Latest Posts

Learning to walk…

Most of us take walking for granted.  We do it everyday, without a thought.

So when I was challenged on the first day of a clinic with James Shaw to slowly step out to the side with one leg without leaning, I was surprised to find I had trouble with this simple task.  I struggled to keep my balance.  James looked me in the eye and shouted, ‘LEANER!’.  He might as well have spread his thumb and forefinger out and put it on his forehead in the universal sign for a ‘LOSER’, but the twinkle in his eye and his slightly dropped right shoulder reassured me that he was simply welcoming me to the club.  We all lean.

So went the 3 days of self discovery.  Where is my balance?  Where am I leaning?   Why do I stick my ear out to the right when I want to step into my right stirrup?  Why doesn’t my belly button move to the left as easily as to the right.   Where do I short circuit the brilliant functions my body was designed for?  Observation without judgement (but with alot of laughter), experimentation and then feedback.

The feedback was profound.   James took us through several Tai Chi based excercises every morning.  These all start in ‘Standing Meditation’…a position foreign to most of us…..hips back, legs straight, weight on the TOES.   Well after about 10 minutes in standing meditation, your body is screaming at you to lean back, cock a hip…do anything to take the pressure off your achilles and ball of the foot.  Truth be told (and I’ve tested this theory several times since being home), you can do all the exercises in under 30 minutes and I expect, even with the addition of adding a few instructions about how to do them right, they could be done in less than 90 minutes.  But James has an interesting teaching style…humorous, self deprecating, and prone to distraction….so the morning ordeal lasted over 3 hours.  Now ‘ordeal’ might be abit of an exaggeration, as James is delightful and the education was delicious, but my body was screaming at me the whole time.  STOP.  RECONSIDER. DON”T LISTEN TO THAT EVIL MAN.

Well, we all persevered at whatever level we were capable of.  There were two great moments of feedback for me.  To be honest, there were many moments, but these were the bigs ones.  First, there were two exercises in particular that gave me instant feedback.  ‘Bend with an arch’ and ‘Palms on toes’.  You’ll have to get his DVDs or attend a workshop for details, but while doing these two exercises, two things happened to me.  First, my spine literally snapped into better alignment and second, I discovered  a way to move from a bent over position to a standing position without pain.  Those of you, who, like me, trim horses feet or even garden, will understand the excitement I felt when I realized I could straighten up without feeling pain and spasm in my lower back.   The other great epiphany was how I felt the next morning.  I woke without any back pain.  At the end of the clinic I felt better than I had for years.  Typically, a clinic in which I was learning something new and riding, would make me sore, usually in my lower back or between my shoulders.  I felt none of that.  Nothing short of a miracle.

Breathing properly was a basic principle that we practiced over and over, both on the ground and on our horses backs.  We learned to be more perceptive about where our feet were, where our bellybutton was pointing, how our seat bones were weighted and how to move the sternum and shoulders separately from the hips and bellybutton.  The big mental challenge for me was to stop thinking about movement as a gross motor skill, one that occurs using a massive amount of muscle and energy.  Instead, James challenged us to just think about moving the bone…be it the hipbone or the femor bone or the humerus bone or the clavicle bone or the sternum, and allow the body to do what it does naturally to get the job done.  Generally, I found I simply used less muscle and alot less energy to accomplish the task.

I’d like to say I am moving my body better 100% of the time now, but the truth is, my old habits are difficult to change.  I have found though that I am in observation mode alot of the time now.  While interviewing a patient,  I might check my balance and assume the standing meditation stance, which is becoming easier and more natural to me.  Walking down the hallways and around the farm, I find myself checking in with the rhythmic movement of my bellybutton.  Sitting on my horses I check in with my seat bones, breath way down into my stomach and lower back.  I am simply a beginner at moving my body properly and that’s ok.  I’m doing the exercises as often as I can and hope someday, walking will not require so much thought and attention 🙂

Check out ‘Ride From Within’ and James Shaw here.

Clinic Season

The last few years have been pretty lean for me in regard to formal horsemanship training time.  The farm, in general, has gotten so busy, its hard to get away.  Last summer, when I managed to attend a Karen Rohlf  clinic, I thought, ‘wow!   I really need to make the time and money available to do more of this’.  So I set aside some money each month, earmarked for clinic time this summer and I hired a teenager in town to help with farm chores while I was away…

So June is clinic month for me and the horses…

Manny and I at Karen Rohlf...

Memorial Day weekend, Manny and I will be learning Tai Chi for Horsemen with James Shaw at The Journey Horses Farm in Campton, NH.  My dear friends Tim and Trudy are hosting at their beautiful facility and I can’t wait to see them and spend some quality time with my main squeeze, Manny.

June 3rd and 4th, I will take Beaugart up to Neal Perry’s Place, in Northern Vermont for a colt start.  Bogie and I have made huge progress in our relationship over the past two months and as I predicted, taking the time to sort out the catching game has made everything else better.  Now we are ready to move forward with the nuts and bolts of his foundation.

June 9-12, Dave Ellis, 5 star PNH Instructor will teach a Level 2/3 camp at the gorgeous Ladd Farm Facility in Bridgewater.  I’ll be bringing Reno.

June 13-16, I’ll return with Manny for the Level 3/4 camp with Dave.  The emphasis will be on vaquero style ranch versatility…..cowboy dressage…my favorite.  Maybe I’ll throw Tbone and Porter in the trailer for some live cow work!

All of these clinics are open to auditors and I encourage you to get out there and expand your horsemanship.  Your horses will thank you.  Plus, these clinics are attended and hosted by some of the nicest people on the planet!

And don’t forget our own Resting Heart Farm Clinic series. 

July 11th ‘Basics of Driving’ Workshop with Ripple and Reno. 

August 7th ‘Reiki 1’ with Leela Olson of Bliss Healing Arts.

Some Horses….

Some horses come into our lives forever, others for a short time.  I try hard to be open to whichever that is…

Many years ago, I fell in love with a thoroughbred named Canonize.  I first saw him romping (literally all feet off the ground one second, on the ground rolling the next) in a demo at the Equine Affaire nearly a decade ago.  At the time I was working through the Parelli Levels with my horse Manny, who was a naturally introverted horse.  He has very little real play drive and I was craving a horse who liked to move their feet.  It was love at first sight that November day and as soon as the trainer reported that he was available for adoption through the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, I knew he would be mine.  Many of my friends would tell me I was crazy to get a second horse…that I couldn’t keep two horses in work with a full time job.  Those of you who know me well, know the easiest way to get me to take on a challenge, is to say I ‘can’t’ or ‘shouldn’t’…so of course, I did.

Here’s how he is described in the  Jockey Club Registry:  Chestnut horse, foaled May 13, 1997 in Florida.  10 Starts.  Winner.  Arbitrator and Bold Ruler on his sire’s side.  Native Dancer and War Admiral on the Dame’s.  Holy Crap!   What the hell had I gotten myself into?  I thought hard about changing his name to something cute, like ‘teddy’…but was told it was bad luck to change the name of a winning racehorse.  Bad luck….I did not need.

Canon turned out to be my first real rehab project.  He came off the track with a tendon injury.  Although he was sound on it, his body was in a twist and he moved crookedly.  Some of that is from the racetrack, some of it him, and some of it the injury.  And it was probably a good thing I had to take some time to get him sound and healthy, so our relationship could get solid.  Canon taught me alot about colic.  He, like so many hot blooded horses, was prone to scarey tummy aches.  Almost monthly I would get a call about him not feeling well.  I had been researching equine nutrition prior to this, but his propensity for this really drove me deep into natural, holistic horse care and feeding.  Over a year or so, he cured himself of this tendency and has been colic free since.

I remember the first time I cantered on Canon…like it was yesterday.  I was scared.  I’d had some bad experiences on racehorses in the past….have a metal rod in my lower leg as a result of a fall off one.  And Manny, my other ride, was a consummate bucker at that time.  So I had all this ‘stuff’ in my head.

Well, he wouldn’t go.  Seriously?  He would start to go, then resume his trot.  I knew I was the problem, but couldn’t figure out how to let go of my fear enough to make it ok for him to move out.  He was taking care of me in his way, and I never loved a horse more than in that moment.  I happened to be in the arena alone that day and in what has now defined my style, I forced myself outside my comfort zone and took Canon’s bridle off.  I set off around the arena with a string around his neck and asked him to move out, promising myself only that I would keep breathing, hold the horn of my saddle and go where ever he went.  It was a profound ride.  The two of us trying to figure out how to help each other.  Stop. Go.  Stop. Go, go, go.

An hour later, a woman entered the viewing area.  A stranger who would later become a dear friend, she would frequently remind me of that day when I was zooming around on a racehorse, giggling like a school girl, without a bridle.  Later that summer I would learn the exhilaration of galloping though the fields or on the beach on that horse.  Pure joy and freedom.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Canon would go on to challenge me to improve my horsemanship in so many ways, but more than that he required me to be a better person.

So when I noticed him becoming apathetic and thin 2 years ago, I had to make a plan for his future.  My busy farm and work life had left me little time to play with or ride Canon and he was becoming disengaged and depressed.  In a stroke of luck or fate, a friend who lived just over the river in Vermont was looking for a horse she could ride and give lessons on.  Brilliant, I thought!  He would love that.  She had kids and lots of students to dote on Canon….it was perfect.  I liked the idea that he was happy, but close enough for me to visit occasionally.  In fact he did so well there, they decided to formally adopt him from the TRF last year.  I was thrilled he had found a place in which he could thrive.

A few nights ago I dreamt of a big red racehorse.  Having recently watched ‘Secretariat’, I assumed it was the famous ‘Big Red’ in my dream.  The next day, I read the news on facebook that Canon’s family was moving.  My thoughts returned to my dream, of a beautiful red horse carrying me around a racetrack…me giggling on his back.   I wasn’t sure how I felt about him living thousands of miles away from me.  I was sad.  Maybe alittle worried.   But the truth is…I had not really said goodbye to my friend.  I had shared him with a family who loved him as much as I did, assuming I would see him whenever I wanted to.  So now I really DO have to give him up.

I stopped in to see Canon a few days ago.  He was happy, healthy and quiet as I stroked his face and kissed the cresent moon on his forehead.  Good bye my friend…may your life be filled with green fields, lots of friends and games to play.

Spring Update 2011

Spring has FINALLY sprung (I hope).  The flowers are popping, the pastures greening up and the animals are restless in their winter paddocks.  Its my favorite day in the spring when I am able to release the horses out to the summer pasture.  Its downright joyous, watching them romp and munch on the new grass.  It will need to dry out alittle more before that day comes, but it will be soon.

This is a busy time of year on the farm, with lots to do…

Piglets have arrived.  Three this year.  My niece, Marina named them Salt, Pepper and Basil.  Now there’s a kid who knows where her bacon comes from….

The calves, Tbone and Porter (aka Willy and Wally for my vegetarian friends), are settling in nicely.  I recently moved them down to the lower barn in anticipation of some electric fence training and more space for turnout.  Two days ago I let them out with Bogie as a trial.  They went right to the electric fence and put their sorry little noses squarely on the lowest strand.  Good boys.  Some lessons just have to be learned the hard way…

Porter and Tbone kick it up in their new enclosure

Just now, I was called away from my writing by the sound of thundering hooves.  I went to the window to watch Ripple and Reno tearing around their winter track.  What a sight, these huge horses galloping full speed, stop, spin, buck, run some more.    Ripple in particular is fun to watch, as he figures out how much better he feels this spring.  He moves tentatively at first, then you can see the idea click in that it feels ok to him.  Then he bucks and steps it up into high gear.  You can almost hear a ‘weeeeeeeeeee’, like a little kid on a rollar coaster, coming psychically from him.  Nothing says spring like a frisky horse!

What’s going on at Resting Heart Farm this Spring and Summer:

In the store, we currently have lots of eggs, both chicken and duck.  All are organic, free range and antibiotic free.  Our duck eggs are spectacular, with a rich buttery flavor.  They make the best omelets and frittadas, a great way to clean out your fridge leftovers on a sunday morning.

We will have fresh Goat Cheese toward the end of May.  We are expecting kids in the next week or two.  You can check our latest store offerings here.  For directions, click here.

Ripple Love Fest, Sunday, May 1st.

TBA,  June 25/26

Hands on Driving Workshop.  July 10th.  Reno and I have been asked to come teach at the Animal-Power Field Days at the NOFA Summer Conference in August.  I like to do a dry run ahead of time and this is it.  So if you have an interest in driving and want to learn more, come on over.  Donations will go to Frog Pond Draft Horse Rescue.  

Reiki Level 1.  August 7th.  Leela Olsen will return to the farm for a more formal Reiki workshop.  Proceeds will go to Frog Pond Draft Horse Rescue.

Northeast Animal-Power Field Days at NOFA Summer Conference.  August 12-14.  Amherst, MA.  Info at NOFA Summer Conference.

Draft Animal Power Network Annual Gathering at Fairwinds Farm. Sept 16-18. More details to come.

Updates to follow…Happy Spring, everyone!

Support Henniker Farm Store….

If you haven’t already heard the Mock Family who own the Henniker Farm Store in Henniker, NH lost their home, several beloved pets and all their belongings in a tragic house fire last week.  They are holding a bake sale at the store this weekend to help with the rebuilding of their home.  Please take a drive on this beautiful weekend to support them.

Out of town and want to contribute?  Donations can be sent to the store.

The Mock Family, 110 Bradford Road, Henniker, NH 03242

April Update on Beaugart

I’ve had Bogie home from the trainer for almost 2 weeks now.  I’m sticking to my plan and have left out the timeline, going very slowly.  I spent most of the first week in observation mode, trying to see where Bogie’s mind is at.  Having him away from the main herd has been very helpful, in that I can see his reactions to me more clearly.  Its amazing…he is all over the map!  From pacing the fenceline looking for the safety of the herd (RBE) to stomping on the chickens (LBE) to frozen and tense while I work around him(RBI) and then to frisking me for cookies (LBI)…all in a matter of a few minutes.  Phew…he’s like a friggin rollercoaster!

The first big ‘aha’ was that he really does not tolerate me approaching him directly.  He might manage to stand still, but he is tense and suspicious. I had missed that before.   If I have something in my hand, like a brush or a leadline, forget it, he is out of dodge.  This is the response I have seen before and attibuted it to the ‘thing’, when really I was just putting more pressure on a RB horse in an introverted moment.  What a dummy, lol!

So I have been really sticking to a consistent pattern..bring water, hay and grain, then cleaning up his paddock, in that order.  I have been waiting for him to approach me to instigate any direct interaction.  He has to be in a LB mode to get his curiousity up and I really want to keep him in this thinking frame of mind.  It was about the middle of last week when we had a break through.  I was down for his evening meal.  He had pooped where he eats, so I had changed up the pattern and was cleaning his paddock BEFORE getting his hay and grain.  So I was cleaning up his paddock, observing his behavior out of my peripheral vision.  He was pacing the fenceline.  Then he stopped abruptly (and so did I….surprised by his sudden lack of motion), looked over at me and started yawning vigorously.  I turned toward him and waited.  As he took one step toward me, I thought ‘There it is!  A question! You forgot my hay?!”  Thrilled, I set my manure fork down and walked over to the shed to retrieve his dinner.  To my amazement, as I arrived at the shed door, he was at my shoulder.  We had made contact…mentally…through communication.  It was a profound moment.

Since then he has been way more left brain than right.  I still have to be very careful about how I present my energy and about not putting more pressure on when he is unconfident.  Its very hard for me.  The other day I wanted to put a cooler on him.  It was cold and had been raining and he won’t go in the shelter.  I just wanted to get him dried off.  It was a perplexing situation.  I knew he would be unconfident about the cooler, and worried I would set us back if I pressed the issue.  On the other hand, the night was slated to be cold and I would be up all night worried about him if I didn’t get him warm.  I considered bringing him up to the barn and locking him in a stall, but that would have required catching and haltering…the one thing I promised I would not rush him into.  So I decided to try with the cooler, but had a plan to abort the attempt if things went south.  Put the relationship first, right.  I presented my idea to him by letting him sniff the cooler.  He obviously liked my idea and let me slide it onto his back and over his head, at liberty, without any resistance.  When he needed to move his feet as the leg straps touched him, I acknowledged his apprehension and idea about movement by simply going with him without adding pressure.  Worked like a charm.  When I was done, he licked his lips and set about frisking me for cookies.  Hysterical.

We’ve really made little progress on my list, probably still at step 1 and 2, but the tiny microsteps have allowed me to investigate other directions we might want to explore first,  For instance.  Bogie likes treats, when in a LB state of mind.  In fact, one of the ways I can tell he is LB, is that he is looking for treats from me.  But he always keeps me out in front of him in zone 1.  I realized this was a game he was pretty good at and it allows him to block my approach to the ‘catching areas’ in zone 2 and 3.  So I plotted a strategy to convince him that I am way more interesting in zone 2 or 3.  My initial approach into these zones would make him move away from me, sometimes in a RB over-reaction, but sometimes in a ‘you can’t catch me’ snotty manuveur.  I found that I could more easily back into that space, keeping my energy off Bogie.  Once I could do that, I started to only give treats from that spot near his shoulder.  Its good for him to bend around like that as well, as the trainer was concerned about his unwillingness to bend in the neck.  We’ve progressed right along with this game and I am now working on getting him to position me there by himself.  In the meantime, I can now stand in zone 2 or 3 and rub his withers, neck and even adjust his collar without losing him to the dark side.

Bogie and some typical NH spring weather...

New Format…

Some of you may have noticed the style and format of my blog has changed a few times this week.  I’ve been searching for the right theme.  Both appealing to the eye and functional.  I think I have settled on this one.  Check it out.  I’ve updated our home page and added a page that highlights what the farm is selling each week.  Feedback appreciated.