Can Horses Forgive Us?

The reader said that an essay I’d written “brought to mind how many times my involuntary predatory instincts have surfaced and expressed themselves over the years with my horses. It made me wonder about the horse’s capacity to forgive, and the time trajectory for establishing trust. …if a horse is capable of trusting humans in … Read more

Affirmative Training: Can You Take a Hint?

  It’s a story that I’ve heard quite a few times. You’ve heard it too. The horse was getting a little worse all the time and the rider was trying to get him fixed. When the gelding got fussy in his face, the rider tried to hold his head steady by using pressure on the … Read more

Making Peace with Anxiety

A caption for this photo? “Dressage rider doesn’t grasp the fundamentals of team penning.” How about “Dressage rider brings a breath of fresh air to The Cowboy Way.” Words matter. The goal of affirmative training is to collect positive experiences for your horse. We never want to dominate or push too hard. Once the horse … Read more

Horses and Common Sense.

Not long after I moved to the farm, a friend brought her two young kids out. We all walked the pens, petting and learning the names of llamas and goats. Were both boys younger than four? I saddled up my safest horse and climbed on. The horse was tall, and it was a hoist as … Read more

Photo & Poem: Secrets

She attended church with joyless obligation, lip-syncing hymns that praised suffering, with dentures that never quite fit, never a genuine smile. A few cigarettes in the station wagon on the way home, then she made Sunday dinner; chicken, mashed potatoes with beige gravy, and army-green beans. There was plenty, but she always chose the back … Read more

Photo & Poem: Waiting for the Vet

  No days like the golden photos on the calendar from the gas company, propane topped off at the first frost as autumn surrendered with no fanfare. Early storms left crusted snow frozen in mud, hoof-print ruts that catch the toe of my boot, stumbling out late to throw extra hay and put eyes on … Read more

Calming Signals: A Vow of Silence

By now you should snort out loud when someone says their horse is ignoring them. Really, is there a more ridiculous thing to imagine? How could it be possible for a prey animal to ignore anything? Their survival depends on being situationally aware in every moment. You can make fun of a horse for staring … Read more

Fear, Shame, and Affirmative Training

  This is a photo of when you first fell in love with horses. Maybe you dreamed it and it took another fifty years to come true, or maybe you’ve had a horse every day since then. This is also a photo of the first time a horse frightened you a bit. Those two experiences … Read more

Photo & Poem: Bond

  He said show her who’s boss. Standing with her head in the corner and hooves nervous on the straw, a wild-eyed, pregnant pinto pony, no taller than the quiet girl in a boy’s t-shirt. The dad said she has to respect you, setting them up for a fight. He goaded the girl forward, her … Read more

Calming Signals and Preacher Man: Still “Reactive” After All These Years

Bear with me, please. I miss my dogs, one in particular. I’m in Dunedin, and he’s 12,620 km away. It sounds even farther in Newzealandish, doesn’t it? It’s National Pet Day back home, I know he is keeping an eye on the door. The Dude Rancher takes good and kind care of the dogs while I’m … Read more