Going into Fall with Groundwork

WP_20151104_002Groundwork is a way to problem solve and clarify leadership without and before getting into the saddle.  I have found with ground “play”, the riding to follow goes smoothly, and I’m grateful for the positive experiences.   For some years, I have purchased broke horses, and do my tune up and relationship building starting from the ground.  I know this has helped immensely in my transition to the saddle, and I’m grateful to have this tool!  I don’t take anything for granted with a new-to-me horse, and I maintain this consistency.

WP_20151104_003For this session, we played what we called the “catch up to me” game, essentially a leading game.  I start out being friendly with the stick.  I pick up the lead, and give a porcupine feel on the halter.  Whiskey moves softly forward, so I lower the lead and take the pressure off.  My hand is open so the lead can slide through, relieving the pressure and staying soft while asking.

With my “inside” hand, I hold the stick on his back.  When he falls back, I tap him on the croup to catch up to me, so he is at my shoulder.  We do this both ways, both sides, until he consistently stays at my shoulder with the stick staying quiet and the lead rope down with my hand open, pressure off.

WP_20151104_005I found this to make a big difference with Whiskey self loading!  With pressure off, I take Whiskey over to the trailer and send him in, he goes right in, without hesitation or resentment!  He’s been hauled regularly in this trailer, but hasn’t had the happiest attitude about loading.  This leading “ask” made a huge difference!

IMG_0803Back and forth, to and from the barn, we continue to have success with Whiskey’s self loading.  I can leave him loose, or come around and tie him after closing the door.  Whiskey transitioned to backing out with a soft pull of a few tail hairs, coming out slowly, with care and awareness of his feet!

How has your ground work affected your purpose with your buddy?

I’d love to know!



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Persistence pays off, with a surprise ending!

one arena session. . ..
one arena session. . ..

After a few sessions at the arena with Handsome Guy, we had opportunity to ride out today with friend.  We rode from her place, fun and interesting!  Handsome was right there this morning, ready to catch me up, and loaded up.

Normally, I would go to a place I know for his first ride out for the season, and you know I missed last year, and have been getting everyone tuned up with ground work, arena time, and riding out.  It’s been a year or so since I’ve ridden Handsome!

two arena session. . . .
two arena session. . . .

Rode at the arena a couple of days ago, Handsome was making it clear that he was quite bored with my lack of “stepping up”, giving me some wrinkled lip and rolling his eyeballs, so to speak!  He is very subtle about it, and I promised him I would be stepping up my game for his sake!

So, we hauled out to a friend’s house.  We did a little warm up in the arena.  Handsome wanted to be resistant to bitting up, backing up with my efforts, but I outpersisted him, all of this  in the most polite way, let me emphasize!  I asked him to stand still for mounting up from the block, after a few circles he was cooperative, and stood still after mounting.  Always a good thing to emphasize!

take your bow. . . .
take your bow. . . .

We did a little warm-up through the pasture looking for discarded fly masks.  We found both, crossing a little pasture creek along with way.  Handsome has no issues with riding out on the trails, but it was our first time out, and in a while!  He was enthusiastic!  So down the road to our trail ride, two-tracks through a canopy of trees making for a nice, cool ride on an early hot summer day!

We crossed two bridges twice, (the ride was an out and back), offered to have him wade in the creek, but he declined today, he does cross water, but we didn’t have to do everything today. . . . .there was some pretty good up and down hill work, some good pulls, and on the way back, my friend’s horses following us on the fence line.

post-ride bliss!
post-ride bliss!

He was resistant to loading, backing out after loading three times,but I out-persisted him,  staying put on the fourth, allowing the divider to be placed.  I took the time for water and sandwich before heading back.

So. . . .I figured that if he had energy to be resistant, that he could unload himself, backing himself out.  That he could have an assigned task for the end of the ride.  So. . . . .I got the mounting block and put it in the extra stall so I could see over the divider, and with my Parelli Carrot Stick, created a visual barrier to turning around when I needed it, and applying steady pressure on the chest and saying “baaaaack”.

He had to think about it a bit, with Whiskey in the pasture outside telling him to get his rear in gear!, two steps back, thinking about it, then head down and backed all the way out!  Wow!! Lots of complements to Handsome, with a little encouragement from Whiskey!  Congratulatory carrots offered all around, with Handsome wanting to refuse!  Ha, ha, so Whiskey took them, and then Handsome did.  What a hoot!  Don’t you love reverse psychology?  Gotcha, Handsome Guy!

’til the next trail ride. . . . .


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Nutmeg’s tune-up with natural horsemanship

It was one of those windy! days that we haven’t seen too much of this winter!  Anna, shoer and trainer, and I discussed what can we get done today?  Since I am a little sheltered by my haybarn, I suggested we do some trailer loading.  If you remember when I brought Nutmeg home, he loaded up willingly enough, but became restless while waiting in the trailer.

The goal is trailer loading, but the bigger picture encompasses much more than that, with various aspects of natural horsemanship.  How does he catch up?  How does he lead?  Does he respect your space?  Is he relaxed?

Nutmeg caught up nicely, lead and tied up for some grooming.  This is a great time for some positive interaction with your horse.  Do you talk to him?  Take the opportunity for some Tellington TTouch!

Anna led him to the trailer, and gave some small circles, moving his feet.  Pointed him to the trailer, seeing if he would offer to self load.  Nutmeg wanted to avoid the whole exercise, after all, his buddies were watching! However, with patience, persistance, and calmness from Anna, he offered his two front feet in the trailer, head down in curiosity, and plenty of licking and chewing!

After that, Nutmeg loaded completely being lead in.  We will continue to play with him, encouraging consistant self loading!

The lesson is not over yet!  After loading and backing out twice, taking time to sample the carrots in the hay bag, he wanted to be pushy with his shoulder and head.  Anna gave him more ground work small circles.  Nutmeg wanted to rush through the gate into the paddock, but Anna anticipated and asked for one step at a time.  Nutmeg wanted to run off after unhaltering, but Anna asked him to behave like a partner!

Nutmeg walked off calmly, having plenty to think about with natural horsemanship!

Along with Anna’s assessment before I purchased him, I had done the first three Parelli Seven Games (groundwork), lead him around (while he wanted to eat grass), and saddled him on the offside.

Stay tuned, we’ve just begun with this 22 year young gelding.  He’s a character!


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Shyguy self loads with natural horsemanship

Shyguy had the opportunity to show his stuff today!  Anna, shoer and trainer, joined me today to continue our tune-up.  It didnt’ take but a couple of times until he caught up for Anna.

We tied up and I gave him some quality grooming.  Shyguy is letting his guard down a little more each session and starting to enjoy himself.  Attention from two chicks, wow!

Then for the trailer.  With the rear tack compartment, it’s better if my horses get used to backing out.

After a few times of heading Shyguy in, he willingly went in the trailer by himself, and rewarded himself with treats in the haybag.  He hung out in there, relaxed, for about ten minutes, before we asked him to come out.

Anna decided to experiment with voice commands of “baaaack” and “step” seeing what we would get.  She added a “cluck” to ask for movement, and out he backed!  Awesome!

Later on, I hung out with him and he gave me an intense five minutes or so of non-demanding time before moving on to greener pastures (graze time)!

A good day with natural horsemanship!


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First ride out with natural horsemanship

Today was Delilah’s first ride out on trails since I’ve been tuning up her skills.  She came to me light in trail and loading experience, being boarded in her past situation.  While I could ride down my country road if I wanted, I prefer to haul out to the arena and to the outlying foothills.

As you’ve seen in previous blogs, my farrier and natural horsemanship trainer, Anna Longanecker, and I have been working with Delilah in the round pen, trailer loading, and an obstacle course.

We proceeded to load up Boss first.  Interestingly, he did not even want to come out of the paddock!  His last ride out was to the vet for teeth, sheath and shots.  With waiting, he decided to come to us, but didn’t want to get in the trailer.  How interesting!  With regards to his Parelli Horsenality chart, this did not surprise me.  More of that in a future blog!  So, we set him aside, and loaded Delilah.  After just a minute, she jumped in and munched on her treat bag.  No nervous response with closing of the divider.  Boss’s turn again.  He gave it up, with our waiting, and figuring this to be a different circumstance with his mare in the trailer.  He best go along!

We hauled out to milepost 13 on the Vantage Highway.  To the north, go through the green gate, closing it behind you.  There is a large turn around area, and many directions to go with views of the valley, and discovery of elk herds.

The horses remained calm and cooperative for tacking up, pre-flight check-up of lateral flexion and hindend disengagement, both on the ground and in the saddle.  When everyone was standing still and relaxed for a few minutes, we started off.  Boss gave me a power walk on a loose rein.  Delilah stepped right out with a flat walk.  Everyone was enthusiastic!

We rode a bit to a wide open meadow area.  We took some time to relax and graze.  On the way back we zigged and zagged through the sagebrush.  Stopping here and there to relax and not be in a hurry to get back to the trailer.  We dismounted and chatted.  We practiced and reinforced leading skills.  Anna stopped here and there to gather a bouquet of sagebrush.  Delilah was into it!  Boss was doe-dee-doe!

Back at the trailer, tack off, brush off, check backs, load up.  We reversed the order this time, Boss in first.  Headed home, unload with voice prompt of “baaaack”, and a tail pull.

It was a great ride out and culmination of working with Delilah to cross thresholds insuring everything went smooth.  I love what natural horsemanship and Parelli psychology skills do for myself and my horses.  I always remember that I am riding a piece of Mother Nature and respect that fact accordingly.  My goal is to set a situation up in my favor, doing appropriate homework so I have an indication when everyone is ready for the next step!  Support is an important ingredient, the support that I had with Delilah’s training and tune-up from Anna.

I’m grateful for such a wonderful outing!

Here’s to your success in the saddle and on the ground!


Check out this “lid” for shading while riding!  Click on image!

<b><i> Raffia Straw Ladies Hat with Blue Beads </i></b>

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Self loading for natural horsemanship

Parelli says to take the time it takes up front so it takes less time down the road.  I have to remind myself of this often, because I’m a Type A personality!  Even matched with a Left Brain Extrovert (LBE) (from Parelli Horsenality and Natural Horse-Man-Ship), it pays to be patient and take the time up front.  It gives us all time to breath as we learn!

Today a two hour session with Delilah.  Starting in the round pen for more “my space your space” with her pushy left shoulder.  She has started to understand the yielding, one step at a time!  And her ears!  Her ears have come forward, as they would with her curious and friendly nature!  More than one breakthrough today!

We played further with a playground set up with ground poles, cones, a tarp, barrels on their side for the sqeeze game, then closing the barrels for. . .a jump over?  We’ll see what Delilah thinks!

We offered the trailer to Delilah.  She willingly, on her own, went in and out, checking it out, reminding herself of backing skills needed to back out.  She finally, after about twenty minutes, thought she’d go for the treat bag inside, so in she went! hanging out comfortably, with no pressure, for a good five minutes.  What a girl!

We also played with tossing the lead rope over her head, back and forth, from the shoulder area, zone three (from Parelli school) as if doing it from the saddle.

We finished up with backing through the gate into her paddock.  Again, a new take on the Yo-Yo Game (from Parelli), after a few tries, she caught on, and made it “home”!

For all of Level One, get Parelli Connect for 30 days free!  Learn all about the Parelli Seven Games, and how you can play them with your horse!


Here’s the link!

http://www.parelliconnect.com/ or


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Hosing off for natural horsemanship

A great day!  A break in the snowy weather from the first of the week, some blue sky!

Today was Delilah’s turn at trailer loading.  But first, we reinforced a routine or pattern.  She caught me, then I inturn took her out and groomed her, except for her muddy feet.  With the help of my shoer and natural horsemanship trainer, Anna, we desensitized myself(!) and Delilah to the Insta-hot machine, a tankless water heater.  It worked great!

Delilah got her feet all hosed off with a tepid water temperature, instead of icy ice water!  How cool is that!

Then we loaded her up, of which she did very well, discovering her treat in the haybag within!  I’ll keep playing with her self loading skills, next Wednesday is another targeted lesson for natural horsemanship!

She did show, however, that she needs a natural horsemanship tune-up on un-haltering politely.  I have a notebook going for observations, ideas, and agenda.

I ended the day with some non-demanding time with Boss and Delilah.  I sat on top of the fence, they came and hung out with me, Boss having Delilah keep her distance while he schmoozed.  After ten minutes, he took off for greener pastures.  Delilah followed his lead.

It’s a start!

Here’s to the start of your season.  From the looks of it, some of you have gotten an early start!

Stay tuned for the rest of the . . .natural horsemanship story!



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Tradin’, tradin’, for natural horsemanship

Here’s the trade-“on”; what my Dad would say was a “classy chassis”!  Seven foot short wall living quarters/weekender is in pristine condition, Trails West ’94 vintage, with custom features of solar charging for the battery, a dry ice icebox in addition to the regular refrigerator, cowboy shower, outside fold-down table for spreadin’ out the vittles!  And roomy!  I camped in it overnight at the RV park, and slept with a warm face!

Two horse slant load with back tack room with swing out saddle rack, upright water tank with outside spigot(!), fully padded, with divider.  I always appreciate having two doors in the rear in windy Ellensburg!

So, if at first something doesn’t come together, take another look at accomplishing your goal!  You might surprise yourself with what you create!

Happy trails!


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A trailer for natural horsemanship

Morning CommuteFor a day off, an exhausting one!  I received a bid to do a weekender type installation for my horse trailer for camping with my horse, a few amenities, mainly insulation and panels, fridge and heater.  Welding an outside hinge, and discussion of a stud divider…..approximately $6700.00.  How interesting!

So in what direction do I go now to create my reality of a trailer tool to horse camp with?  Do I consider a trade in?  A trade straight across deal?  Get a second bid?

I’m sure inspiration will come for a solution for natural horsemanship!  How are your first of the year inspirations coming along?


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Natural horsemanship trailer loading

Today I started tuning up my mare’s loading skills.  Delilah came home with me last November.  She was light in experience for loading and hauling.  She loaded up nicely when I went to pick her up.  We had about an hour and a half haul home.  She hauled quietly.  I had a friend ready at home to help me unload her.  She did well!

In preparation, I had pastured Delilah and Boss with the trailer, with doors tied open, some hay sitting inside.  Soon, they were using the trailer as a friendly spot for shade, and tucking themselves under the gooseneck.

I collapsed the rear tack compartment, opening up the loading area.  Delilah practiced in the middle stall.  I lowered the window grates.  I secured the two back doors, since it was a windy morning.  No surprises!

I had my horseshoer, who also practices and trains with natural horsemanship, come over to help and spot me for a training session.  One of the Parelli seven keys to a natural horse-human relationship is support!  This first session we asked Delilah to step in, front feet in, and she was ALLOWED to back out.  Then she offered all four in, stood quietly to get her treat out of the hay bag, then was ASKED to back out.  She did very well, watching for that big step down!  She repeated this four more times, with the last time backing out very well, and quietly.  We thought that was a good place to quit!

I have another practice session scheduled, stay tuned on making your horse an automatic loader with natural horsemanship!


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