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Posts Tagged ‘Sharon Wilsie’

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How do you think your horse feels about being mounted? Does he fidget? Throw his head up? Drop his back? Root at the bit? It is easy to unbalance your horse when you mount him, and you can also unbalance him when you dismount. Learning to take your time in the process of mounting and dismounting helps everybody stay balanced and neutral.

In the book HORSE SPEAK: THE EQUINE-HUMAN TRANSLATION GUIDE, Sharon Wilsie explains how her system of Horse Speak can help ease anxiety related to mounting, ensuring your rides start off on a positive note. Here are some of her recommendations:

First, really notice how your horse reacts to being mounted. (Consider asking someone to take a photo of your horse’s face while you get on.) A stoic horse may grimace while being mounted. A sensitive horse may raise his head and show anxiety. An energetic horse moves off when you step into the stirrup. There are many possible reactions. When looking at your horse, notice his ears, eyes, and in particular, his mouth. What you have long thought was acceptance, may instead have been be acquiescence.

Your core energy broadcasts from your “center” just behind your belly button. This can cause confusion when mounting, especially with a sensitive horse. When you face the saddle from the mounting block, you may put “sending” pressure from your belly button onto the horse. He will naturally swing his head toward you and his body away, in response to the sending message your body is conveying. To clarify your body language, practice mounting with your core energy turned toward the horse’s head.

You can also diffuse your horse’s anxiety about mounting with the following Horse Speak “Conversation”: 

Horse Speak Final Cover

Click image for more information.

1  Begin by leading your horse to the mounting block and position him as if you are going to mount, but instead just sit on the block for a few minutes (retreat) and breathe with him. Breathe long enough to see your horse visibly relax next to the block. This is a good exercise some evening when you don’t have time to ride but do want to have a Conversation with your horse. Tack up in your normal routine and have a Breath Conversation at the mounting block. Try to sync your breath to his. Observe the subtle language he shows. Take really deep breaths. 

2  Show your horse affection before you mount. Before getting up on the mounting block, check in with a Knuckle Touch. Reach up and lightly scratch the Friendly Button where the forelock meets the forehead. Most horses also appreciate having each front foot picked up and moved in a gentle circle at the mounting block—it releases tension.  Rock the Baby first on his bridle while standing in front of him, and then while standing on the mounting block with your horse in position in front of you, facing the same direction as your horse with your hand closest to him on his withers. Shift your weight from one foot to the other or from one hip to the other. Remember to sync your rocking to your breath, and breathe as slowly and deeply as you can. Your horse may take a step to rebalance himself. Many horses are taught to stand still no matter how awkward and unbalanced they feel. Letting him widen his stance may be a huge relief to him. Also some horses appreciate Rock the Baby at the mounting block with one hand on the withers and one behind the saddle. 

3  Now, once you mount, dismount again immediately, and walk your horse in a medium-size circle. Bring him back to the block, breathe, and mount again. Repeat this sequence three times, paying attention to your horse’s comfort and body language. If there is any tension stop and breathe with your horse, then resume the Conversation.

4  Try a Copycat Conversation with your horse about the mounting block. Lean over him slightly as if preparing to mount, and then lean back upright or away from the horse. Repeat, syncing your leaning toward and away from the horse to your own breathing. Do this at least three times before getting on and staying on. When you repeat this Copycat every time you mount, at some point your horse may simply lean toward you as you step in the stirrup. What a wonderful way to start a ride!

Learn more Conversations in HORSE SPEAK, available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to learn more.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont. 

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top10

One of the best perks of working for an equestrian book publisher (assuming you are just the littlest bit horsey) is the constant immersion in equine-related theory, philosophy, and how-to. There is so much opportunity to absorb the ideas of great horsepeople and to try their techniques and methods for oneself—or to come to understand their intentional lack thereof (yes, that happens, too). Because really, if I’ve learned anything in this job, it’s that there isn’t just one main highway to our destination. There are many, less traveled, circuitous back roads, and finding them, and being willing to venture down them to see where they go—that is the true journey of horse and human.

Here are 10 important lessons from some of TSB’s top authors:

 

10  When there’s not enough time, do 10 to 15 minutes of liberty.

“Many people don’t get to their horse in a day because they feel it is too big a task to gear up for,” says horseman Jonathan Field in his book THE ART OF LIBERTY TRAINING FOR HORSES. “So they don’t do anything. Short and fun liberty sessions can bring you out to your horse more often. You will be amazed at how your horse starts to meet you at the gate.”

 

9  Our own riding fitness enables the horse to perform what we ask of him.

“The way a rider uses her body greatly impacts the way the horse is enabled or blocked from using his,” explains certified personal trainer and riding coach Heather Sansom in FIT TO RIDE IN 9 WEEKS! “The relationship is biomechanical….both species can impact one another. This is why the rider’s role of leadership through physical contact is so important, and why a rider who is fit for the task can ride better—and with greater resilience or prevention of injury.”

 

8  Sometimes, don’t ask for anything.

“The horse follows you with a lowered head and filled with a spirit of freedom…the result of your not asking for anything, just being, even if only for a fleeting moment,” writes renowned horseman Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling in THE MESSAGE FROM THE HORSE. “To be devoted without asking for devotion in return, to be friendly without demanding friendship…that is when the horse can give us trust and closeness.”

 

TSB author Jonathan Field. Photo by Robin Duncan.

TSB author Jonathan Field. Photo by Robin Duncan.

 

7  Control your emotions.

“Try not to go overboard,” recommends Grand Prix dressage rider Yvonne Barteau in THE DRESSAGE HORSE MANIFESTO. “Don’t gush, fuss, and fiddle about…Be quiet, polite, and still, inside and out. Clear your head and self from all that troubles you, and give your horse your undivided attention.”

 

6  Invest in self-kindness.

“When you miss a lead change in a pattern or test or forget to schedule the farrier before your horse throws a shoe,” explains author and horsewoman Melinda Folse in RIDING THROUGH THICK & THIN, “extend to yourself the same warmth and understanding you would to a close friend who has suffered a setback….If you’re not enjoying yourself, you’ll probably struggle with riding to your true potential.”

 

5  Use all your senses to observe and explore your horse’s body.

“Be on the alert for symptoms such as body soreness, uneven gait, a tight neck, a sour attitude, explosive or resistant behavior, stocking up, and pinned ears,” writes equine expert Linda Tellington-Jones in DRESSAGE WITH MIND, BODY & SOUL. “All of these problems, and others, can be avoided by alternating your training schedule with trail riding, ground driving, or other types of cross-training…expand your training routine, and keep your horse interested and engaged in his work.”

 

TSB author Yvonne Barteau. Photo by FireandEarthPhoto.com.

TSB author Yvonne Barteau. Photo by FireandEarthPhoto.com.

 

4  When it comes to the show ring, be flexible.

“One of the risks of competition is becoming so focused on achieving success that you miss the signs that your partner is unhappy,” says psychotherapist and riding instructor Andrea Waldo in BRAIN TRAINING FOR RIDERS. “Horses have different rates of development and different levels of stress tolerance. Just because one horse is ready for a particular level at age five doesn’t mean that the next horse will automatically do the same. Some horses can show every weekend without a problem, but some horses need to compete less often.”

 

3  Be okay with “eventually.”

“Everything moves so fast in our modern world,” say horse trainer Susan Gordon and veterinary pioneer Dr. Allen Schoen in THE COMPASSIONATE EQUESTRIAN. “Our expectation is to get instant results. Creatures of low technology, such as our animals, suffer the most for our desire to have everything happen in a virtual instant. On one hand, you need a quick, flexible mind to respond to a horse’s instinctive prey-animal tendencies during training, but it is also important to understand the value of repeating those responses with a lot of patience and consistency.”

 

2  Use dynamic friction instead of static friction.

“Whereas static friction relies primarily on force, mass, and energy to first stick an object before moving it,” writes world-renowned horseman Mark Rashid in JOURNEY TO SOFTNESS, “dynamic friction relies on establishing subtle movement first, then adding energy to build on that movement…establish contact with the horse, followed by the development of subtle movement to establish a flow of direction, and finally put the proper amount of speed into that flow so as to accomplish the desired task.”

 

1  Be willing to have a two-way conversation.

“When you are truly in a dialogue, you can never predict how a horse will answer you on any given day,” explains Sharon Wilsie in her groundbreaking book HORSE SPEAK. “Many of you value your relationship with your horse as much as you value his performance. Deeper bonds of friendship will blossom as you show your horse you are willing to listen and learn his language instead of just expecting him to respond to yours.”

 

 

For more information about any of these books, CLICK HERE to visit the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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horsespk-herefb

How do you greet someone for the first time? Depending on which part of the world you are from, perhaps it is no more than a nod and a smile of acknowledgment, a small bow, or it could be a kiss on one cheek or two. Of course, the greeting many of us are most familiar with is the handshake.

The handshake dates back to Ancient Greece. It is believed that by shaking hands, rather than bowing or curtseying, two individuals proved they were equals. It also demonstrated that they felt comfortable enough together to be unarmed.

Have you ever thought about the fact that horses have a similar system in place? A way to show when they are on equal footing and not a threat to one another? Of course we’ve all seen the horse-to-horse sniff, stomp, and squeal, but have we ever really considered what it all means…and what it means when it comes to the way we greet our horses?

“The Greeting Ritual is the basic platform I have created to teach humans how Conversations with horses can exist,” says Sharon Wilsie of Wilsie Way Horsemanship in HORSE SPEAK, the book she wrote with fellow horsewoman Gretchen Vogel. “The Greeting Ritual consists of three separate moments in which horses that are meeting touch noses on the Greeting Button (located on the front of the muzzle). The speed at which they may perform these three touches varies from lightning-fast to very slow. The reason for three official touches is simple: there is much to say in a first, formal greeting, and it takes two subsequent touches to sort it all out.”

 

HORSE SPEAK author Sharon Wilsie greets her Morgan mare.

HORSE SPEAK author Sharon Wilsie greets her Morgan mare.

 

Here’s a very simple way to start a real Conversation with your horse, the way he’d like you to, beginning with “Hello”:

1 Use a Knuckle Touch (your hand in a soft fist, knuckles up) to the horse’s Greeting Button to say, “Hello,” followed by an obvious turn to one side. Do this to see if the horse will copy your movement (an offer to follow you).

2 Add a second Knuckle Touch to say, “Getting to know you!” and once more turn to the side to confirm the horse will offer to follow you.

3 End with a third Knuckle Touch to say, “What’s next?” as you breathe in and out softly. This could lead to you going somewhere together, grooming (some form of touch), or separating peacefully. The third touch is where the next level of Conversation begins.

 

“Horses must be bilingual,” says Wilsie. “They must speak ‘horse language’ to horses (although if they have been isolated, they may not be effective communicators with other horses). In addition, horses need to speak ‘human.’ We use words and inflections to indicate our many levels of feelings, needs, and replies to each other. Humans don’t need to rely on subtle visual messages. We express less with our bodies than we do with words. We make so many random movements around our horses that they can be at a loss trying to understand us.

HORSE SPEAK is meant to help both sides of the coin: humans and horses. Just like learning a foreign language, you will first learn distinct movements that are the horse’s individual words. You’ll learn how to mirror his words visually, in a way he will understand. Eventually, you will be able to combine these gestures in sequences and pose questions to horses. When a horse replies with his own movements, you will understand what he is saying and be able to respond logically. Fluency comes with the flexibility to have a conversation automatically, calibrated with appropriate intensity. And giving you the means to become fluent is my goal.”

Watch the book trailer here:

 

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

HORSE SPEAK: THE EQUINE-HUMAN TRANSLATION GUIDE is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to download a free chapter or to order.

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business located on a farm in rural Vermont.

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GoodbyeFB

The Trafalgar Square Books offices are located on a Vermont farm. We recognize ourselves as pretty lucky, seeing as in between meetings and calls with authors we can look out the windows and see both horses and Highland Cattle grazing in the green fields that slope up from the barn where our books and DVDs are warehoused toward the treeline in the distance. There is something about seeing, hearing, and breathing horses throughout each work day that is integral to our mission of publishing books “for the good of the horse.”

A few equine members of the “TSB herd” are boarders, a few are training projects and in active work, and then there are a number of “retirees” that are allowed the freedom to roam, pretty much as they wish, in quiet companionship. The horses begin and end their days close to the barn, with paddocks and run-ins directly below our office windows, so we all form relationships of proximity with them—and we know their habits and rituals. We watch them eat breakfast and wander down to the stream for a drink. We see them play in the snow and nap in the sun. We notice how they relate to their pasturemates, the naughty pony, the cranky geese. We think of them all with affection, even though they are not ours to ride, train, or care for.

This past spring, we experienced a farm event that was profoundly moving; one that brought us all together, inspiring discussion and bringing questions to the fore that we had not yet dealt with directly as a collective group.

One morning, the barn manager arrived early in the morning to do chores and found one of the “old fellas,” a Quarter Horse gelding thought to be near 30 years old, in his pasture, unable to move and clearly in severe pain. The veterinarian was immediately called, and upon her arrival she determined the horse had broken his shoulder somehow during the night—a catastrophic accident without obvious cause. The decision was made to euthanize him without delay.

The gelding had long been turned out with two other pensioners, as had been arranged by a charitable owner. All three retirees had lived together contentedly as a small herd with little human interference for a number of years. As the veterinarian attended to the stricken gelding, one of his pasturemates startled her by coming over and lying down beside them, facing the injured horse, and remaining there as the old Quarter Horse took his last breaths. It was uncharacteristic of the companion to approach his pasturemate in such a fashion, and it was especially unusual, seeing as three people were present during the procedure.

The gelding’s owner wished to come say goodbye before his burial, so his body was not moved right away. Remarkably, the companion by his side remained, and when he did rise, it was only to change position before lying down beside his fallen comrade once again. The third horse in their little herd had also joined them, standing nearby, quietly, for quite some time.

The barn manager took a photograph of the scene, not to be macabre but to share what appears to us, at least by our human interpretation, to be the dead horse’s herd holding vigil over a friend’s body.

 

horse group

 

We are all horse people at Trafalgar Square Books, and as we are learning more about horses as sentient beings and the necessity of ensuring that compassion underlies all that we do with them, this incident moved us all distinctly. We discussed it with each other, and in relation to our own horses, and how the event might affect decisions we make on and around horses in the future. We also shared it with a number of our authors, asking for their thoughts and insight.

“Personally, I feel that we have gone to an extreme with our fear of ‘anthropomorphizing’ human behaviors onto animals,” said Dr. Allen Schoen, who recently co-authored THE COMPASSIONATE EQUESTRIAN with Susan Gordon. “The more we understand the commonality of neuroscience between species, especially mammalian species, the more we can appreciate that animals do grieve in their own way. I have seen this many times personally and have discussed this in my other books Love, Miracles and Animal Healing and Kindred Spirits. We see evidence of this in elephants and many other species. I have seen it in geese, sitting by the side of the road next to their mates who had been killed by a car. I feel it is time that we honor the sentience, the awareness, the consciousness of horses, and their awareness and sensitivity to the death of their companions, as well.”

“Horses use their entire bodies to communicate with each other,” explained Sharon Wilsie, co-author of HORSE SPEAK with Gretchen Vogel. “During the course of a day there are several primary conversations that they may have with each other when out in a herd. One of their favorite conversations is simply called, ‘sharing space.’ To our eyes horses who are sharing space together may seem to be doing nothing more than dozing in the sun or standing around doing nothing. However, once you understand the significance of sharing space you will begin to see the inherent bonding and peacefulness that they are participating in at that moment. When a herd member passes away, sharing space with the departed is the most affectionate and connecting conversation that the living can have, not only with the one who has passed away, but also with each other and inside themselves.

“Although we can only guess at what grief may feel like for a horse it is easy to feel the power of their hearts as they stand guard over the grave of a loved one. Those of us who have been around animals long enough will probably have experienced a horse lingering near the burial site of one who has crossed over that rainbow bridge. Unlike humans who can easily find distraction from our emotional pain, horses live in the present moment and experience the fullness of all of life, including the passing of another that might have been special to them.

“Living in the moment is not always easy for us,” says Sharon. “Perhaps that is why being with horses can feel so healing to our minds, hearts, and souls. Taking a page from their book of life may do us some good in facing what can be a very sad time for us. We, too, can mourn with the dignity, grace, and fullness that horses demonstrate so flawlessly.”

–Rebecca Didier, Senior Editor

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