Learning to deal with the horse we have today

While I have been in my lessons with horses, I have been learning so much about how we should even allow the horse to accept us as a trainer.

Working with Cheyenne is fun, but a definite learning experience. (Photo By Randy Kroll)

Working with Cheyenne is fun, but a definite learning experience. (Photo By Randy Kroll)

I was working with Cheyenne yesterday, we were in the small indoor arena and I had to go somewhere quickly so I allow her to walk around.  When I came back, she was looking out of the half door outside to the back where all the other horses were.  She glanced back at me, but then turned her head back lazily to watch life outside the window.  I simply gave her the cue, glaring at her hind legs, then lifting the carrot stick.  This tells the horse to turn and face me.  Cheyenne simply turned around and nonchalantly ambled in my direction.

To reward her for this, I turn sideways and look away from her to take the pressure off of her.  I remembered what I was taught just recently by my instructor, that before we work with horses we need to get their permission and allow them to let us know if they accept us as trainers.  So I raised my hand, palm down, up to the side then waited to see if she would touch my hand.  It took her about 3 minutes before she actually touched my hand and accepted my leadership.

I am finding horse training in the natural horse method to be a much better form.  We are not looking to train our horses to work because they have to, but more because they want our companionship.  That is why we learn to deal with the horse we have today.  I have said this many times to my instructor, “but my horse did it so well yesterday, I don’t understand why she is not performing that way today.”  The answer is that we have to deal with the horse they are today.  Your horse could be bold and brave one day and flighty the next.  I have definitely seen this in my horses.  So we work with the emotion they have that day.  If we have a flighty horse and we wanted to work on trail riding but our horse is having a hard time accepting the horse trailer,  we should take our time and help her get over her fear of the horse trailer and maybe we won’t be able to ride on the trail today.  But instead we should think about it in a way that we helped our friend deal with their own anxieties.  Eventually, this horse will do anything for you because they trust you with their life.  This is because we allow them to tell us how they are feeling from day to day.  We need to go as if we are going to work with our horses in areas where they need help in.  Don’t be so much of a direct line thinker and listen to our horses, they will let you know where your focus should be.

I have been without a computer for months now, I am not sure exactly how many months but I missed writing about what I have been up to with my horses and all their tricks and natural horsemanship.  We were able to finally get our computer fixed by my nephew, and now we have a computer again.  I am so excited to be writing blogs again!

Meanwhile, without a computer, I kept working on my horses and minis.  I have had birthday parties where I would take the horses or minis and have them go through all their tricks and then we would give pony rides or rides on the horses.  I have had quite a few this year thanks to being on gigsalad.com where I could put my information up and get clients who want pony parties and then I would usually sell myself even more by letting them know that my horses or minis can do tricks as well as just being a riding pony.  Sometimes they wanted that, sometimes they would find someone else they wanted that they thought was cheaper.  I know one thing for sure — in order to sell myself, my price has to be the same as a regular pony party because people don’t understand how much fun it is to watch horses or minis do lots of spectacular tricks.  But I have had no complaints but usually a lot of compliments as well as some nice financial tips.

Yes, it is nice to be able to type all this out for you to see what is happening with my horses and me and hopefully help you in somehow learning what I have been learning, and I’m still learning from the horses.  There is a lot more that I need to know about horses.  I really don’t think we ever stop learning.

My horses’ works of art: Where does the ‘Fantasy’ come from?

With all that I do in training my horses — when it comes to regular riding, or doing tricks, or painting pictures — I sometimes find myself amazed.  Where does this bond with these animals and our unique ability to communicate come from?

I have a thought on this, and some people might not agree on this but then others might agree with me.

I was raised in a Christian home, and I’ve believed in a Supreme Being my entire life.  At times, I’ve had thoughts that maybe I shouldn’t be doing what I’m doing with my horses, that any money I spend towards their care, feeding and boarding should be put toward other things my family needs.  The thoughts come when times are really tight financially.  But then my husband will talk it through with me, remind me how unhappy I’d be without them, and encourage me to continue using my God-given abilities.

Gypsy just has to get that last stroke in with the brush. (Photos by Randy Kroll)

Gypsy just has to get that last stroke in with the brush. (Photos by Randy Kroll)

Part of what I do with my horses when I perform with them in front of an audience is meant to show that special relationship between humans and horses that I believe was designed by God.  We can communicate with each other in a special way, if we want to take the time to learn how.  I believe that’s what God wants me to do, to show that special relationship, communication, and caring for His creatures.

The last painting I’m featuring this week is particularly an example of that.

This is a painting that was one of the first ever done by Cheyenne, and I call this “Cheyenne’s Fantasy”  because it looks like it is any horse’s dream to live where there is happiness.  Trees, water, green grass, and the hidden part of this painting is a companion.

If you examine it closely, you can see a horse head hidden in the middle of this painting, facing toward the right.  To be completely honest, I had no idea there was a horse head in this painting until another art instructor showed me the horse head, which was utterly surprising to me.  Even along the top of the painting there is a red etching of a horse form that I noticed that is another reminder that horses love the companionship of other horses.

Cheyenne shows her painting skills.

Cheyenne shows her painting skills.

As an artist myself, it was a dream of mine to teach my horses to paint especially after seeing Metro the painting ex-racehorse.  So as there is no book on instructing how to teach a horse to paint, I had to try to devise a plan myself.  It took about 8 months to get Cheyenne to take the dripping brush, full of paint, from my hand and put some marks on the board.  However, it took the use of another horse to truly motivate Cheyenne to paint.  Gypsy is my other horse and she watched Cheyenne and me from the sidelines teaching Cheyenne to paint.  In her own way Gypsy let me know that she wanted to paint as well.  I have written a book to tell the story the way I saw it unfold in front of me.  I love this story of my two horses that played out so beautifully, letting us all know that horses as well as other animals can learn things from each other if they want to.

Gypsy has taught Cheyenne to be a better artist herself by observation and how much I praised her. This caused Cheyenne to try her best at it and become a better artist herself.

I would love to share this story with whoever would love to read it and let others know how much horses and other critters can reason and understand things.  It is a story that is unique all its own.  Please share and encourage others to share as well.

Please feel free to comment.

http://www.amymillerhorsinaround.com/#!httpswwwetsycomshopbarnyardpicasso/ch8a/en/product/id/193619120

Cheyenne's Fantasy

My horses’ works of art: Gypsy’s ‘Iris Dream’

Here is another painting done by Gypsy.  This one makes me think of pretty pastel colors, and I like to call it “Iris Dream”  This one is a smaller painting and I am willing to mark it for less.

Gypsy loves to paint because she naturally tosses her head up and down like a normal Arabian mare.  She is a very hyper horse, and it shows in her paintings.  I have to either tie a rope on the brush or keep bending over and retrieving the brush from the dust.

Thank you for reading about my horses’ paintings this week.  There’s still another day to come.

http://www.amymillerhorsinaround.com/#!httpswwwetsycomshopbarnyardpicasso/ch8a

http://www.amymillerhorsinaround.com/#!httpswwwetsycomshopbarnyardpicasso/ch8a/en/product/id/230526586

Iris Dream Gypsy

My horses’ works of art: Cheyenne’s ‘Flower Garden’

Here is a painting that Cheyenne did that resembles a beautiful flower garden.  Flower gardens can provide a way to help people relax.  However, gardens are also ways that horses can trample and eat some unique tasting foods.  There are flowers that are harmful to horses, but this is a little humor of horses trampling and eating from people’s gardens,  Horses love it, but people … well, not so fun.

When I was a kid growing up on a farm, we had a very big garden and sometimes the horses would get out and get into the garden.  I do remember my dad putting an electric fence around it.  Horses learned in a speedy way to respect the electric fence.  Kids who dared to touch it learned not to touch it again either.  Even I touched it just to see what would happen if I did.  You can imagine that I didn’t touch it that often.

But getting back to this painting, “Flower Garden” — flower gardens are great for people who have a green thumb.  This painting is a 16×20, and the cost is $50 plus shipping.  You could buy it off of my Etsy account at http://www.amymillerhorsinaround.com/#!httpswwwetsycomshopbarnyardpicasso/ch8a

http://www.amymillerhorsinaround.com/#!httpswwwetsycomshopbarnyardpicasso/ch8a/en/product/id/193616296

I love hearing from readers and getting to see your point of view.

Thanks!

Flower Garden Cheyenne

 

My horses’ works of art: Cheyenne’s ‘Flaming Hope’

“Flaming Hope” is a painting that Cheyenne did when it was close to the Christmas season one year.  It has Christmas colors in it with varying greens and reds.  It is a nice size, 16×20.  It would look very good in a black frame to bring out the abstract colors.

The variations of the reds and greens brings out the contrasts of the two complementary colors, which is really a comfort to look at.  However, I love to be reminded of the red and green colors out in nature while hiking along mountain trails.  The Christmas colors remind us of two wonderful colors complementing each other.  Here is another way to think about it:  Christmas also represents the birth of a savior coming here as a babe to save all humanity.  So this painting can mean there is a flaming hope for humanity for the people here on Earth.

“Flaming Hope” is priced at $50 plus shipping.  You may purchase it from my Etsy account and that might help me build up more recognition on Etsy.

http://www.amymillerhorsinaround.com/#!httpswwwetsycomshopbarnyardpicasso/ch8a

http://www.amymillerhorsinaround.com/#!httpswwwetsycomshopbarnyardpicasso/ch8a/en/product/id/193613255

Thank you!

Flaming Hope Cheyenne

My horses’ works of art: Gypsy’s ‘Citrus Fruit’

Over the Christmas season, I sold about four of the paintings done by my horses.  I am very excited about the possibility of the paintings starting to get recognition.

The story of my two horse artists is unique in the fact that while one of them (Cheyenne) was learning, the other (Gypsy) wanted to try it so badly that she taught herself by watching Cheyenne while she was learning.  But I have not seen another trick that I have taught Cheyenne that Gypsy  wanted to learn as much as painting.

This week, I’ll be talking a bit in the blog about some of my horses’ paintings.

The painting I’m featuring today is called “Citrus Fruit.”  Gypsy painted this one.  I would ask other people that I know to tell me what this painting reminded them of.  A lot of comments came back about this painting resembling citrus fruit, so that is how this title came to be.  Since I am an artist myself, I wanted to use colors that will blend when the horses start sweeping new paint over as well as blending through other colors.  I had Gypsy sweep a lot of colors up on the canvas, then I encouraged a lot of brushing with a wet brush up and down the board to get the really wet, dripping effect.  My horses paint these themselves, while my job is simply to put the colors on their brushes for them.

I have found this painting to be a popular one, but it has not sold yet.  So this painting is priced at $50 plus shipping.  Along with this painting comes a beautiful 8×10 of the artist painting so there is proof of the horse painting it.

Here is a view of my Etsy account, continually being updated with new pieces.  http://www.amymillerhorsinaround.com/#!httpswwwetsycomshopbarnyardpicasso/ch8a

And here is a link to the piece featured today.  http://www.amymillerhorsinaround.com/#!httpswwwetsycomshopbarnyardpicasso/ch8a/en/product/id/193609399

Thanks for looking!

Citris Fruit Gypsy

My book about horses painting makes a great Christmas gift

I have been away for a while because we moved from our home of nearly 20 years into an apartment, and that took a lot of my time.  That’s another story.  But since it is now time for Christmas, I have a book that could make a great Christmas present.

book coverIt has a story line that I have experienced with my horses that I think kids — and even adults who are horse enthusiasts — would love.  It is about the time when I was so diligently teaching my one horse Cheyenne to paint.  However, off to the side was my older mare Gypsy, every day, watching this project going on involving teaching Cheyenne to hold the brush and to be able to sweep her head in different directions with the brush.  So all the time this was going on, Gypsy watched.  Finally, I got a glimpse of Gypsy starting to fuss in a way that brought me to the conclusion that maybe she wanted to paint.  Can horses learn from each other to do something?

This book is a look into that very question of how one horse inspired another horse to paint and how the senior mare ended up being a faster artist and seemed to enjoy her work more than the first artist.  But the story doesn’t end there.  There are beautiful photos of the horses (taken by my friend Randy Kroll) and I doing art and training together, and it’s beautifully designed by my talented friend Tina Crawford.  It is a story that children and adults can enjoy together, a look into my day in the life of a horse trainer/trick trainer.  I am told by people who already have bought the book that it causes them to feel as if they personally know my horses and me.

One review from Amy Hagedorn in Arizona said, “I recently purchased ‘Teach Me To Paint: A Story of How One Horse Inspired Another Horse to Learn to Pain'” by Amy Miller as a gift.  I am very glad I did!  The book is delightful and inspiring.  Amy has captured the horses’ personality so well through her words and photos you feel so connected to Gypsy and Cheyenne. What a great book for any child in your life.”

I strongly feel that children of all ages will really enjoy this beautiful, well-designed picture book of horses enjoying creating art.

Please contact me here or email me at amykmiller3@msn.com if you’d like a copy.

These girls won’t be taking any bull from a fake bull

In one of my recent horse lessons, I was working more on the use of the “friendly game.”  That is desensitizing horses to their surroundings to make things less spooky to them.  Horses are prey animals, and any wrong move or slacking off with their safety can mean death in the wild, so domestic horses are born with this too.

As a result, we as humans need to work hard to get horses to trust us as the alpha.  You have to train your horse to trust you in everything you do.  In other words, do things with your horse such as walking down a road and introducing your horse to many new things.

bullMy instructor, Jolene, has a large, life-sized plastic or metal bull on her property.  It is a nice item to use with horses needing to become less fearful of lifelike animals.  I had Cheyenne approach it.  It was a fearful thing for her.  She was wondering, what was that creature and was he planning to eat her up?  We would have her approach and retreat while I was holding on to the end of a 12-foot line for my safety, while she navigated through this thought process.  I would ask her to approach it by looking directly at it and pointing a finger while asking her with the carrot stick to approach it.  I have to remember to reward the slightest try from her.  She looked at it and perhaps blew through her nose at it.  That was a slight try, so I rewarded her for that by relaxing the pressure and then backing her to release the pressure even more.

We work with this rear side of the bull for a while on the approach-and-retreat method to get Cheyenne to eventually approach it.  She did eventually touch it with her nose and in a relaxed way.  We went around to the front of the bull for Cheyenne to do the same thing.  I sometimes love watching Jolene show me how to work through it because I am a very visual person.  She gets this conversation going with the horse.  She points to the object and asks the horse by urging her to move forward by applying a little pressure with the carrot stick. There are many ways a horse answers — they could ignore your cues so then we up the ante to encourage her to move, she could change the subject by looking and touching somewhere else, or she could move in the direction of what we are asking.  If she even so much as glances or takes a slight step with her hoof in the correct direction, all pressure stops.  We reward her and then we could either back her up or ask her again to approach the object but try to get more of a try from her.

At this time, she is starting to get what we are asking for so she starts to move closer or perhaps she is afraid and can refuse.  We keep insisting on her moving toward the object, and when there is a move forward towards it, we see a lick and chewing motion from her, or a deep blow out of her nose. These are signs that she is relaxing.  We reward her for these signs.   The funny thing is that sometimes before the horse decides to give us what we want, she might get a little ugly in her actions, like a huge protest to intimidate, but if we remain calm and assertive she eventually does what we want.  There are times when it might be too overwhelming to approach, so we might work on the approach for a couple days, ending on a good note.  This was not the case here. Cheyenne ended up touching the nose of the bull twice, but not without letting the bull know that she was the alpha mare, pinning her ears and gritting her teeth as she touches the bull.  She was just being a bully to the bull, what a laugh.

The following week I wanted to do the same thing to Gypsy and see how she does with this same bull.  She reacted a little differently than Cheyenne, but the bull was scary to her as well.  She approached it from behind in not too terribly much time.  Now we were going to approach the front of this object.  Gypsy was a little uneasy about it but I asked Jolene to demonstrate how to do it.  She did demonstrate and what I saw was amazing.  She asked Gypsy to look at it by first pointing and looking directly at the bull.  Then she spun the carrot stick for a reaction from Gypsy.  Gypsy’s reaction was a glance in the correct direction, she didn’t look at the bull but over it, then she looked at Jolene with her ears up and both eyes on Jo as if to ask, “was that okay?”  That was acceptable to Jolene, so she rewarded her by putting the carrot stick on her side and rubbing it around her neck and verbally telling her she was a good girl.  Jolene asked her again to approach the bull and again Gypsy give her the same reaction except more intently and then looked back at her the same way.  Jolene gave her the same reward because Gypsy had responded with more intention.  This back and forth thing went on for a few more attempts to where Gypsy just got her nose closer to the bull but just couldn’t bring herself to touch it but made that gesture of ” I will give you this much more but I just can’t bear any more,” then she dropped her head to eat a few blades of grass.  Eating the grass was changing the subject which is not encouraged, but since she so sweetly made a bigger attempt to touch the bull Jolene accepted and allowed it.  It was exciting to see that Jolene was having a conversation with Gypsy.  It was an incredible thing to see Jolene ask Gypsy to do a task, then have Gypsy attempt what she thinks to be the task that Jolene is asking her to do.  Then she looks at Jolene to see if she got it right.  This again kept going until Gypsy finally, in a relaxed way, touched the nose of the bull.  Job well done, Gypsy! I was proud of my pretty Arabian mare.  She did it.

Cheyenne then came out for the try the week after.  It didn’t take as long as the week before.  She was using more of her thinking side of her mind to work through things.  However, there were a few times Cheyenne was just adamant to not touch the bull where we wanted her to.  She did touch a horn as a reconciliation to not touching the nose.  Cheyenne, being so intelligent, would do this quite a bit to let me know, “I feel like it is too hard to touch the nose but will this be acceptable?”  We did accept but still kept asking for her to touch the nose.  She did it twice while she was again gritting her teeth.  We asked her to do it one more time and she did but she bared her teeth one more time but even more aggressively toward the bull.  We accepted and laughed at her strong alpha position.  She is a great horse and she was able to share it with us this way.

It was exciting to see Jolene work with my two horses and to watch the conversation going on.  It was unbelievable to watch the trainer and the horse conversing between each other on what needed to happen.  What a great lesson.

Animal abuse: When are we crossing the line? (Part 2)

When I see people dealing with horses, I wonder if some individuals buy horses and don’t know how to really train or work with horses.  It is sad when I see people who don’t know much and think that they have to beat the horse into shape or abuse it in some way to prove they are the boss.  I hate this kind of thinking.

Sliding_Stop_FlachsbergIf I see someone who doesn’t have quiet hands and they have put a harsh bit on the horse, I think that is abusive simply because they have a bit on that is too harsh and they, the rider, does not know the correct way to use that bit.  The horse then has his mouth gaping wide open, wishing they could get away from the pain.  A large curb bit with a strap under their chin causes the large curb to go into the horse’s mouth and the chin strap pinches the mouth shut, which makes it even more painful since they can’t escape the pain.  I am not saying that no one should use them, but these riders should have very soft hands.  My father has soft hands, so he could use this bit and not hurt the horse.

I also have a pet peeve when people give their horse different signals and expect the horse to guess the correct response.  Such as asking the horse to gallop while holding back on the reins.  This kind of riding is giving mixed signals.  I think this kind of riding is abusive because our horses are not mind readers but people get mad and punish the horse for something the horse can’t help.

Another thing I don’t like is when people signal a horse to do something and then they keep giving the signal even after the horse is responding to the cue.  That to me is called “nagging,” when the horse is doing exactly what you want but you keep giving the signal.  When you give the signal to turn, by direct reining a turn, if the horse starts turning, I stop the pressure.  When the horse stops I give the signal again but stop the signal once the horse starts turning.  Even with the smallest motion towards the correct move, I stop the signal and the horse gets it.  I see the response a whole lot faster.  I remember my dressage teacher, Eric Herbermann, who was a master’s degree in dressage riding, would get after me for “nagging” the horse so much.  He would say to stop giving the aid the minute the horse starts responding to the aid.

horse signalI also hate it when riders use aids that are too much aid or signal to the horse when it could have been softer, too harsh of a bit in inexperienced hands, or too large spurs being used harshly by, again, inexperienced riders, where people also use whips in excessive and abusive ways other than use as an aid or and extension of their arms.  You get where I am going here.

I also need to point this out too — I get tired of seeing people get too emotional while training.  If you get angry at the horse for things the horse cannot help then, please, don’t take it out on the horse.  If you are not emotionally stable at that moment, maybe you should put the horse away until you can think more clearly about the situation.  But this is how we need to handle all kinds of situations in life.  Get away from the problem until you can think more clearly, get some help if needed for handling the problem from a professional.  It makes it so much easier when you can solve the problem in a less evasive and more sensible way.  You and the horse will be so much happier.

When I ask my instructor how to handle a certain situation, I get an “ah-ha” moment when I find out it is easier than I thought.  Sometimes it might take more work from you and your horse.  Horse training does not just come without time invested into working with your horse.  All relationships — good relationships — take time.

However, as new students we will make mistakes while learning, but when we are trying to obtain more knowledge and experience under an instructor who knows what they are doing, then our knowledge will grow and we will make fewer mistakes as we practice more on our horses.  But that is part of growing.  I have made probably all the errors I am talking about above, but my most obvious one right now is that I would make the mistake of too much aid, or mixed signals.  Now that I am aware of those errors, I can work on fixing it under my instructor who can see it while it happens.

If you have some experiences that you would like to speak about, please feel free to talk with me.

Getting the girls acquainted with new surroundings

I went to a lesson today with Cheyenne, since I have missed taking my horse to lessons for the past month after moving to a new stable.  There are areas that I need to work on with Cheyenne and one of them is her fear of new things.

Don’t get me wrong about Cheyenne, she is a very good horse and is very brave.  She is still a prey animal and needs that instinct to keep her alive.  I am, as a human partner, trying to win her loyalty over to being more trusting of my instincts toward her safety, as well as her confidence and courage to look at things at a new level with me as her trusty alpha.  If I give her a need to stay courageous with me then we will be courageous and trusting of each other.  However, if there is a time to run, I will let her know.

Cheyenne (Photo by Randy Kroll)

Cheyenne (Photo by Randy Kroll)

Well, this is one area that I would love to get through with her.  But since my instructor tells me that I did really well getting a mini to start to trust me, then I can do the same with Cheyenne, who loves to be with me even more than the minis.  I am working really hard to get the minis to trust me as well as enjoy being with me.

So here we are with Cheyenne at the scary doorway of an indoor arena, where she can look out and see sheep, goats, and small cattle.  That’s downright scary to a horse who has not seen much of these creatures.  What my instructor and I were doing today was allowing her to look out the door and when she lowered her head, lick and chew, or any positive movement in a relaxing manner, we would then ask her to back up, then have her approach again and usually they approach a little closer.

In her approach the second time, she would move up a horse length closer than the last time.  That was a huge step for horses in gaining their trust.  She would then look at what was going on and check it out.  We would stand a rope length away, allowing her to look on her own timeline.  When she would show that she was ready to go to a new level she would do as I described above, head drop, softening in the eye, rub her leg with her head, etc.

One big thing that shows that she is really over the scary object or scene is when she decides to leave on her own and look at me with ears up and two eyes squarely on me as if to say, “Okay, what now?”  So then I would praise her up and down and give her a treat and move on to new things to see.

One of the things that I have to remember is that I have to stand at a distance from her so that she doesn’t trample me or boss me around to the point where I can get hurt.  It is about safety for horse and handler as well as a well-established relationship with the horse first.

One thing we worked on is having her see a big plastic steer in a realistic size.  This item always frightens horses, I am told.  At first it really made Cheyenne nervous.  But it is interesting to see how far she gets with the approach and retreat exercise on this full-sized plastic steer.  We at first had her approach and retreat at the rear and then after that toward the face of the fake steer.  Cheyenne wanted to make it hard by doing things other than what I was asking her to do.  In this phase, it can get ugly because a horse can refuse to do what we ask but if we keep asking then they eventually get the job done.  She did go on to touch the nose three times.  There was one time she pinned her ears and tried to dominate the object.  Interesting, but not too surprising since she is an alpha.

So now my job with Cheyenne — and Gypsy could benefit too — is to get them out and seeing things and getting acquainted with new surroundings with me.  I love to have this kind of a relationship with both my horses.  I will keep you informed about what I am learning.