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What’s In It For Me?

October 3, 2014

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In one of my previous journal entries, I talked about the kind of leader I want to be.  (You can check it out here)  I know that to be an effective leader I need to continually grow my relationship with each of my ‘kiddos’.  Getting to know them on a deeper level will only help that to happen.

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During the summer months when it is hot and humid, our horses stay in the shade of the barn to avoid the scorching sun and the horrible flies.  That becomes the perfect time to get to know each of them better.  Just hanging out with them, watching how they handle different situations, sheds light on each of their personalities.  Let’s take Image for instance.  Image has gotten the bad rap of being called ‘lazy’.  He is not a very fast mover.  Unless, of course, Lady Gray is in an area that he does not want her in.  Then he will move at lightening speed to correct her.

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With Image, I need to make things a bit more interesting to grab his attention and to get him mentally engaged.  I will often play a game with him where I ‘stalk’ his hind quarters.  I don’t pay any attention to his face.  I am focused on his tushy.  I will become extremely intense with my body language and posture.  He becomes so curious that he snaps to attention and looks at me curiously.

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That is when I release my intensity, turn away from him and slowly walk away.  It usually does not take long for him to come walking to me.

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Did Image just come to me to say “Hi”, just because?  Ummmm, I highly doubt it.   Did I just engage Image in a mental game?  Did my actions intrigue him to a point where he wanted to see what other games I had up my sleeve?  Most likely.  He is looking for something that will benefit him.

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I also like to use a bit of reverse psychology.  That just drives his curiosity crazy!  How do I do this?  Well, one way is that I start to pay attention to one of our other horses (Ember mostly) while completely ignoring Image.

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This drives him crazy to think that he is missing out on something.  Sounds anthropomorphic, doesn’t it?  Well, perhaps it is a little.  But if you have animals that are your friends, I am sure you have seen some of these behaviors as well.  Soon Image will be coming over to check out what fun things we are doing.

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I always thank him for coming over to check in on us by scratching his itchy places.

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And then he and I will be able to play some games and I am ensured that he will be mentally engaged.

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Image is not lazy.  He just needs a pretty good reason to do anything!

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(If I were to try any of these tactics with Ember, she would have her tail swishing back and forth in irritation in a nano-second!  But that is a story for another day.)

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Where Do I Start?

September 26, 2014

First off, I must apologize for not keeping up with my Web Journal as I had intended.  As time quickly passed me by, I found myself once again, falling farther and farther behind.  That leads me to my current question:  Where do I start now? Pryors_7253_3 It looks like my last entry was back in January of this year.  How can it be that 9 months have already flown by?  Well, I need to just put those thoughts behind me since they are not getting me anywhere.  I will start out with a journey that I took in February that was a trip of a lifetime for me……… Pryors_7233_5 When Ginger Kathrens (Emmy award winning filmmaker of the Cloud series for PBS and more importantly my friend) asked me if I would like to accompany her on a trip to the Pryor Mountains last winter, I was quick to say “YES”. 3 I have always longed to experience this rugged wilderness in the winter.  But I know that finding wild horses during this time of the year can be very difficult and sometimes impossible.  I needed to mentally prepare myself for the possibility that I may not see a single wild horse while out in their Wyoming/Montana wilderness.  Was I ready for such a possibility?  Yep!  Bring it on! I was ready! Pryors_7289_2 Two words:  COLD and SNOW! Pryors_2014_15 The landscape was beyond my wildest imagination.  Sure, I have been there many times….. in the summer.  The landscape was familiar, yet completely different as snow blanketed the red rocks and sage.  The experience was absolutely incredible!  Ginger is well prepared for such an adventure, trailering a UTV out to the base of the Pryor Mountains and then driving up the winding rocky, snow-covered road in the UTV.  I will not go into all of the details of the journey, since Ginger has written an incredible summary of our trip that you can access here.  Instead I wanted to share our experience through photos and a couple of very shaky videos.  I was handholding my point and shoot camera (yes, I do have one of those!) to film the videos.  Have I mentioned that it was was COLD?  And that there was SNOW? The landscape was stunning with the snow crystals that were falling from the sky, covering everything in a beautiful white blanket.  Spotting for wild horses in this vast white covered landscape was like looking for a needle in a haystack.  We spent a great deal of time looking through our binoculars and spotting scopes, hoping to catch a glimpse of the wild horses that call this magical winter wonderland home. 26 The beauty surrounding us was quite breathtaking.  Even the smallest of details took on a beauty all on their own.  I am sure some of these small detail photos will work their way into some of my future Photo Fusions. Pryors_2014_16 Pryors_7162_7 As we glassed, I pondered how these wild horses could survive in such brutal conditions.  And I was reminded of the first winter that Image and Ember came to live with us after they had been removed from this very mountain wilderness.  They spent quite a bit of time playing in our snow covered pasture.  They would not have dared use that kind of energy on the mountain in the winter.  But they are smart.  They soon realized that they did not have to scrape and paw for every scrap of food they ate after they came to live with us.  I marveled at the awe of God’s creation.  How He had perfectly designed these creatures to live in this very rugged wilderness.  They had everything they needed for survival. Pryors_2014_1 As we ascended Burnt Timber Road, I was reminded of just how fragile this rugged mountain can be…… This is the Custer National Forest side of the Pryor Mountains. The fire took place in 2002, I believe. Pryors_2014_14 We spent 5 days looking for wild horses and photographing those that we found.  Some of them were at a great distance.  It was quite an incredible experience and one that I will not soon forget. Pryors_7121_9 Pryors_2014_13 Pryors_7131_8

Can you find Cloud in this photo?

Can you find Cloud in this photo?

Do you see the horses?

Do you see the horses?

Pryors_2014_5 Thank you Ginger for the opportunity of a lifetime!

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Time is flying faster……

January 2, 2014

…. than I can keep up with.

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I can not remember a time when I have been this busy.   During most of 2013 I found myself chasing after  time to try to catch up, only to find myself in a losing battle….

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There are a few things of 2013 that I would like to share, so I will be taking the next couple of weeks to cover a few of my personal highlights from the year.

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The winter of 2013 was a beautiful one, full of gorgeous snowy days.  Our herd of horses will often choose to stay out in the snow as long as it is not horribly cold.  (In keeping our horses in as natural of an environment as possible, they have 24/7 access to the 15+ acres of pasture with a free flowing creek that runs through it.  There are plenty of trees for shade in the summer and cover from the elements of winter.  One of our barns is also open at all times for the horses to come in as well.  They will typically come in to the barn in the heat of the day during the summer months.  The shade of the barn keeps them cooler and also keeps the biting flies away.)

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Ember has always loved the snow.  She has a playful spirit that can be quite contagious!

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Image and Lady Gray continued on with their interesting love/hate relationship.  They can not stand to be apart, yet sometimes that closeness is too much.

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Then one or both of them will protest that closeness.  If they were children, I could easily hear them saying “Mom! He looked at me!” or “Mom!  She touched me!”  But that would be anthropomorphic……

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Up to this point, Lady Gray held the number two position in ranking among our herd, with Abi holding firmly to her alpha position and Image coming in at number three.  Image continually badgered Lady Gray about her number 2 ranking.  Then one day in the Spring, they had one of their love/hate tiffs.  Only this time, Image was a little stronger and a little more determined.  All it took was Lady Gray taking one step back from Image for him to have gained that dominance of status over her in their small herd.  It was no small victory for Image, considering he had been working towards this moment for two years.  He continued to hold his status above her.  All was quiet as they went back to grazing next to one another…..

We did not see what led up to it, but in the fall of 2013,  Lady Gray was once again calling the shots with Image.  She lays her ears back and swings her head around towards him, even if he just looks at her!  Poor Image…..  What’s a guy to do in a herd with four mares?  He has been keeping his distance from her!

Even with Image and Lady Gray’s relationship still rocky and unsettled, it has been a thrill to see Image grow and blossom since he has been with us.  I love that he and Ember still love to run and play with each other.  Sometimes Image will be the one to start the running and playing.  Of course Ember does not need any encouragement to play!

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Ember and I continue to blossom in our relationship with one another.

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I have even been able to sneak in some undemanding time with Lady Gray.

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I am looking forward to what this new year brings as we all continue building our relationships.

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Until We Meet Again……

December 27, 2013

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Last week, my husband’s older mare Touchy died quietly in her sleep.  Terry had rescued her from an abusive situation over 30 years ago when she just four years old.  They spent many years together, soothing each others hurts, as only dear friends can do.

Don’t Cry for the Horses
By Brenda Riley-Seymore 

 Don’t cry for the horses
That life has set free
A million white horses
Forever to be

Don’t cry for the horses
Now in God’s hands
As they dance and they prance
To a heavenly band

They were ours as a gift
But never to keep
As they close their eyes
Forever to sleep

Their spirits unbound
On silver wings they fly
A million white horses
Against the blue sky

Look up into heaven
You’ll see them above
The horses we lost
The horses we loved

Manes and tails flowing
They Gallop through time
They were never yours
They were never mine

Don’t cry for the horses
They will be back someday
When our time has come
They will show us the way

On silver wings they will lift us
To the warmth of the sun
When our life is over
And eternity has begun

We will jump the sun
And dance over the moon
A Ballet of horses and riders
on the winds
to a heavenly tune

Do you hear that soft nicker
Close to your ear?
Don’t cry for the horses
Love the ones that are here

Don’t cry for the horses
Lift up your sad eyes
Can’t you see them
As they fly by?

A million white horses
Free from hunger and pain
Their spirits set free
Until we ride again

TerryTouchy2012

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In the Quiet of a Moment

January 8, 2013

I have longed for the day I would be writing this journal entry…..

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Our summer months were very hot and dry with very little relief from the sun that beat down relentlessly.  I found myself perspiring just standing still in the shade.  I knew if I was miserable, the horses probably were too.  It was the perfect opportunity to spend some quality time with them.

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If you have been following my journal entries, you will know that Ember and I have had a somewhat rocky relationship since we brought her home from her Montana wilderness.  Days filled with many ups and downs.  Some days it would seem like she was happy and content with me, while other days she really didn’t want anything to do with me.  I have to admit that it was hard not to take it all personally.  But I was looking through human eyes.  When in fact, I should have been looking at our relationship through Ember’s eyes……  It truly has nothing to do with whether Ember likes me or not!  It does, however, have everything to do with how safe and secure Ember feels when she is around me.  She had shown clear signs that she did not always view me as her leader.  (I really was not surprised since I have only just recently learned more about how to become an effective leader.)  Instead of getting all frustrated by the fact that I was not a good leader for her, I decided to find out how I can become a leader who will cause Ember to feel safe and secure.  I need to back up a bit.  At that point, our relationship was not bad.  As a matter of fact, some folks who have a similar relationship with their horses that I had at that time with Ember would be enough for them and they would be content.

But I wanted more…….

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As I continued to pursue Parelli’s Natural Horsemanship (PNH) way of interacting with horses, I learned that Ember’s Horsenality (the characteristics that make a horse a unique individual) is a Right Brain Extrovert/Introvert (RBE/I).  She is more extroverted in the winter and more introverted in the summer.  I am a Right Brain Introvert.  All of those times I have said that Ember is a mirror to my inner most being is really true!  She and I are very much alike in how we approach and handle the different situations we find ourselves in.

Here is a chart of what her characteristics looked like at the end of May, 2012.  We had just come off of winter, so her extroverted tendencies were pretty high.  (I will share what her chart looks like now in my next Journal Entry.  Yes, it has changed!  I will also share a little more about what this chart means.)

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It was time to really get to know this special girl.  We took advantage of the hot summer months to just get to know one another better.  As RBI’s, we both need a LOT of undemanding time to get to know new friends and form deeper bonds and relationships.  Up to this point, all I had been doing with Ember was asking, asking, asking…..  (Oh, if only I could go back and do some things over again.   But since I can’t, I will learn from past experiences and move forward)

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working on Embers itchy areas

Our undemanding time spent together consisted of just hanging out.  Sometimes I would touch her, sometimes not.  It was very important for her to know that I was not asking anything of her.  Sometimes I would just lay my arm across her back.  If she started to walk off, I stayed with her, with my arm still on her back, asking nothing.  Just being in her presence.

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While spending this precious time together, I had many opportunities to show Ember that I would do all that I could to protect her and the space surrounding her.  Image was not very happy when I spent this kind of time with Ember.  He had a tendency to come to Ember’s side that was opposite from me and try to nip her back legs to get her to move away so he could have me all to himself…..  As flattering as it was that Image wanted me all to himself, I did not allow that to happen.  I stayed true to what my purpose was: spending this quality time with my girl.  It became very important for Ember to see me defending her space.  As the summer days wore on, I could start to see Ember coming a little closer, staying a little longer.  She and I were starting to connect on a level that truly warms my heart.

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As the temperatures started to cool down, we started to play our games again.  I could see a different Ember facing me.  And I am pretty sure she started to see a leader facing her as well.  I could see her asking questions, really wanting to try to do as I was asking.  As an RBI, Ember needs a solid leader.  She doesn’t want to be the leader, but needs someone she can trust and rely on.

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In the quiet of a moment, Ember and I bonded in a way I had only dreamed about.  I had never thought it was possible to connect with this sweet girl in the way that we did over the summer months.

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But our story does not end there.  It is just the beginning of an amazing partnership to come…..

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Leading the Herd…

September 26, 2012

It has been some time since I have made a post about Image and Ember, two Pryor Mountain mustangs that now reside in our pastures and deep within my heart.  They share grazing ground with my husbands horses: another mustang, Abi (12 yr old, HMA in Nevada), Touchy (32 yr old  QH Mix) and Lady Gray (10 yr old rescue OTTB).

Ember, Image and Abi – our mustangs

In my ongoing quest to learn natural horsemanship, I am having many ‘aha’ moments along the way.  As I have said in an earlier post: it’s not just about loving my horses, I have to know their language in order to be a good and effective leader.  I have come to realize just how important the role of leadership is.  In light of that, I wanted to focus my attention on my husbands mustang Abi….

Abi and I as we journey down this road together

Within our herd of 5 horses, Abi is the leader, known as the alpha mare.  She pretty much calls the shots within the 5 of them on a daily basis.  She lets each of them know if they ever step out of line.  She is actually a very good leader.  I have watched her many times to see how she handles different situations.  And I am proud of her for stepping up to become the leader when we made the agonizing decision to end the suffering of Shy Ann, our herd alpha mare at the time.  Shy Ann was always a very nervous alpha mare.  She seemed to rule the herd with an ‘iron hoof’ so to speak.  Looking back, I can honestly say she was not a very good leader.  She kept all of the other horses on their toes and did not give them any time to truly relax and have fun and well…. just be horses.  She was somewhat of a dictator.  I was a bit afraid that Abi would  pick up on those traits of Shy Ann’s and become a stern and unforgiving leader herself.

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I have been pleasantly surprised at how well Abi has stepped up into her position as lead mare.  She shows confidence, strength, compassion and fairness.  I have watched her hang back with Touchy, our older mare, to walk with her to go out at feeding time, rather than race ahead with all of the youngsters.  She will put herself in between Lady Gray and Image when they start to feel the ‘hate’ portion of their love/hate relationship.  She will also initiate a mutual grooming session with Ember, who shares the bottom of the totem pole with Touchy.

Image, Abi and Ember

Image questions Abi’s authority quite often.  Abi will gently put him in his place with the lightest amount of pressure necessary.  She starts with her ears back.  If Image doesn’t respond to that cue, she may swing her head toward Image and start to bare her teeth.  If Image is still not responding appropriately, Abi will then advance toward Image and nip him just a little bit.  Abi understands that she does not need to immediately nip Image.  She gives him plenty of opportunities to make the right decision before her teeth make contact.   Abi needs her actions to be effective so that she is understood….

Playing with Abi

After looking into different horsemanship styles, I have come to really have a deep respect for Pat Parelli and his Parelli Natural Horsemanship program (PNH).  PNH puts the relationship between human and horse first.  His program is based on the natural behavior of horses.

Ember, with Image behind her

“Based on respect for and love of horses – and understanding horse nature and psychology – the Parelli program enables anyone at any level to have fun with horses and achieve amazing results…naturally. Parelli horse training avoids using force, fear, harsh bits or mechanical training aids in favor of love, language and leadership or, said another way: relationship, communication and trustworthiness.” – PNH

YES!  That is exactly what I want:  a relationship with my horses built on mutual trust.

Hugging my “little sugar cookie” Image

It was not until I attended a clinic of Parelli Professional Jesse Peters, that I realized that my language skills needed a lot of help.  I realized that I was not communicating with our horses in an effective way.  By communicating, I am referring to body language.  “Everything means something and nothing means nothing” – Pat Parelli 

Jesse Peters demonstrating proper technique at a PNH clinic

In other words, every movement I make means something to my horses.  It is up to me to know their language and understand it.  My horses already know it…..

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I am not a natural leader.  So I had to step out of my own comfort zone to communicate in an effective way for Abi to look to me for leadership.  By using the techniques that PNH teaches, I have finally found a new confidence with our horses.  Once Abi saw that I was speaking her language, she came to accept me as her leader.  I am very happy to say that with just one small little movement from me, Abi will now willingly back up.  In the past, she would run into me or over me as she was exuding her alpha status over me!  I want to be the kind of leader that our horses will willingly and happily follow.  With the Parelli program, I am finally learning how to be the kind of leader my horses can trust and look up to.

Abi and I sharing a Friendly moment

I have just barely scratched the surface of natural horsemanship.  I hope to continue learning and deepening my relationship with each one of our horses.  I know this will be a life long journey.  I am loving what I am learning along each step of the way.

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Who I Want to Be – a poem by Emily Gruber

August 15, 2012

I know it’s been a while since I have written a journal entry.  I am in the middle of writing a new one that I hope to have online by this weekend.

In the meantime, I wanted to share a poem with you written by my niece Emily.  Here is her biography so you can get to know her before reading her poem:

Emily Gruber is a sophomore at Grace College. She lives on her parent’s alpaca farm in northern Indiana. Emily’s favorite animals are kittens and chickens. She enjoys living in the country and living for Jesus. Emily likes to read Christian fiction and to write for fun. She sat down at her desk last year at college and wrote down what was on her mind. The words that came on the pages were not meant for anyone to see. That changed when Emily had to write a poem for her creative writing class and decided to turn in the poem she had written for herself. Emily realized that when something comes from the heart, then that is truly the best a person can give.

Who I Want to Be

By Emily Gruber

Out West is where I’ve always wanted to be,

But you see, that isn’t for me,

Because I’m a city girl, that’s why,

Born and raised with skyscrapers and

Streetlights all around,

Instead of gazing up at all the stars in the sky,

As if I lived in the country.

But you see I’m not a western girl because

I own a cowboy hat, and cowboy boots,

And a cowboy buckle, and these things

Are fake and pretend and not real,

Because I don’t call them what they really are.

If I were a real cowgirl, I’d call them

What they really are, like

A western hat, and western boots,

And a western belt buckle while riding my

Mustang, roping calves and other things

In the Wild West,

With my hair streaming out behind my head,

And my hands calloused from work

Gripping that rope in my hands as

I take down that calf.

But I’m not a western girl, wearing

A western shirt tucked into

Faded blue jeans,

That’s not who I really am.

I’m a city slicker with my hair

Straightened down my back

And my hands smelling of

Nice vanilla lotion

Gripping that saddle horn

With both hands

Because I’m afraid I’m going to fall off

 The small pony at the city zoo.

Emily and Touchy

©Emily Gruber  (Please respect all copyright laws.  Reproduction of this poem is strictly prohibited without written permission from Emily Gruber)

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