Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Remember Why You Started...

Have you ever looked way back to when you first fell in love with horses?
Maybe it was when you first started walking,
Maybe it was after high school or when you dropped out of university and needed a shoulder...
Maybe it was years after your mid life crisis when your kids had grown up and you needed something.

For whatever reason, do you remember the why of it all?
For me it was love at first sight as a child, but I've returned over and over again to horses with the same why throughout my life.
The incredible peace and grounding that horses provide no matter the circumstance.
After I dropped out of university I went straight to working at a horse farm.
Shortly after I started riding again.
And then I went horse shopping for my first horse.

From there it's history for me.
But I can so easily forget that "why" when I am working 100+ hours a week.
I forget when I get worried to ride.
I forget when I am tired and aching.
Sometimes I even forget when I am training, and get stubborn.

I've decided to make it daily practice to remember why before I work with each horse.
Why am I here with this horse in particular?
Why am I going to ride today?
Why do I need to treat this horse a certain way?

Why did I start training in the first place?

For me it has always been an urge to do something incredible for my horse.
To give them a better life, a better herd, a better hoof hold on life, better health, better soundness.
Ideally that all lends itself to better performance but I've never felt I was in this to win anything.
But I forget that sometimes.
I forget that when I step into the show ring, or when I start making competitive goals.
How easy it is to try and overlook my most core morals when competition starts to be an option.

I see it in students from time to time.
How frustrated they get when they see others progress differently.
How frustrated they get when they don't get to show off the skills they know they have because their horse decides to have an off day in the ring.
I see them forget their why in an instant.

When frustration starts to boil, take a deep breath.
When giving up feels like a great option, remember the beginning.

Remember the journey.
That one show day isn't going to matter in the grand scheme of things.
That one off schooling day where you threw your hands up in the air and called it quits, is not what defines you or your horse.
Remember why you started...
It's because deep down you love this peace.
You love the munching sounds of horses eating hay in the barn aisles.
You love watching horses run freely in the fields.
You love the nicker of your favourite horse sending love your way.
Always remember....

All photos copyright; Rebecca Drimmie of Lily Equine Photography

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Delayed Epiphany

It's funny how fear changes you in an instant.
How it gets down deep into your being and makes a home.
It lashes out in ways you never knew possible and affects so many aspects of your life.

We talk about allowing our fears to take control and how we need to learn to control them.
How we need to put our fear in it's place.
How we need to fight it.
And win.

But this passed week I decided to give in to my fear instead.
Be honest with it.
In February I was kicked clean in the gutt by our young OTTB rescue mare Ella.
My fault entirely, she was spooked and I made a 50/50 decision to move her away from me...
Well needless to say I picked the wrong side of the coin in the moment and ended up with a hind leg in my stomach.
I've never been rocked so hard in my life.
It was like being winded and gutted and shot all at once.
I stood there unable to grasp for air, wondering if I would faint.
Funny enough I had enough composure to lay myself down softly in the sand and start counting my breaths... must've been that year of rugby in highschool.
Prepared me for those loss of body moments!

I let that accident affect my relationship with Ella for months.
I was scared to go near her.
Scared to interact with her.
Not just because I was scared she would hurt me again, but because I was scared of what my energy must've felt like.
How confusing that must've been for her to read from me.
I spent months and months grooming her every night.
Bathing her.
Feeding her.
Tending to her rain rot and swollen legs.
But in one instant, my trust in her was gone.

And so yesterday, I had this feeling.
This feeling that has been building in me.
I've watched her work as this fiery red head since, convinced she was this dominant sassy mare.
Chestnut. Thoroughbred. Mare.
And then I remembered all those evenings we spent grazing, grooming and just relaxing.
I remembered the first day she stepped off the trailer and fell into my lap like a puppy dog.
We played in the sand ring.
We ran and kicked the big green ball.
That, surely, was her truest self.
And so I needed to find it again.
I took her out into the sand ring.
I took off her lead.
And I let her go off wherever she wanted.
I picked some grass, and waited on the pedestal in the centre.

She, of course, went to eat on the sidelines.
Grazing away happily.
So I waited.
She ate some more and then got nervous.
She looked around, checking her surroundings and found me in the center.
Locked eyes and over she came.
I rubbed her all over and offered her the grass I had picked.
It was no different than the grass she was eating on the sidelines.
Same grass....
Different company.
She had chosen me as her herd.

This is something I witness regularly in the fields.
Something I think so many people miss over and over again.
Yes, horses are tough with each other.
But they CHOOSE to be in a herd.
They aren't forced into it.
When a new horse goes out in the paddock they don't run over and beat on every horse until they are "alpha".
More often than not they are shunned from the herd.
Chased out.
Left on the sidelines.
And only when they approach the herd, softly, kindly and asking to be a part...
Will they finally be allowed in.
That might take an afternoon, it might take a day...
Sometimes it can take a whole week to sort out.
But the important part is the choice.

You cannot go into training with a horse already deciding that they need to listen to you.
You can't push dominance on them and expect them to get it.
You are tough and they need to fall in line.
You need to be a provider.
Herds are groups of horses who provide for each other.
They provide safety.
They provide direction.
They provide socialization.
They provide migration to food and water.
No horse chooses to join a herd strictly because of how tough the "alpha" is.
They join because of the whole kit and kaboodle.

Ella proved that to me yesterday and again today.
We played at liberty and worked towards bending and relaxation.
Tomorrow we'll test it all under saddle.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Nature's Run Equestrian - Year Two

It's been one crazy year so far, 2016 has kicked my butt over and over again.
But we are still standing and we continue to improve day by day....

To celebrate the coming of our second year anniversary, I wanted to share our promo video created and filmed by my wonderful brother in law.

Please enjoy!

Nature's Run Equestrian from Casa di Media Productions on Vimeo.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Right Fit

I haven't posted in a long while now, it's been a long and difficult winter for a few million reasons but this past 6 weeks has been very difficult in particular. Sparing the details, I had a wonderful revelation this past week.

Last week I had an unfortunate accident and was kicked in the stomach by one of my recuse OTTBs during training. It was my fault, I don't blame her one bit. And while it hurt more than anything in my life, I didn't think I would be so scared to return to training with her. It's something that kind of grows over time and without the right guidance you put it off and put it off....

I knew I would try to avoid it so I called in my coach, Rachel, to help me with her yesterday. I have only been working with Rachel for the past few months but she is the right fit through and through for my learning style. The way she could just come in, take over for a bit and show me where I went wrong, show me how to progress and make amends. She helped me overcome my fear in little bits.
But most of all she understood it all. She really knew how I was feeling and how to help me.
She didn't just tell me to shrug it off and get over it.
Fear is fear, suppress it and move on.
She was there ready to hold my hand if I needed it.
Without judgement, without condescension.
It was a pivotal moment for me.

And it got me thinking about what a coach really is.
They are not meant to be our strict parents,
but also not our best friends.
They are our guides to enlightenment,
they light the path towards new knowledge of our subject at hand,
but also to ourselves in the making.
They help us grow and teach us to love our abilities.
They teach us attitude of gratitude.
They humble us.
Build us.
Lead us.
Teach us.
Hold us up.
Watch us fall.
Pick us up.
Put our pieces back together.
Encourage us.
Set bars.
Create goal paths.
And stand next to us when we achieve those goals.

Rachel has become a mentor for more than just my riding and training, but for my career and life path. For how she sees and feels the energy around us with horses, how she taps into it and has a conversation. A soft and willing conversation with the most incredible results.

While I am still aching, both physically and emotionally from my hit, I am not scared of my future from here because I know she has me covered. She's worried and understanding in all the right amounts. Here to help me along my way, whatever new obstacles lie ahead, and without competition or judgement. For once I feel like we are in this together! Our grandeur dreams to create more, not fight over what there is now.
That is truly inspirational.

For anyone in the area looking for a behaviour coach, dressage coach or help in their training at any stage; check out her website! You will not be disappointed.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Many Hats We Wear... An Ode to the Barn Manager

This past year has been an adventure for a lifetime.
Uprooting, changing our entire lives and jumping in head first.. neck deep.
There was a lot of sink or swim learning to be had,
No time to sit back and ponder the consequences or cost.
New horses, new ailments, new diagnosis, new skills, new friendships, new family members...
A lot of new.
But at the same time a lot of the same old, same old.
Get up each morning.
Work hard.
Work harder.
Walk.. A LOT.
Aching muscles.
Scooping poop.
Stuffing hay nets.
Scooping poop.
Stuffing hay nets.
Scooping poop.
Lay down each night.

We wear a lot of hats in this career.
Assistant vet.
Event planner.
Personal fitness trainer.
Equine behaviour specialist.
Saddle fitter.
Emergency farrier.
Shoulder to cry on.
The one who never cracks.
The straight face in times of panic.
The safe place in times of bad news.
The diplomat.

A lot is expected of us in this role.
For the many boarders we take into our homes, horses and humans alike.
We are responsible for them.
We take care of them in so many aspects of life.
Not just the basic feed and water of their horses.
But those needs of the heart, of family, of safety and often of hope.
Heart to hearts with sincerity.
Unity of family.
Safe barn walls to remove the masks needed for a harsher world beyond.
And hope that we can continue to move forward.
Hope that our horses will be happy, healthy and sound.
Hope that we will be happy, healthy and thriving.
Hope that these partnerships will be ever strong but ever changing.
Growing and reaching.

We keep our chins up high with strong shoulders to support these many hats.
But this past month I am ever grateful for those who have seen the burden they can bare on us.
For those who see the fading glimmer in my eyes and have taken me aside to give me my strength back.
Thank you for being strong for me.
For us.
For our horses.

There is no time when our names will be in lights as a barn manager.
We do not get to stand in great coliseums and be celebrated for the day to day work we do.
There are no rewards.
No ribbons.
No glamour.
But there is life.

Ever fulfilling and peaceful life all around us.
Happy and healthy horses living enriched and safe.
Sparkle in their eyes and a spring in their stride.
They are our foundation.
They are not the means to an end, a device of winning, or a vehicle of ego.
They are our purpose.
To nurture.
To soothe.
To love.
And continue on, step by step.

This is a plea of empathy.
Of compassion.
Look to your barn manager, staff and everyone involved in the care of your horse and thank them.
Remember that they are the only reason your horse lives as wonderfully as he does.
As a team, together, we all make this world a little bit better for horses.
And that is the final hat we all should wear.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Journey of Hope

It's begun.

We've started our Journey of Hope Horse Rescue.

Please see our GoFundMe below to help us get started.

My heart has always been in horses. 
Now my life is horses.
But my heart aches for those in need. Over the past few years we have taken in OTTBs and other unwanted horses needing care, rehabilitation for both body and soul, and given them a forever home to live at peace. But this past month I have been motivated beyond my limits and we are starting something bigger. We are opening a rescue so we can help more than just a few. We want to help the many. But we cannot do this alone.

In Journey's honour we are starting an OTTB rescue at our farm; dedicated to him and his final journey. We are asking for donations so we can begin rehab for other unwanted OTTBs in pain. These donations will go 100% towards the needs of these rehab horses. From feed, supplements, blankets, trimming, chiropractic and massage care; to transport and training.
We follow our own rehab models at Nature's Run Equestrian; based on natural horse keeping with a focus on enrichment, physical and emotional conditioning and herd socialization. We give full body treatments from qualified professionals in barefoot trimming, massage and chiropractic care.

Horses are our life here. We give everything we have to put back into them. But the costs are piling up and since having to put down Journey we are at a loss to be able to bring in our next rescue. These donations will be tracked and documented towards each of our rescue horses; and our rescue will be registered as a not-for-profit in the new year. Right now we are asking for help to get back on track as the winter creeps up and many horses will be looking for safe, warm homes.

Every little bit counts.
Please share our story and get others involved.
We are always looking for volunteers to join in on our adventures in helping these incredible horses find stability and happiness once again.
From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for everything you can offer to these horses. Their gratitude to you can be felt in every soft nicker at each meal, and in their free running strides in the fields.
Much love.

Monday, August 24, 2015

It's Time for Change...

Well it came and went.
That inevitable breaking point where my students and I faced our last straw.
And so begins our march for change.

Karen Rohlf, Dressage Naturally

We have started the Ontario Bitless Organization.
A group where bitless riders, trainers, owners and supporters (yes even those who ride with bits!) can come together to start discussing how on Earth we are going to change our Equestrian community to allow the inclusion of bitless into the show ring.
This is a group who will be inclusive of all in favour of excellent horsemanship regardless of their tack, training methods or husbandry. Because at the end of it all; as long as the horse is healthy and happy.. we are doing it right by them.
The horse comes first.

Bitless in the Jumper Ring

So I am writing this blog as an outcry to my fellow bitless supporters.
There is an entire community of riders being excluded from show.
They are a large group of horsepeople who want the ability to enjoy showing just as much as the rest of us already do.
They want to be able to go into the show ring without dirty looks, off glances and rolling eyes; to showcase the hard work they have put in with their horse.
They want to be represented by a governing body in the Equestrian world who believes in them.
They want to represent a larger group of individuals; be a part of a community.

Bitless Dressage

And right now they are being told that they cannot do that.
They have to change how they have chosen to train their horses, because an old rule book, in desperate need of updating, tells them that's the way it is.
This is the way it's always been.

Research into classical dressage will tell you otherwise.
As far back as the 1600s horses were started in a bitless cavesson and trained without a bit to "save the horses mouth" for finer movements and finesse. A bit was not introduced for a full year; so the horses would learn self carriage, confidence and body aids. The bit was added as a finesse tool for refinement of these teachings; not as control.
Many forms of horsemanship follow these same principles now.

Karen Rohlf trains her dressage horses first in bitless to encourage confidence and natural self carriage before introducing a bit for refinement. Though many of her horses she states she would never start in a bit as they don't need it. This is a phenomenal article on why the choice needs to be allowed; to use a bit or not.

Parelli encourages using a natural hackamore (bitless rope hackamore) in freestyle riding before introducing a bit for refinement.

Josh Nichol encourages use of bitless sidepulls to find softness and feel with your horse through rein aids.

Wrangler Jayne supports an entirely bit-free horsemanship practice by using horse psychology to motivate the horse to want to work, bringing out extravagant and exuberant movement the horse naturally has.

These are only a few examples of many horse trainers from around the world who recognize the need to allow bitless riders into show. At the end of it all; it needs to be the educated choice of the trainer, rider and horse of what tack will be used for show. Exclusion of a choice that affects thousands of riders is not the community I want to support. Changing one sentence in a rule book, removing one tack exception and continuing on our merry way seems a lot easier and more beneficial to our industry than vice versa.

Please help us in our fight to end the exclusion of bitless in showing!
End the Exclusion of Bitless in Show
We need everyone to sign this petition, and join our Bitless Organization!