Monday, February 18, 2013

Maya and Kyra have settled in with the herd and I can spend so much time watching the dynamics. It's just fascinating to me. Watching Kyra get more comfortable with the big horses has been a joy. She initiated play with Morado which he thought would be fun and reciprocated.  Then she got frightened and had to run to the other side of Maya!

Over the past few days I've seen some of the horses want to groom her on her back and she's not so comfortable with that yet. To my surprise she turned around and pinned her ears at Morado as to say, "keep your distance" and he moved away.  Ringo can't keep his nose off of her and she allows him to sniff her. While I was watching this he proceeded to grab a few hairs of her tail and play with it. She stood there and allowed it until he got bored with her. Who knows what they do when I'm not there though. They probably run around and play and have a party. I need a pony cam to see who pulls the blankets off the rack, rearranges the brush boxes and halters that are in the arena. 

One of the most interesting parts of the dynamics is what Adelantado is doing. He drives Maya and Kyra around alot. Not chasing, not even very fast, just slow, consistent pressure.  He moves them into the arena, out of the arena, around the manure pile, through the gate, to the round bale, back through the gate, back to the arena and on and on. Then he was cutting Kyra away from Maya and Kyra kept going back to the other side of her mommy.  He was trying to get in between the two of them but she's so little and just scoots around behind Maya. He must not have been too serious about it because he eventually just stood there and guarded them.  Maya  looks annoyed by the whole thing. I figure there is a lesson in it for Kyra or Adelantado wouldn't be doing it. He's a socially very well adjusted herd member so I'll let him do what he's supposed to do. I trust he knows what he's doing. He's fair. And who am I to judge what's fair in the horse kingdom? It's only my perspective through human eyes and emotions.

The horse family that l am so fortunate to study is one of the best parts of my day. It makes me better with horses. When I can come even close to matching the clarity of their communication skills I have a chance to be better in all my relationships with humans, too.  As I've said so many times, "I want to be more like my horse". 

Photo credit: MaryAnne Machis

Friday, February 1, 2013

Kyra and Maya's first day out with the big herd.

For those of you who have not met Maya and Kyra let me briefly introduce them. Maya is a 12 year old Spanish mustang mare of Sorraia bloodlines who is of exceptional character and spirit. On November 14th she gave birth to a beautiful filly who, in her own right, is exquisite on so many levels. Kyra was born in broad daylight, during the warmest and sunniest week on record in Vermont. Her shimmering blue eyes, which are more turquoise in color than any blue eyed horse I've ever seen, are mesmerizing. Kyra, (or Ki-Ra) who's name translates in many different languages to "universal light force", or "first light" has brought a ray of sunshine to many people in her short time here on Earth.  Her sire is Little Creek, our Choctaw Indian pony who has since been gelded. 

 After two months of Maya and Kyra being in a pen in the indoor arena at night, the 10 horses in the big herd have finally lost most of their curiosity of Kyra. I know they stand right next to her pen at night and "protect" her. I let momma and baby out with all the others yesterday and Maya made a straight line to the hay and started eating. Kyra obediently followed. They had a round bale to themselves while all the others stood at a distance with ears and eyes on the new pair. No one initiated the move to go investigate. I could tell clearly they were surprised to see them integrated. I knew the herd dynamics were going to be interesting so I watched closely.  Finally, Estrellita, a 5 year old filly who has been obsessed with Kyra from day one went to visit. Then Augustine, then Turtle. One by one they went over and Maya gave them a look only a mother could, and everyone kept their noses to themselves and just stood and watched. After a few minutes they were accepted to share the bale and before I knew it most of them were happily dining together. All Maya had to do was lift her head and pin her ears and everyone stayed in line. She's got power!

Later on in the day I saw Kyra laying in the middle of the big pile of round bale hay, surrounded by the rest of the herd. Maya,  now realizing that she has a lot of babysitters, took advantage of it by resting. A few hours later I saw that Adelantado had taken Maya and Kyra as his responsibility. Although Morado really is the lead horse out there, he and Adelantado share a lot of the alpha responsibilities. I saw Morado standing guard 20-30 feet away while Kyra napped, but it is Adelantado that follows her and Maya around. The truth to his responsibilities for them came later when I brought him inside the arena and Kyra followed him. This was the farthest away from Maya I have ever seen her. Maya only looked back over her shoulder to see where she was going but was not at all concerned. Kyra didn't feel safe enough to go into the arena with Adelantado, and chose to high tail it back to mommy instead. Adelantado was all upset now that he couldn't be with them.  After I was done with playing with him I let him loose and he ran back to them shared hay.  He stood between them and the other horses and gave all the appropriate nasty looks when anyone got too close. 

What was real cute was when one of the horses got to sniffing Kyra's rump, she turned around and pinned her ears at him and gave him a little baby buck! She's so tough! Kyra has picked up on all of Maya's little idiosyncrasies like banging the panel doors at grain time, fiddling with the snap on the gate, pinning her ears at the big horses, etc. She also has picked up on all of Maya's endearing qualities like friendliness and softness and trust. I've not haltered her yet but have put a thin rope around her face, chest, and rump and have had her yield her body parts from pressure. She lets me handle her legs and feet, mouth and ears and I can rub her anywhere I want to. I'm not a fan of imprinting foals at birth. Just love them and set boundaries like their moms do and they turn out fine...probably better. 

The other day in one of Kyra's more exuberant young filly moments, she came trotting up to me, turned her hind end and kicked out. Surprised, I stepped out the way quickly to avoid a blow to the leg. Then she came up behind me and I could tell she was thinking about jumping on my back (I've seen her do that to Maya) so I squealed like a mare and kicked out behind me. Not only did she go prancing away, but Maya turned around quickly to look at me like, "Where did you come from?" She was as surprised as Kyra! Kyra approached me again, a little more cautiously but with the same intent and this time I backed up and kicked out again, grazing her chest. The third time she stood about a horse length away and just watched me :)  Effectiveness is key! It was a great moment and one that caused no confusion about boundaries at that moment.

I'll tell you in another blog entry about Little Creek's episode last week finding his way to Maya's pen and his interaction with the herd. He thinks very highly of himself! There's always plenty of stories from the Center.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

As 2012 comes to a close,  I am thinking back to what our year at The Center was like. It seems so long ago.  Stay tuned for an update of all that happened at The Center in 2012. For now, check out the daily showcase of our horses on Facebook!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

I believe in Magic

The last two sessions with Magic have shown me where his greatest blocks are. It's good to know these things, then there is a place to get started. He's got a pretty good amount of brace in his poll and neck so teaching him to release those muscles has worked great so far and he's learning that it feels good to just relax there. Then, we're working on moving that body of his around in small cirlces, disengagements, lateral work and lateral flexion.

As he's becoming more familiar with how his body works, he's softening quite a bit from poll to tail. In between these excersices I let him out on the 40 ft. line to just move freely at any pace he wants. Free's up his brain alot too. He's a worrier at times but is very willing to try.

Originally I had him pegged as a right brain extrovert, meaning that he's more of a flight than fight kind of horse, often living in that instinctual place in his head. Unlike a left brained horse that is dominant, confident and has a "what's in it for me" attitude. But now that I get to know Magic I'm seeing more left brained extrovert tendencies regularly now. He's playful, very curious and engaging. It's nice to see that change coming. His confidence is building daily. That's really a basic fundamental training block right there.

I believe Magic is learning those basic stepping stones.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

It's Magic!

Today a new horse came to The Center for training. His name is Magic. He's a 7 year old registered Paint that has some TB blood thrown in there. He's a big boned fellow and reminds me of the older style Paints, not the stocky halter type that look more like bulldogs than horses.

Magic is very lucky to have the owner that he does. He's had some past experiences that weren't pleasant. No one knows for sure what happened in his earliest years, but you can tell he's been handled roughly. His current owner has treated him with love and respect and she came to a point recently where she knew he needed more than she could offer him.

Magic and his owner attended my most recent natural horsemanship clinic. He arrived anxious and sweaty and high headed. He left more relaxed and she went home with a few tools, and I got a better glimpse into what we were working with. When he arrived today we got right to "work". It hardly feels like work. Work meaning that I spent the next hour evaluating him. He's a horse that lacks confidence, although he's curious. He's fearful, but will trust. He is reactive without thinking it through, but he also began asking me questions. In a short hours time, Magic and I made some connections.

He's not as complicated as I first imagined. It's just that Magic has a lot going on in between his ears when he's in a learning environment. My friend asked me today if he was a horse that just needed good leadership. I had to think about that. Too much leadership with this horse will send him over the edge. He would perceive me more as a predator than a leader. Today, I had to be a passive leader. Hardly a leader really. Just maybe more of a tour guide!

I thought he made some really positive changes in the time I was with him. I found his "hot spots" as I call them. Things and places that cause him anxiety. Those areas will be addressed as we develop our relationship. First off though...the three R's: relaxation, release and respond. No progress can be made if there isn't relaxation. I can teach him how to relax, how to release the tension he holds and how to respond positively. Once that's all in place everything else comes quickly and fairly easy for the horses.

I look forward to the next few weeks with Magic. The most rewarding part to me is seeing the changes take place and helping horses like him feel more comfortable in their own skin. And each horse has something to teach me, too. I've said before that they often teach me more than I teach them.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

another journey

Today, the rescue horses from NM will begin their journey east. If all goes well, they should arrive Thursday. The plan is to unload them right into pens in the indoor arena where they will be closely monitored and get settled. Although the horses will have some winter coat, inside the arena they will be warmer and protected from the wind while they recover from their long trip. I am very excited to see the horses again!

The arrival of these horses is a bittersweet event. The Baca family has dispersed their herd. Sixty years of breeding Colonial Spanish horses has now come to an end. It is very sad for the family. The aweful drought and Mr. Baca's failing health has prompted this dispersal. No matter the reason, the herd is seperated.

Just a little history: The Baca Chica farm sits directly on the Camino Real, the first road to carry Spanish explorers. In the late 1500's Don Juan Onate led his people to Inscription rock at El Morro National Monument along this road. The actual road, over 400 years old, is still clearly visible on the Baca property. The horses would often cross this path in their daily meanderings. Sixty years of the Baca family breeding America's first horse produced a unique southwest strain recognized as "critically endangered" by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.

The first time I visited the Baca Chica Farm I stood on this dirt path under the ancient cottonwood trees and it was a moving experience. To envision the Spaniards exploring the new world on their little horses, the same type that the Baca Family has preserved, was powerful. I remember that moment clearly.

The dispersal of this herd is more than just relocating some horses. It's the end of an era. Most of the mares are retired from breeding now, a few young ones are still looking for homes, and only 4 stallions of this strain remain. One will be with us in Vermont. One is in Texas, and the Baca's hope to keep two of them on the farm.

In 2005 when my first trailer load of Baca horses arrived in Vermont, (Morado and Ringo were on that load) they were blessed by a Catholic priest before they left. He felt so strongly and often said that these horses were bridging the gap between New Mexico and Vermont. They were here to help educate people about the rich history of New Mexico, the Spaniards, and how important these horses were in shaping America.

Now, 7 years later, as we await the arrival of this small group, the last and finest (in my opinion!) of the Baca horses are arriving at The Center, a facility and organization that was inspired by Adelantado, our first horse from New Mexico.

There are a lot of mixed emotions today. Feeling sad for the Baca's as they watch the last of their horses get loaded, but also so excited to be able to help the horses and care for them, and to provide them a bright future. They are beautiful spirits.We are able to carry on the legacy for the life of these horses, although sadly, I feel it is too late strengthen the gene pool at this point.

If not for the support from people all over the country this would not be happening. We raised almost exactly enough money to cover transport expenses. From here on out we are looking at additional expenses for hay we had not planned on.

Fundraising is not easy. It takes energy, time and committment. It means going out of our comfort zone asking for help. The goal at the Center is to be self sufficient through revenue from our programs and other events. We do not want to rely on private donations forever. We are writing grants and working diligently to raise money. Until then however, we are developing a sponsorship program for these horses exclusively, reaching out to individuals and businesses who are interested in supporting the horses.

As the horses begin their trek, I will be in close touch with Tony from Troja horse transport. I know he will take good care of the precious cargo. I will be blogging daily on their whereabouts and updates.

Thank you everyone for your well wishes. May we continue to serve the horses with your help.


Saturday, December 31, 2011

Out with the old...

in with the new!

Amazing another year has come and gone. The list of accomplishments we've had at The Center for 2011 is long. Too long to remember or list off the top of my head. I know I had a number of live radio interviews, we had newspaper and magazine articles, the movie Buck made a great fundraiser for us, we held events and clinics, afterschool programs, our official non profit status was granted, new horses came in, made new friends and reconnected with old ones, the recent rescue of the Baca horses. That's just the tip of the iceberg though because beyond this list, we learned alot as an organization, and personally I've become aware of the continuing self development that the horses have inspired in me.

Having a lot of faith in humanity, and the Universe helps get us by. That pretty much sums up my year! Have had to do a lot of envisioning, manifesting, trusting, and taking the high road. Lifes lessons and opportunities keep coming no matter what. That's the moral I think. So many things have unfolded, so many truths founds, and still yet, many more in front of us.

The Center runs its affairs based on the values of honesty, hard work, love and finding humor in a lot of situations. Among other things, but those come to mind right now. We laugh alot, we worry alot, we work alot, but we do these things together as a board which makes it easier. We've been blessed with moral, physical and financial support this year, as our still newly organized venture is moving forward in it's own development and branding.

So a big sincere thanks to the Board of Directors, Jo, Brenda, Mary Anne, Elsie, Deanna, Sherry and Dierdre. This year wouldn't have happened like it did without your hours and hours of dedication. All for the horses.

Cheers to everyone,