Saturday, April 27, 2013

Afternoon Feedtime

By the time I got home from work today it was getting pretty late so I thought I may have to let go of my idea to see if Lacey wanted some work.  I had a ute full of hay to unload and had to feed the horses before it got dark.  When I finally got to the paddock they were all waiting very impatiently.  I bought the barrow full of feed through the gate and Neo moved in quickly and grabbed the hay throwing it aside to find his bucket feed.  I quietly asked him to calm down and stood shaking my fingers and putting my body in between him and the food.  It is unusual for him to act that way and he was clearly telling me he was starving despite his rotund appearance.  He then decided to stand quietly so I could get his bucket out and he proceeded to inhale the contents.  

I went down to Caz, Lacey and Feather and as always the triangle of bickering started.  Feather would bite Lacey and Lacey would kick back at Feather and then swing round to nip at her which would get her an even bigger telling off.  Caz would tell both the mares to back off and this chaos goes on until I enter the paddock.  They know that I need them to stand quietly beside their bucket and wait until I walk away before they eat.  I have had to instil this with them as they are so overzealous with each other when it comes to food and I don't want to get caught in the middle of it all.  They were all busy eating so I loaded up three hay nets and hung them from trees around the paddock. 

Cazador Del Trueno - Spanish Mustang stallion
Lacey was the first to finish and then go over to the hay.  I had tied the last hay net down by the lake and was then stood there watching my incredibly enthusiastic blue heeler puppy named Jazz run crazily up and down the edge of the lake leaping around then burying her nose in the water and bringing her head out wet and smiling before turning around to watch what sort of reaction she was getting from me.  The more I laughed the crazier she got!!  I turned to see where Lacey was and she had been pushed away from the hay net by Caz and Feather.  I called her down but she wasn't interested and looked more annoyed than anything watching Jazz carry on like a raving lunatic.  I walked up and stood at her shoulder and asked if she would follow me.  She immediately did and we ran down the hill together and I showed her another hay net.  I left her there eating and wandered off around the paddock to let Jazz blow off some more steam further away from the horses.  From up on the hill I watched as Cazador then moved down and pushed Lacey off the hay again.  They kicked out at each other and Lacey backed down and then made large semi circle arcs around him trying to find a way back to the hay but he kept spinning his body and blocking her.  I called her and she immediately came running to me and walked beside me while I showed her where the third net was.  She walked to the hay and then as I was walking away she changed her mind and ran to my shoulder and started asking for work. 

Lacey - Spanish Mustang mare
I gave her a scratch on the tail and then asked her if she wanted to circle around me to the right.  She walked a perfect circle, her body curved around me.  I said 'woah' and told her how incredible she was.  She stood tall and proud and positioned a part of her body for me to scratch.  I then asked for another circle to the right which she did superbly again to copious amounts of praise.  We repeated the exercises on the opposite side and then I walked to her shoulder and pointed at her hoof.  She lifted it for me.  I didn't attempt to pick it up, instead praising her and scratching her for such an amazing job.  She has massive issues when it comes to having her hooves trimmed.  I have been working through these with her using only positive reinforcement little by little.   She was at a point where she may give her hooves but she would slam them into the ground when I went to release her hoof.  That is also changing as I let go of my own agenda and take the training slow to help her work through her discontent about having her hooves picked up.  I was so thrilled with how connected and giving she was today.  

Grey Feather must have been watching us as she quickly came over and pushed Lacey out and spun her tail to me demanding a scratch.  I told her I didn't think that was a very polite way to ask me and walked away from her.  She then came and briefly connected by sniffing my hand before asking much more politely for me to scratch her tail.  I obliged this time and then asked her if she would like to try the same thing Lacey had just done.  She walked a few steps on the circle and then presented her tail to me.  I asked her to try a little harder and things got a bit muddled.  Lacey was watching and was quite annoyed by all this and she stormed in with her nose crumpled and her ears pinned back and showed Feather how it was done before enticing me to walk further down the paddock with her away from Feathers rude interruption as she seemed to see it.  I laughed and we had some cuddles before I then had to leave.

I just love spending time with this little herd.  They all have very huge and opinionated personalities.  Lacey's love of learning and the mind boggling speed at which she picks up my cues is so exciting to me.  I can only imagine what an exciting future we will have when we start venturing out and about more.  I still remember her leaving the herd as a foal to come to the house and find me each day.  I would sit with her and often she would fall asleep, her head in my lap.  Our bond was instantaneous when she was born and I am in awe of where she is taking our relationship and learning these days.  What an incredible mare she is!!!

Lacey and her dam Indian Scout.  Lacey was less than a week old here.
Lacey rising 4 years - a beautiful,independent, spirited and highly intelligent partner

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Grey Feather - Training Log

I first met Grey Feather a couple of years ago when I was on went on a trip to the USA to find a Spanish Mustang stallion to import to Australia.  My first stop was to meet Donna Mitchell at the Little Cayuse Ranch.  We had been conversing via email and I really wanted to meet Donna before we started our trip to find a stallion to import.  Donna and her family were such wonderful people.  They opened their homes and their hearts to us and I consider them very dear friends.  Soon after arrival at the ranch, we were taken out to see the horses.  I won't ever forget that moment that I first laid eyes on Grey Feather.  I was totally in awe of this filly.  I spent a long time in the yard with her just marvelling at her exquisite grace and beauty.  Donna kindly agreed soon after to let Grey Feather make the long trip to Australia so we spent an extra 10 days at the ranch after we had finished our stallion search and during that week I started handling and getting to know Grey Feather.  I remembered her to be an extremely sensitive horse with a fire in her belly.  

A lot happened over the two years that it took for me to finally be able to bring Grey Feather home.  I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and I feel that reason was for me to progress in my learning with horses to a degree where I could do justice to the relationship I am building with this incredible horse.

Grey Feather hasn't had a whole lot of handling and very little training.  She lived on 3000 acres at the Little Cayuse Ranch and grew up in a herd environment there.  This is the sort of upbringing that brings out a strength and substance in a horse that I find lacking when they are raised by people.  There is a marked difference between my horses in this distinct way.  Neosho was raised on the Cayuse Ranch running with 17 other batchelor stallions and mostly untouched by people until I bought him as a 7 year old.  My Australian brumby mare was captured as an 8 year old, never touched until that age, then sadly abused before coming to me so she took some time to gentle down.  These three horses all have a history of limited or nil human handling until adulthood.  They are extremely sensitive, exceptionally intelligent and working with any of them is the most incredible gift I have ever been given.

Scout, Lacey and Cazador on the other hand are the opposite.  They are bold, fearless and I often have to remind them about personal space and the need for boundaries.  I find it far more challenging to work with horses that have had human interaction from an early age.  That may just be a personal thing as I am sensitive myself so I guess I am drawn to the softness and respectful way that comes naturally with the wilder ones.

So on to Grey Feathers training and the way in which I have decided to approach this with her.  Grey Feather is not a horse that you can just walk up to in the paddock and pat or lavish attention on.  She gets very offended at the suggestion and I am fascinated watching how people reacte to her.  She unwillingly draws peoples attention due to her almost unbelieveable beauty and ethereal way.  Some people want to touch her and see it as a challenge to work out how to achieve this.  Others respect her space and will marvel at her from a distance that is comfortable for both parties.  Some people she will eventually invite in, others she won't.

On her arrival home, I was told by the transport company that delivered Grey Feather that she was hard to catch and would turn her rump to threaten to kick.  I discarded the information quickly as I knew this horse or all horses for that matter would not intentionally harm me as long as I was paying close attention to the conversation they were having with me and never let them feel they have the need to escalate to that level.  I had been worried about importing Grey Feather due to her sensitive nature however interestingly she handled the trip better than any of the other horses and I was contacted by handlers along the way that fallen in love with her.  She has the ability to really open peoples heart space when you spend any time with her. 

Starting out with Grey Feather I could clearly see she did not like the halter and also being caught to her was not something she was interested in.  I thought about this for a short time and decided early on I would always be upfront with her when it came time to put a halter on.  After she had been settling in for a few days I decided to move her into another larger paddock with grazing.  I walked into her yard and held my arm out showing her the halter.  She ran away at the suggestion and I stayed where I was until she stopped running.  When she stopped and looked at me, perhaps confused at why I was not persuing her, I held the halter out again and asked if I could come towards her.  She allowed me to come close to her then walked away a few steps.  I walked level to her shoulder and if she wanted to move I just walked beside her.  She slowed and stopped to sniff my hand and the halter and I stood beside her giving her as long as she felt she needed.  Eventually I put the end of the rope over her neck.  She flinched and tensed so I took the rope off and stood allowing her to sniff it again. She was relaxing now at the lack of pressure in this situation and the next time I put the rope on her neck and opened the halter she dropped her head and put her nose into it.  

Once on the halter, moving beside her is wonderful. She reads every subtle movement of my body and responds as if in a dance.  Every single time I am with her in these moments I am honoured at the lessons she chooses to teach me and the way in which she imparts her wisdom so gently.

There was one day when she was running around her paddock very stressed as one of the other mares had gone over the hill and she could no longer see her.  I went in with the halter to move her so she could be closer to the other mare and I made a mistake that day that I try never to make with horses like Grey Feather, Neosho and Sienna.  Grey Feather was cantering back and forth and her adrenaline was high.  When she got close to me she stopped and came over and I told her I would move her in to be with the other mares.  I placed the rope over her neck and closed my hand around the rope.  Grey Feather went to flee and for perhaps a second I held the rope.  That was a terrible mistake as I like her to always know she can get away however thankfully she didn't hold on to the experience for long.  She initially bolted away then spun to look at me with a snort.  I said out loud how sorry I was and if she wanted to go in with the other mares she would have to have the halter on so I could safely move her into the paddock with them.  Incredibly, the instant I said that she ran back to me and dropped her head waiting for me to put the halter on.  She is such an sensitive and intelligent - horse so much so that she seems to really understand when I explain something to her.

The next thing I wanted to address was Grey Feathers issue with picking up her hooves.  She had been trimmed a few times but was certainly not thrilled at the idea.  Very soon after she arrived I decided at feed time I would start by running my hand down each leg.  The first time I did this she ran sideways. I made sure she was always free to leave if she needed to. I waited till she came back to her food and gently put my hand on her leg. Instead of fleeing, this time she snatched her leg up and snorted. I stood up and said 'Thank you Feather - wonderful, thank you'.  The next time I touched her leg she very quickly held it up.  Again I thanked her.  I repeated this routine twice a day and she got very comfortable with the idea of me touching her legs however did not want me to hold them.  One afternoon recently I went down to the paddock with some bits of carrot in my pockets.  I was asking Feather to pick up her hooves and although she would snatch them up quickly there was still no way she wanted me holding them.  I decided this time I would give her a carrot when she lifted her hooves.  Well the instant change was astounding.  Her whole thought process seemed to change so quickly to one of intrigue as she would try to figure out exactly what I wanted so she could get that treat and the worry of giving her hoof had disappeared entirely in that instant.  I am now using food to teach her basic words like come and stand.  She picked that up in a matter of minutes also.   

All these things may seem small and insignificant however they are the most important building blocks of our growing relationship together.  Grey Feather and I seem to understand each other very well.  Perhaps she recognises in me that same independent spirit and the fight that I to unleash if I feel my freedom is under threat.  She is a very unique and special horse that embodies the power of the feminine spirit.  I am very grateful she has come into my life.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Learning from Neosho

Neosho arrived to Australia in July.  He had a very difficult journey and it took him a little while to settle in.  Once I put my mares with him his demeanor changed dramatically and he was back to the soft, gentle horse I had heard so much about.  I have started working with him each day as I finally feel we are both ready (he has been ready for sometime however my personal journey of late has seen me reluctant to move forward with him or any of the horses for that matter). 

When I first met Neosho at the Cayuse Ranch in Wyoming where he had spent the first 7 years of his life, he was a high ranking stallion that had been unhandled and running in a herd of 18 other bachelor stallions for 6 years.  Personally I feel to raise a stallion in this way teaches them herd behavior and you end up with a horse that is soft, sensitive and very polite to work with IF you gentle them in the right way and have the patience to do so.  Obviously it takes a lot of work to get there but the results at the end are incredible.  My Australian brumby mare Sienna is extremely similar to working with Neosho.  She is an absolute joy to  handle but the road there was a long, slow one for us and she taught me more than any trainer ever could.  I took her training at a pace that she dictated and the result is that we are now inseparable and she lives a very content life here.  She has had the option on many occasions to return to the bush and her old way of living yet she always chooses a life here with us.  The work with Sienna was good preparation for me to understand Neosho.

Neosho has an intelligence about him that is just awe inspiring.  He commands respect just by being himself and is as gentle as a lamb if you treat him right.  I work with him in a very soft and sensitive way and he tells me gently if I have used to much energy or pressure in a situation.  Yesterday I really started to see what he gives in a training session.  I think of a training session differently in that I always see myself as the student and the horse as my teacher.  This brings an openness to the table for both me and the horse.  It ensures that I enter the yard with no ego about my abilities and opens me up to learning every time I am with them.  

Yesterday Neosho showed me a whole repertoire of moves and he was so enjoying the session that we continued for much longer than I had intended.  Sus from Freehorse Farm spent 7 months preparing Neosho  for his journey to Australia.  The work she did with him was outstanding and I am really beginning to see the brilliance in the connection they created with each other.  Sus really focuses on willingness in a horse and takes things at the horses pace ensuring that he is happy to enter a training session and explore the horse/human relationship.  In fact Neosho actually seems to thrive on it.  It helps him release any tension he has stored and it also allows both of us to become closer and understand each other better. 

There is a depth to Neosho that is well beyond his years.  He is an old soul with a huge heart and wisdom unlike anything I have seen.  He is teaching me to build my confidence and also have fun in the process.  He teaches me to lead in a consistent and soft manner and to retain my focus.  When he has taught me a new skill we both change quite instantly.  He will soften dramatically and his acceptance is clear.

I hope to be able to get some video of one of our sessions to share on here soon.  My gratitude for having this magnificent stallion in my life is beyond words really.  

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Update at Takoda Stud

Well it is over a year now since I have updated this blog.  I guess updating on Facebook became an easy and somewhat lazy way of keeping the news on the horses out there.  It certainly isn't the same as the thought process that goes into writing a blog so I hope to be committed enough to write here once a month. 

So much has happened in the last twelve months.  Neosho arrived to Takoda stud in July 2011.  He has quickly won my heart and I am still in awe of him every day.  He is a phenomenal stallion with a deep and knowing energy.  He is teaching me more about horses and myself each time I work with him.  He lives with my brumby mare and our Spanish Mustang mare Indian Scout.  Both mares are expecting foals in July.  They are all very content living in a family band and I am extremely excited to see these little ones when they finally arrive.  

 Neosho (Azor x Lonesome Prairie)

We also welcomed another new addition to Takoda stud in February 2012.  Cazador Del Trueno, a red dun overo colt with rare bloodlines, impeccable conformation, a huge heart and a playful nature is now very proudly standing at stud in Australia.  This colt is exceptional in every way.  He has lovely, free uphill movement, endless energy and a war horse spirit.  His heart and will are huge and I look forward to when he reaches an age for riding.  He is a joy to train and enjoys the interaction and stimulation of learning new things.  

 Cazador Del Trueno (Apache Thunder Horse x Crystalina)

Grey Feather has been bred to the beautiful Sulphur stallion  Mestenes Peublo.  This pairing is a dream come true for me and the resulting offspring will stay as foundation stock for Takoda stud.  Grey Feather will be coming to Australia later in 2012.  I eagerly await this beautiful mares arrival.

Scout is doing wonderfully and is a joy to be around as always.  We had a lot of wonderful times riding together however now she is in foal she is living the easy life again.  Both her and Sienna are inseparable these days and both mares seem so content and they seem to approve highly of Neo.

Sienna (left) Australian Brumby mare and Indian Scout (Steel Dust x Sha-ko-ka)

Beautiful Lacey (Scouts Honour) is growing fast and maturing into such a beautiful mare.  She is a real joy to work with these days and sees nothing as  a drama.  She will be put in foal to Cazador towards the end of the year.  She is currently living out West until she is old enough to breed to save her tormenting the boys to much!  

Well that is a very brief update on the past, busy 12 months.  I will endeavor to visit here much more often from now on!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Neosho - Australia's First Purebred Spanish Mustang Stallion

Scouts 1st time at a surf beach - Noosa Nth Shore
Firstly, I must apologise for my extended absence.  I have been spending the last couple of months having wonderful times with the horses.  Scout is doing so well under saddle and we have been making regular trips to the beach, camping in the mountains and now I am starting endurance training with her.  She is ridden in a halter and is a dream to ride bareback.  She really never ceases to amaze me with her laid back demeanour and I am surprised at the fact that the more I ride her to more affectionate she is with me.  She is incredibly sure footed and I am amazed at how she can avoid any hole or obstacle that I haven't noticed.  She is agile and so much fun to be around.  It seems she passes these traits on to her foals and with Neosho's gentle, sweet and wise nature they should have some very special foals together.  

Neosho in training at Freehorse Farm
Neosho is finally getting ready to head for quarantine.  He will be going into quarantine in April and flying to Australia early May.  His training went exceptionally well and I am very eagerly awaiting his arrival so I can start getting to know him.  He has gone from running with 17 other stallions for the past 7 years at the Cayuse Ranch with little human interaction to 6 days a week gentle training with Sus at Freehorse Farm for the past 6 months.  Sus describes him as a very wise, gentle and noble soul.  That was the impression I got when I met him briefly at the Cayuse back in June.  He has a softness about him that is plain to see but he also has a depth and spirit to him that makes him a joy to behold.  I am in the process of setting up a paddock for him around a house I am moving into next week.  He will be right at the house which will hopefully enable me to spend time with him regularly and keep a close eye on him while he is settling in to the shock of all the changes of coming to a new country brings for him.

Sadly, Grey Feather won't be joining us here in Australia until 2012.  She will foal at the Little Cayuse Ranch in New Mexico in July and we are all excited to see this little one.  I hope to have her on her way by early to mid next year all going to plan!

Neosho at the Cayuse Ranch before beginning his long journey

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

All About Scout

It is just short of 2 years now since Scout joined me here in Australia.  I took a big risk with her buying her sight unseen and investing so much in her without even knowing if we would connect.  It has been a huge learning curve for me over this time, finding my way with her, learning how to communicate with her and all the differences that the Spanish Mustang breed hold. 

I have had many times of despair however they are hard to even remember now that we have connected on such a deep level.  Scout has taught me more than I could ever have imagined and she has done it in her characteristic patient and grounded way.  

I recently sent her to a trainer to have her started to saddle.  I had done some work with her prior and had ridden her a number of times but lacked a confidence in my ability so decided someone else would be better to teach Scout what I felt I couldn't.  Two weeks after her arrival at the trainer I received a phone call telling me to come and pick her up as the rain hadn't stopped and they had been unable to work the horses.  After two weeks at the trainers standing in a stable and small yard with no training, Scout was less than impressed with me.  When I picked her up she showed me that by sniffing my hand then taking off in the other direction and glaring at me while letting out a loud snort.  She forgave me very quickly which is her way and with the help of my kind friends support telling me Scout was waiting for me to just trust myself and her ,I finally stepped up to the plate and the magic started.  

Nothing could have prepared me for the connection and experiences I am having with Scout now.  I am commitment phobic on all levels in my life and this does include my animals.  The very special and patient ones plug away at me and breakthrough but that is rare and has only ever been achieved by my horse Sienna and my dog Storm.  Scout seems to have been the next one to have broken through.  What a gift it is to spend time with her now that we trust each other.  

Today I took her on her first trail ride.  I have walked  with her often through the bush but never ridden her.  She was amazing.  She has probably only had about 15 rides and only about 4 of them with the saddle.  She has never been at all worried by me being on her back, in fact she acts like we have been together for a long time and this is nothing new.  I have not taught her much about travelling in a straight line yet and when we were first on the trail she was looking around and weaving here and there to start.  I opened my hands and used my legs to ask her to travel in the channel I had created.  I focused forward and immediately she cottoned on to what I was asking and strode out without faltering.  She crossed muddy puddles, creeks and fallen trees.  She climbed effortlessly up the steep rocky hills and came down the other side without missing a beat.  The terrain was varied underfoot.  There were sandy sections, clay sections, mud followed by sharp shale.  Some areas of the trail are fairly rocky and Scout handled this all completely barefoot without a worry in the world.  

I had become so scared to ride after reading so much from Nevzerov and others about it being something that is detrimental to horses.  I agree that some horses don't like being ridden. Sienna is one of them and I respect that choice and don't ride her instead offering her a safe and loving home for her life with me.  Scout on the other hand seems to revel in the connection and excitement that riding brings for both of us.  Never have I felt this sort of joy when riding.  Never have I felt a horse so accepting and willing to take a journey with me on their back.  The connection feels complete when I am riding Scout and today I got that she feels that also.  Early on when I was getting disheartened by not feeling like I was making progress with Scout, Leslie, Scouts previous owner told me that often the connection comes when you start riding these horses.  I struggled with that thought and I have been reluctant to really take that step back into the world of riding horses for fear of hurting the animals that I hold so dear to me.  I finally took the plunge and over the past week, the change in Scout has been incredible and very visible, not only to me but to my friends who have witnessed the change as well.  Scout and I communicate with each other as if we are one now and even when we have different ideas about which way to go we always meet in the middle with no conflict or worry.  

For years I have researched this breed and been attracted to the stories of these sorts of deep connections that other Spanish Mustang owners have with their horses.  Today was the day that I could really feel the depth of all the time Scout and I have spent getting to know each other since she got here.  There is no way to put it into words really.  I am in awe of this horse and her trust and love for me.  Scout has never been an affectionate mare, instead choosing to see that I am around then happy to move away back to the herd.  She has never been to thrilled with being petted and fussed over.  She is a proud, strong horse and I respect that about her.  The last couple of weeks a change has happened in both of us.  It seems we are both now ready to open our hearts to each other and she now seems to crave my touch and attention.  If she glimpses me walking out into the yard, she throws her head up and calls out to me.  She watches my every move now and takes a genuine interest in having me with her.  She even accepts touch now with delight instead of annoyance.  

Recent trip to the beach
I realised today that for only the third time in my life, I have allowed another being into my heart and soul and welcomed her to stay with me for life.  In doing so, she has returned the sentiment in her new found openness and warmth.  

What a gift it is to be owned by a Spanish Mustang! 

Monday, January 3, 2011


What a wonderful start to this new year.  I have Scout and Sienna at my friends place as the paddock became to waterlogged with the endless rain we are having.  Scout and I are exploring a new side to one another.  She is testing my commitment and is showing me that she really wants to work and discover new things.  I had an hour long ride at the beach with her over the weekend.  It was the first time I have allowed myself to trust her and finally move forward in our training.  I realised that I had lost a lot of confidence over the past few years, always doubting if I am doing the right thing by the horse and this in turn has made it difficult for them.  I made some big changes this weekend and Scout seemed to sense that.

I am really in awe of her and what power she has.  We walked in the shallow ocean, Scout insisting on going one way and me finally stepping up and giving her direction.  She has a large and powerful stride fitting for the noble horse that she is.  She was not content to walk with my dear friends and their horses instead powering forward with a determination I have never felt in a horse before.  She is an incredible mare that I feel I am only just starting to get to know.  What an honour it is to be able to share this time with such a strong, confident and powerful  being.

Neosho is doing very well in his training and is now being walked in the open paddock with longlines.  His confidence in people has grown and he is starting to show his curious and playful side Sus tells me.  He carries that same strength that I feel in Scout and I think the two of them will have a whole lot more to teach me and others about the majesty of this breed.

Grey Feather is craving human contact now which is wonderful to hear.  She will have a sonogram at the end of January to determine if she is in foal.  She is in very good hands with Donna and sounds content at the ranch.

Little Lacey is maturing so fast mentally moreso than physically right now.  Negotiations are underway for a possible new home for her.  Should it all go ahead, then I will be very sad to see her go however I could not ask for a better home for her.  I believe strongly that horses will choose their person if given the opportunity and Lacey clearly did this recently.  

I wish everyone all the very best for the year 2011.  It promises to be a very exciting one for me and the wonderful horses in my life.

Below is current video of Neosho in training with Sus at Freehorse Farm.