” in the last moments of a horse’s life, and to watch the moment they have accepted “letting go” and peacefully passed.

I am grateful of the moments when I have been overwhelmed and emotionally hurt, and having a horse walk up and gently rest his head near mine, breathing softly down my neck, as if he were attempting to comfort me in my moment of pain.

I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in the on-going journey in both horse and human lives.

I am grateful for all of the clients who have put their faith and trust in my words and teachings and have felt the benefit of it, not just within the partnership with their horse, but also the trickle down affects it has on the rest of their lives.

I am grateful for all the kids in pigtails on resistant ponies who I have watched grow, evolve and mature into quality human beings now leading fulfilling lives of their own.

I am grateful for the resistant, difficult and troubled horses that force me to be the best version of myself in order for me to be able to help them.

I am grateful for clients’ kind words that give me energy, reinvigorate and feed my desire to continue helping those who are truly committed to learning.

I am grateful that in all the ups and downs and inconsistencies in the horse world that I found enough resolve within myself to not “change” the quality of what I offered in lieu of making more money.

I am grateful to everyday be mentally present enough to slow down and watch a butterfly land on a flower or a mama deer teach her newborn fawn how to cross the big infield, as I sit on a horse learning how to just “stand and wait.”

I am grateful for the hours of sweat, labor and dirt that goes into running The Equestrian Center and am proud that when people and horses arrive, they immediately respond to the “stillness” and sanctuary the facility often provides.

I am grateful for all the quality horsemen who opened their ranches and shared their knowledge with someone who didn’t “come from their world”.  Their stories of the vanishing west, their innate understanding of the animals and their profound respect for nature still continues to have a daily impact on my life.

I am grateful to have witnessed “behind closed doors” the drugging, politics and abuse of the animals that during the initial years was the only way I knew about “doing horses.”  The opportunity to have to make a choice, go against the “grain,” stand on my own and make a moral and ethical choice at a major fork in the road were the first steps leading to the journey I continue, even to this today.

I am grateful for small local groups to nationally recognized organizations that have taken a risk by inviting me to share my “alternative” perspectives and teachings with their groups.

I am grateful for the varying folks from all walks of life who have allowed me the opportunity to share my world and spend a few weeks to a few months here on the farm.  Their initial goals of learning about horses tend to evolve into life lessons and seem to have lasting effects.

I am grateful to the challenges nature and her weather has served me over the years; from extreme down pours, freezing temperatures to scathing heat and 80 mph windstorms with severe damage; it is always humbling to remember just how little “we are” in the grand scheme of things. 

I am grateful for having to learn how to do things that don’t come naturally, running and fixing equipment, building and mending fence… Learning how to manage pastures, grow gardens and develop sustainable farm practices.

I am grateful for learning how to back the 42’ horse trailer for the times I’m in a jam and have to “squeeze in” to some inconceivable spot while traveling on the road.

I’m grateful for the always seemingly happy tow truck drivers who have repaired and assisted in 2am snowstorms all the while maintaining a smile on their face.

I’m grateful for the random folks who have arrived at the facility during their own personal growth journey and quickly realize the shared connection we have in living a proactive life.

I am grateful for all the times I’ve proved to myself I could do things I’d never imagined doing years before, and that years before choices I’d made had prepared me for the moment I was at.

I am grateful to have found a calm and inner peace that allows me perspective on anything that seems initially overwhelming, and as I’ve learned, a few minutes, a few hours or a few days later, it just doesn’t seem that bad anymore!

I am grateful for the hilarious antics I’ve witnessed the horses get in to over the years.  To watch initially shut-down, unavailable horses re-emerge as curious creatures is an amazing experience.  The brightness in their eyes, the lightness in their movements, it is breath taking.

I am grateful at the end of a long, hard day, to watch the wild animals and horses comfortably graze in the fields with not a care in the world. As I always say, a field just isn’t the same without a horse in it.

My list goes on and on… but I just thought it was appropriate to share on this day.

May you carry gratitude with you in all that you do…

Sam