h1

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.

Abi

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…..

working on Embers itchy areas

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.

Image

Advertisements

14 comments

  1. Love hearing about your progress with the kids – and seeing the pictures, too! You always leave me wanting to hear more.


  2. I aways enjoy your posts. Thanks for keeping us up tp date on the horses. Ember is just beautiful, and Image is the image of Cloud.
    Your other horses look great, also.

    Thanks again and God Bless


    • Thank You Karen. Yes, Ember is stunning. She continues to grow more beautiful every day. And Yes, Image is truly the image of Cloud, in looks and actions! He is just so much fun.


  3. Beautifully said, Deb! You should send this into Parelli for them to share with the world because it is a wonderful story of discovery and I think it is exactly the message Parelli would want to share about their program. It’s clear you have come a long way and already have a mature understanding. With time, and by putting principles to purpose you are on your way to be a phenomenal horsewomen! 😀


    • Thank you Melissa. Yes, I have truly come a long way in my journey. It’s a journey that I am cherishing every moment of. Even the “isn’t that interesting” moments.


  4. I enjoyed this. McCoskey


  5. DEAR DEB,

    THANKS FOR SENDING YOUR LATEST JOURNAL ENTRY ABOUT THE HORSES. YOUR
    PHOTOGRAPHY IS EXQUISITE. I FEEL I AM IN THEIR PRESENCE WHEN I VIEW YOUR
    WORK.

    YOU ARE TO BE COMMENDED ABOUT THE TIME YOU WILLINGLY GIVE WITH LOVE FOR
    YOUR HORSES. NATURAL
    HORSEMANSHIP TRAINING SEEMS TO BE AN EXCELLENT APPROACH.

    BEST WISHES WITH EVERYTHING.

    CINDY, NJ


    • Thank you for your kind words Cindy. The parallels between the natural behavior of horses and the Parelli Natural Horsemanship program are truly remarkable! I can’t even begin to tell you how much I am not only learning about our horses, but about myself as well.


      • DEAR DEB,

        IT MUST BE AMAZING TO WORK WITH THE NATURAL BEHAVIOR TRAINING FOR YOUR HORSES. WHEN TIME ALLOWS, PLEASE KEEP US POSTED AND TELL US MORE OF YOUR EXPERIENCES, AND SEND US NEW PHOTOS OF YOUR HORSES. YOUR POSTINGS AND PHOTOGRAPHY ARE A JOY TO RECEIVE, READ AND VIEW. THANKS.

        GOD’S CONTINUED BLESSINGS TO YOU AND ALL OF YOUR WORK.

        CINDY


  6. Thanks Deb,
    I enjoyed this latest journal. I too am studying PNH. i don’t own a horse but I try to do the best when I get around them. Helps me in my everyday life too. Karen


  7. Image is so handsome in his newest portrait photo!
    His horsenality is so “real”. You are a good photographer, really good. Abi is big and powerful and she knows it, doesn’t she. I can see the respect in her eyes. Good for you.
    And Ember is blossoming. There are rounded muscles, not tense ones. They are all great examples of the best of our colonial spanish horses. But I have to favor Image. He is so much like my Casper Little Man. They have the star pattern. And I noticed that Image has a stipe too. .. very unique.


  8. YOU GO lead mare !!! 😉



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: