rss search

next page next page close

My first Rescue

Meet Andy. 

The Last Photo taken of Andy - He was 34 years old!

 
This photo is the last one ever taken of him- a mere a week before he died.  He was 34 years old.  I bought him from the Standardbred Race Track for 30 cents a pound because he didn’t want to run anymore and would go for meat. He was 10 years old when I bought, retired and took him off the track, only a week after his last race when his owner, disgruntled at a horse that wouldn’t win anymore told his trainers to fox him.  At the time, I was wanting to do horse and buggy weddings and it was easier to try and match my bay Arab than my leopard Appaloosa.  His trainers were thrilled. 
 
So Andy came home with me….I gave him a total rest month off before starting his retraining as a carriage horse.  He had won $91,000 as a race horse…starting in his home state of California…but that didn’t matter any longer.  He wasn’t winning enough money any more.  His ‘useful’ career was over as far as his owner was concerned.   I found his old race record…the very first year that he raced, as a 4 year old, he started 54 times….that’s more than once a week on average!  Crazy!  Talk about heart!   He went from being a Stakes winner to a $2000 claimer and ended up on smaller race circuits on half mile tracks where the smaller horses did better…Andy was 14.3. 
 
 We had great fun together in the 24 years he was my horse.  He drove single, pair and even a unicorn and tandem hitch.  I even started him under saddle although he never really learned to canter because he was punished for breaking into a canter on the track.  He was a pacer, but I tried using a set of around-the-belly jingle bells so I could HEAR the difference when driving, when I couldn’t see what his legs were doing! 
 

My Unicorn hitch...Mem is the leader, with Andy as the left wheeler and Shalann as the right hand wheeler

He competed in Combined Driving Events both as a single and a pair horse with Shalann.  They won the Best Conditioned Award at an Event at age 17 – doing a 15 km marathon.  He also lost an eye and he needed surgery at age 24 when if he couldn’t handle the surgery, my only option would have been to put him down, however, Andy never looked back and still continued to drive.  He was an amazing horse.  He mourned for weeks when his pairmate Shalann died at age 28.  He was Santa’s horse for the Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony for 14 years…. his last “job” was when he was 30 years old!  His race career might have been over, but look at all the things he did in his ‘retirement’!

 
On that last night in July 2006, he appeared suddenly to be in distress…I had seen him only 30 minutes before out in his field, looking fine and when I went out to bring him in for the evening I could tell something serious was wrong and I called for the vet.  The vet was there within 10 minutes -just as Andy went down with colic like symptoms.  The autopsy confirmed what the vet suspected….He had an lypoma tumor compressing his intestine and he suffered less than an hour  in total from when I found him to when he was humanely euthanized as I cradled his head.  I still miss Andy, as I do my 4 departed horses.  My horses are with me for life. 

Out playing in the field. 33 years old

Andy's Dean- at age 32


next page next page close

Sometimes it’s hard to remember – It’s about the Relationship

A few months ago, a student asked me what I thought about their relationship with their horse…. This is what I said

 

Generally speaking…yes.  Your relationship is fine.  Sometimes I observe small things that I would change….small things that might not mean a lot to you and possibly not to Fluffy but those same behaviors with a horse less confident…they would be over the top (Flash….Lyric etc)  And its not about reward- as in giving food treats constantly…or even verbal “Good boy!”   Rewarding can mean the smile, maybe a rub, and the ‘backing off’ for a second before another attempt.  As humans, we tend to strive for perfection…”You jumped this jump, now let’s immediately do it again…this time faster, higher or more accurate.”
 
Horses don’t get ‘perfection’.  To them it often means they failed…either you or themselves..and repetition can mean de-motivation to them esp. the sensitive ones.  And then things escalate from there.  
 

Sean going into the Fraser River for the first time. This was really hard for him

Like the water/river thing.  It is a huge leap of faith to enter water of any kind.  Doesn’t matter if they did the same water crossing a day before.  Due to how their eyes focus, it can be different from minute to minute, let alone another day or time.  That’s why horses might spook at a rock on the trail and when you return to go home, spook at it coming back.  Our human brains say “Stupid horse…can you see its the same rock?” and quite frankly they can’t.  The way the light hits it or the shadow it makes..its a totally different thing for them.  It’s not that they are ‘stupid’….quite far from it.  They have survived as a species for hundreds of years BECAUSE they noticed those little things that might mean the diffence of life or death out there in the wild.  Horses live in the moment.  Sometimes you push or drag Fluffy forward or onwards without letting him have his opinion.  Its not that you are going to let him rule the earth, but you are allowing him a voice to say “I need a minute here” and if you are too quick to proceed before he’s processed the information, he might act up or fidget because you didn’t give him enough time.  I have seen HUGE differences in horses that are allowed that extra 10-30 seconds.  

 
Case in point:  I was bringing in my big warmblood Lyric, a few nights ago….no halter…just leading him in for the night …. from his field to his stall in the barn with my hand under his jaw.  My husband had piled a bunch of pieces of wood by the barn.  Big blocks of maple tree trunk…I walked by them to fetch Lyric with barely a thought.  “Oh…Ron put some wood there against the barn wall”….My rational brain handles and processes that information with barely registering its presence….minutes later I am leading Lyric by placing my hand softly under his jaw and we round the corner to walk past the barn wall.  He stops dead.  WTH??  I turned to see what caught his eye…Instantly, he is on “High-Alert”…Head up and eyes that are hard and staring…he is rigid and ready to bolt to safety.   Oh crap.  The firewood.  Oh great.  1200 lb horse.  No halter…the doorway is still 100 feet away…
 
My natural horseman’s instincts kick in….So I allowed him to stop.  I exhaled loudly to calm myself thinking “how the heck am I going to get him by this without him bolting and running away?”  I gave him the time he needed to stare and figure out what it was…We were 6 feet away from this pile.  I watched him until he gave me some signs that he had figured WHAT it was, by his body language.  When the wood stack was processed and filed away under the category of: “Non Life Threatening..but still-REALLY-supicious because-it-wasn’t-there-yesterday”, he could exhale and lick his lips.  So with those signs I knew when he was ready and I continued on into the barn.  Crisis averted.  Total time lapsed….45 seconds tops.  If I had tried to force him past by urging him before he was ready he would have bolted. And I could have done NOTHING to stop a 1200 lb horse with no halter or rope.  So I used my respectful, savvy, natural horseman’s brain and he walked on by, once he was allowed the opinion to study it and make a decision about his safety to go past it.  I proved myself to him (another brownie point!) that I would protect him and our herd of 2 by not ‘shoving him off the diving board’ before he was ready to go past the pile that COULD have been harboring monsters of all shapes and descriptions….
 
Sometimes its NOT about the wood pile.  At that moment it was about our

Mike leading in my warmblood Lyric with his hand under his jaw

relationship and how I respected that he needed a few minutes to sort out the prospect of the new horse-eating wood pile less than 10 feet from his stall door.  It wasn’t about me, in a hurry to get the other horses in….it wasn’t about him being afraid of the wood pile….it was about US as a team.


next page next page close

Meet Ruby

 

 

 

           Meet Ruby!!

 

 

 

Ruby arrived last weekend from the Vanderhoof/Fort Fraser part of our province. 

 It took 2 days for her owner, Ruth and Ruby to arrive…travelling 8 hours the first day and another 4 the second.  Ruby is a Paint/Percheron cross and a lovely mare.  She continues to settle in well and quickly learned the routine of the barn.  Already its like she’s always been here, she fits in so well. 

At first she was worried about the minis.  Probably never seen little horses before.  Maybe she thought we shrunk horses here?  Now she hangs out with Flash and Bobby over the fence, visiting often.  My stallion Sky thinks she’s pretty hot stuff and for the first few days, all she had to do was swish her tail and he would roar over to his gate to chortle and snuffle at her.  Guess he figured that seeing she was the only girl on the place, he’d better be handing out business cards…just in case!

Right now, I would categorize Ruby as an intovert.  She appears to need to think before she moves and we’d already had a couple of play sessions that would seem to confirm that.  Ruby truly loves people and is extremely friendly.  I am going to bet she isn’t a real confident learner….she seems to say “I can’t!” before “OK, I’ll try” and that just tells me she needs more time and probably needs stuff broken down for her to comprehend.  I like what I see.

What I really appreciated was Ruth’s attitude towards her beloved mare…. As she drove out of my driveway she said “You can be brutually honest with me” and further explained “If in a few months you decide she won’t make a driving horse then just tell me.  I will never sell Ruby.  I will just change my expectations of her”

I wish more horse owners were like that.  I have met several in my time and I appreciate them so much….It tells me that Ruth puts the relationship ahead of the goal.  And that is worth millions to me.


next page next page close

Welcome to my web site!

At our farm, ‘natural horsemanship’ goes far beyond the rope halter and the carrot stick…I include all aspects of ‘natural’  into keeping my horses as natural as possible in a barn/paddock and field situation.  From diet to barefoot trimming…..I treat horses that come in for training as if they are my own.  Each horse is an individual and no two training programs are alike.  What makes me different is that I am looking at the WHOLE horse and not just his training because my own horses have taught me that good learning starts IN the barn by watching what they do and who they are, not just what happens out in the arena.  Respect and giving the horse an opinion in how they learn best and by letting them teach me are the cornerstones to a successful relationship. 

Trainer of horses: off the ground, carriage driving or under saddle and their humans

Photographer of all things beautiful

We are different for a reason.  Please feel free to look around my web site

 

Contact me: 

Deb Harper

34968 Sim Road, Abbotsford, BC  V3G 1N6 

Phone: 604-820-2684

Email: debharper1019@gmail.com


next page next page close

Labor Day Long weekend….judging and teaching! It doesn’t get any better than this

I was asked to judge the Miniature Horse Division at the Saanich Fair on the long weekend.  It was an early morning…getting up at 4:30 to catch a ferry over to the Island.  Yawn.  I judged the conformation halter classes, and all the driving, obstacle, and the hunter/jumper classes.  Hot Day…great fun and super people with fabulous horses.  And then because I parked my truck and walked on the ferry as a foot passenger, I caught a ride up Island to stay over night in Cobble Hill and spent the holiday Monday giving driving lessons before catching another ferry for the ride home to the mainland.

I received this email after the judging:

Hey, forgot to say in my email earlier today, how much I enjoyed your judging at the Saanich Fair.
I’d never been to that show before, so was a bit apprehensive about the venue, but it turned out to be a ton of fun.
Thank you for your educational and helpful comments thoughout the day.  I really learned a lot, which is much appreciated.  And your fun and “non stuffy” approach.  I know myself and lots of others really enjoyed showing under you, and
you really impressed the crowd with your comments as well.  It really created a very nice relaxed and productive atmosphere for “newbies” like myself and many others, and helped us do well and overcome our nerves.
Can’t wait to have you back, and hope you’ll come over and do some clinics/lessons, very soon. 
Thank you very much again,
Candace C
VIMHC member. 
(and little black Zeta)
 
Many thanks to David Hollebone for taking and sending these photos of me judging
 

 


next page next page close

Sean and JoJo

The palomino siblings left a week ago and went back home for the winter.  I miss them already.  It’s always hard for me to say goodbye to horses that are with me- they become like family in very short order.  I cry when its time for them to leave.  JoJo and Sean are Welsh/Morgan cross small horses that are full siblings.  But as much as they look alike, they were polar opposites to each other in temperment.  JoJo, the mare on the left is an extrovert….always quick to react, while Sean, the gelding that is the closest to me is an Introvert….he is more apt to stop and freeze if unsure.  It was always fun to work one and then the other because they were so different from one another…. 


next page next page close

My Horses: Flash

Flash (DJ’s in a Flash) is a striking black and white pinto mini that stands a mere 32 inches tall.  Like River and Sky, Flash came for training and never left.  Flash is a VERY right brained extroverted mini that had a lot of coping problems.  There is a history of abuse in his early past and his former owner, although a wonderful horse person, wasn’t the right personality fit for Flash.  Flash is probably one of the more difficult horses I have schooled because of his tendency to either explode and be off-the-wall reactive if unsure or go catatonic (withdraw inside himself) These are all coping mechanisms he employed and my job was to learn how to slow and break the components down enough for him to learn the task at hand.  He hated to be wrong but was also afraid to try so I had to set him up for success in EVERYTHING I did with him.  Flash is very clever, and becoming more confident all the time.  He is my show off ‘trick’ horse…and knows a repertoire of tasks that he can be rewarded for that include picking up something on command, ringing a bell, playing the piano etc  and sometimes he offers them to you without being asked because he knows they please us.  And this gives him his much needed confidence.  Maybe someday he will drive again but whatever he can give me is just fine with me.  It’s more about the relationship than the goal for this little horse.


next page next page close

My Horses: Max

Arrowleaf’s Astaldo Maximus (aka Max) is River’s alter ego.  River’s sensitivity is in direct contrast to Max’s “What? Me, worry?” attitude to life.  A true left brained introvert, Max asks “What’s in it for me?” I had to learn how to deal with this.   He was the horse that I learned my timing for NH with.  While Lyric NEEDED me to learn Timing and Patience, he was not the horse to learn it on, and Max was.  He is quietly brilliant, but his brain always ponders everything before he moves his feet.  No use in wasting energy….  He taught me to slow down and watch.  He is my only introverted horse and I am thankful for his horsenality to teach me (being an extrovert) the patience to teach and motivate this type of horse that is a polar opposite to my own personality.  Max came here as a weanling and he has grown up on this farm.  Working with Max gave me the tools to help others like him but have maybe troubled pasts or abuse issues as well.   He too, has become a wonderful teacher for some of my students.  With Max… you learn to work smarter not harder because the bigger you get, the slower he becomes!  And you need a sense of humor too!


next page next page close

My Horses: River

Shadow’s Riverdance is 35 inches of amazing miniature horse!  As my first mini, River actually came for training and never left.  (Bless you Cathy!) The story was that he was branded as untrainable, and never having worked with a mini before I had nothing to gauge his reactions on, except as a regular horse….just really small.   Originally he was to be a companion for my first stallion Lad, and River was kind of a mascot to keep Lad grounded when I showed him.  I could ride Lad and take River along by leading River from the saddle.  And then I decided that because  I always had both horses at an event, I might as well show them both.  At first, there was some snickering as to why a driving Coach would lower herself to drive a mini;  Then River started beating the full sized horses, the tune changed!  River is a right brained extrovert and he is a ton of fun to drive and show.  Combined Driving was never such a blast until River came along.  River thinks his job is to worry about everyone else.  Sensitive to a fault, he is more than willing to take on all the world’s problems.  Sort of like me.  And when I am troubled, it’s River that has all the answers for me.  He is the talker in my barn and rarely can you walk into the barn without that special rumbling nicker that is my beloved River!


next page next page close

My Horses: Sky

Sky (“Northern Nite Sky”) If you want to meet a charismatic horse, come and meet Sky.  Looks aren’t everything, although he is stunning to see and watch move out at a trot, this boy’s brain is the most amazing part of him.  He is so smart!  I am always in awe of what he offers me!  However…he is a brat.  Whether working at liberty or on-line, Sky works overtime to outsmart his humans!  His breeder referred to him as “testy”.  Extremely out-going, he figures that if you aren’t up to the task of being a worthy leader, he is willing to take over.  Any day.  Any time!   And every day I have to prove to him that I am capable!  He is so much fun to work with because he is confident and very opinionated.  But inside this beautiful black stallion lurks a lack of confidence in that comes across as dominance and defiance.  When you ask him to try something, his knee jerk reaction is to shout “NO!” and if you wait, he always tries his best, so his NO really means “Give me a little more time to figure out this puzzle, please!”  So don’t be too quick to punish him.  He’s trying to buy more time.  The secret to success in working with Sky is ignoring the ugly faces and wait him out.  He may come across as tough but he is actually very soft and sensitive once you get past the posturing.  We are back working on his driving training now that we have most of the bugs worked out of our relationship.  And this isn’t a testosterone thing necessarily.  This is a former right brained extrovert, now quite left-brained and even more extroverted!


next page next page close

My Horses: Lyric

Lyric (“Sealective Touch”) is a warmblood that was born here on this farm.  He is a son of my deceased stallion, “Madrona Sealect Lad” and a leased Trakehner mare, “Gentle Touch” (aka Lyra.  He is my big baby and very special to me.  He reminds me a lot of his father, despite being 2 full hands taller.  He stands 16 hands and takes an 84 inch blanket.  He is my reason for starting my natural horsemanship journey.  He is a complicated horsenality and is not a confident learner of new things and even though I was never a ‘make’ trainer, as I worked him as a youngster it became evident quickly that I needed different skills in order to be successful and safe with such a large, strong, explosive horse.  I have him to thank for what I am today.  He has taught me so much about reading a horse, a skill I have taken to a new level when working with other horses.  I have learned about dealing with the Lyric that shows up at any given second.  If he was a human, he’d be bi-polar because one minute he is soft and kind and the next minute he can be scared and wanting to bolt.  We are working on our relationship constantly and despite the fact that we still have ‘training wheels on” and it will be awhile before I ride off into the sunset with him….I continue to grow because of this horse.   Lyric is sensitive to a fault and getting aggressive or trying to dominate him or getting stronger or using more restraint will never work for horse like this.  Natural Horsemanship teaches you work softer and smarter and to be the leader your horse needs you to be, and because Lyric is all 4 horsenalites rolled into one, he is my best teacher and I am so grateful to call him my horse.


next page next page close

Last Weekend Judging

Last weekend (two days after mycar accident July 15) I judged at Thunderbird Equestrian Center the Driving division for the BC Heritage Finals.  Thank goodness for pain killers…!  My neighbor drove me because I couldn’t move my neck very well and my car was totalled…. Sigh.  Anyway, she got a few photos of me judging. Plus I got a really nice comment afterwards from one of the people I judged…. She wrote:

“Hello Deb,
Shirley and I wanted to thank you for your advice during the BC Heritage Finals Horse show.  It was more than just a class to compete for ribbons, we both felt it was more like a great lesson and now we are wondering if you could fit us in for a lesson at your place before we go to Happs Combined Driving Event in the States…Aug 4.  We would bring our teams.  I drive a pair and Shirley drives a unicorn. Looking forward to seeing you soon.”


next pagenext page

My first Rescue

Meet Andy.    This photo is the last one ever taken of him- a mere a week before he...
article post

Sometimes it’s hard to remember – It’s about the Relationship

A few months ago, a student asked me what I thought about their relationship with their...
article post

Meet Ruby

                 Meet Ruby!!       Ruby arrived...
article post

Welcome to my web site!

At our farm, ‘natural horsemanship’ goes far beyond the rope halter and the carrot...
article post
thumbnail Labor Day Long weekend….judging and teaching!  It doesn’t get any better than this article post

Sean and JoJo

The palomino siblings left a week ago and went back home for the winter.  I miss them...
article post
thumbnail My Horses: Flash article post

My Horses: Max

Arrowleaf’s Astaldo Maximus (aka Max) is River’s alter ego.  River’s sensitivity...
article post

My Horses: River

Shadow’s Riverdance is 35 inches of amazing miniature horse!  As my first mini, River...
article post

My Horses: Sky

Sky (“Northern Nite Sky”) If you want to meet a charismatic horse, come and meet...
article post

My Horses: Lyric

Lyric (“Sealective Touch”) is a warmblood that was born here on this farm.  He is a...
article post

Last Weekend Judging

Last weekend (two days after mycar accident July 15) I judged at Thunderbird Equestrian...
article post