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© 2010 enlightened horsemanship through touch and Kim Cox Carneal



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The winner will be announced Friday, July 2.
The prize: one pound of fabulous Kona coffee, the best in the world, shipped right to your door!

© 2010 enlightened horsemanship through touch and Kim Cox Carneal

I read A Horse’s View of the World in The Horse Conscious Newsletter, an interesting source of news and features about horses.

Do you ever wonder what your horse is actually thinking? How often have you ever wondered if you are on the same page or even talking the same language?

Take a look at some of the definitions from the horse’s dictionary and compare them to yours.

Arena: Place where humans can take the fun out of forward motion.

Bit: Means by which a rider’s every motion is transmitted to the sensitive tissues of the mouth

Bucking: counter-irritant

Crossties: Gymnastic apparatus

Dressage: Process by which some riders can eventually be taught to respect the bit

Fence: Barrier that protects good grazing

Grain: Sole virtue of domestication

Hitching rail: Means by which to test one’s strength

Horse trailer: Mobile cave bear den

Hotwalker: The lesser of two evils

Jump: An opportunity for self-expression

Latch: Type of puzzle

Lungeing: Procedure for keeping a prospective rider at bay

Owner: Human assigned responsibility for one’s feeding

Rider: Owner overstepping its bounds

Farrier: Disposable surrogate owner; useful for acting out aggression without compromising food supply

Trainer: Owner with mob connections

Veterinarian: Flightless albino vulture

Only Horse People:

Believe in an 11th commandment: inside leg to outside rein…

Know that all topical medications come in either indelible blue or neon yellow

Think nothing of eating a sandwich while mucking out a stall

Know why a thermometer has a yard of yarn attached to the end of it

Are banned from Laundromats

Fail to associate whips, chains and leather with sexual deviancy

Can magically lower their voices five octaves to bellow at a pawing horse

Will end relationships over their hobby

Cluck to their cars to help them up hills

Insure their horses for more than their cars

Know (and care) more about their horse’s nutrition than their own

Have no problem speaking of semen, abscesses and colic surgery at the dinner table

Have a smaller wardrobe than their horse…

Engage in a hobby that is more work than their day job

Know that a good ride is better than Zoloft any day



Enter your idea for a suitable caption below.
The winner will be announced Monday April 5.
The prize: one pound of fabulous Kona coffee, the best in the world, shipped right to your door!

© 2010 enlightened horsemanship through touch and Kim Cox Carneal



Enter your idea for a suitable caption below.
The winner will be announced Tuesday, March 2.
The prize: one pound of fabulous Kona coffee, the best in the world, shipped right to your door!

© 2010 enlightened horsemanship through touch and Kim Cox Carneal

My friend Eileen, who owns James and Madison, né Windsong’s Justa Handful and Justa Royal Sojourner (respectively) by my stallion Windsong’s Justa Firestorm, sent me an article that speaks volumes to the growing trend of close examination of the natural horsemanship trend. Every trend, even those so ingrained that certain features become permanent features of their general landscape, has its heyday and passes over eventually. I have been a rather careful critic of much of natural horsemanship as it is practiced by the average horse person, and I have to confess to being thrilled that Eleanor Van Natta, author of the blog, Sage by Nature, wrote a Nov. 25 article in horsecity.com entitled, A Face-Off With Rope Halters: They’re Knot So Natural After All . The cute title gives an indication of one of her objections to the ubiquitous natural horsemanship-type rope halter.

typical rope halter

Eleanor describes a vet visit in which the vet removed her horse’s rope halter and replaced it with one of her own before working with her horse. For Eleanor, this was a rude awakening. She describes herself as shocked to discover that her vet did not feel rope halters were conducive to horse whispering. According to the veterinarian from that day, Dr. Suzan Seeyle, D.V.M., of Quantum Vet in Yelm, WA,

Rope halters are very lightweight, which is nice, but the knots that are positioned in various places and number are very harsh and severe on the sensitive face of the horse. Rope halters can certainly demand a horse’s immediate attention, but is communication through pain really what we are after? When was screaming more effective than whispering?

She goes on to wonder how many amateur horse owners and trainers who enjoy the rapid results they get with the rope halter can get the same results without it. She also wonders whether they are aware of the potential fact that the “release” or reaction of the horse is due to pain or anticipation of pain rather than obedience and responsiveness.

Just about every user of the rope halter is a victim of flashy marketing or the persuasion of someone who should know better. I know I was. Virtually every trainer and riding teacher I ever had used them–except Wizard Liz, who, in her typical Yankee fashion, “could see no real use for those silly things.” Unless used by exceedingly capable hands (think John Lyons), the potential for causing harm and teaching our horses that the halter is a control device rather than a communication device is too great.

She says,

I kept finding as I scanned and Googled the internet … that the rope halter was an effective means of communication (except for a few horror stories in forums of horses tied up in rope halters or the halters left on them for extended periods of time). But are you simply communicating that you can inflict pain and discomfort on this animal with minimal effort? I had been convinced by natural horsemanship books and videos before buying my halter that the horse is teaching himself with these halters because of the release from pressure. The word pain was never actually used the words used were “discomfort” and “pressure”. A horse is so sensitive as to be able to feel the landing of a fly that weighs less than the weight of a few average sized raindrops. I have made many mistakes with my horse over the years, but perhaps not respecting the lightness of a fly has been one of the biggest mistakes of all. I am a big believer now that there is something inherently wrong with putting something on that sensitive face that can inflict pain for the sake of control and all the while calling it “natural”.

In addition to the dangers caused by ineffective use of the halter in training and the design of the halter itself, there is the plethora of inexpensive knockoff rope halters with poor workmanship and incorrect proportions. Together with inexpert handling, a cheap halter from the local tractor shop might as well be an instrument of torture. Yet the untrained student of natural horsemanship is thrilled with the immediate results. The horse moves backward off the cue from the leadrope and halter lickety-split.

There are some really good rope halters out there along with the bad. The ones I used are made by The Halter Lady, who uses the finest materials, and only makes custom-fitted halters. If you want a halter with no knots on the noseband, that’s what you get. She also makes sidepull halters. I used to love hacking in a sidepull.

Another objection to training with a rope halter is that it makes it awfully easy to pull a horse off balance with just a small correction. The lead rope attaches either permanently or with a snap to a spot just under the jaw. Causing the horse’s head to tilt in this way is definitely not natural. You won’t see a young horse do this in the pasture. Proponents of the rope halter will tell you that it’s pressure on the poll that makes the thing work. But it’s really a tug under the chin. Watch it happen–the head tilts to one side first. Then the poll gives. Folks who start young horses exclusively in the rope halter and lead often have trouble teaching their horses to get and stay in balance for this very reason.

I am glad folks are starting to see that, along with the good things it has brought to the world of training horses and riding them, natural horsemanship has some faults. We need to examine everything we do very carefully.

Later this week, I will describe the Tellington TTouch concept of haltering and leading, and how I finally came to accept and embrace it in lieu of the rope halter. It wasn’t an easy conversion for me, either. Eleanor, I share your pain.


Horses In Transition: A Call To Action published on November 9 in Horse Care, Horses, and People,

Images From Kindred Spirits Animal Sanctuary published on November 11.

Routine Tasks With No Inherent Meaning Diminish The Spirit of the Horse published on November 24 in Horsemanship, Equine Intellect & Behavior, Horses, Mindfulness, Science, and TTouch® & TTEAM.

Mindful Monday: Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There! published on November 30 in Horsemanship, Buddhism, Mindful Monday, Mindfulness

Which were your favorite posts? If there is something you wish I’d written about, please let me know by posting a response here.

© 2009 enlightened horsemanship through touch and Kim Cox Carneal

Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There.

You’ve probably heard someone say this, or maybe even said it yourself. But it was Sylvia Boorstein whose turn of phrase reintroduced us to the idea that just being, instead of doing, might help provide solutions to some of the problems we create for ourselves today: the frenetic striving for perfection, the avoidance of uncomfortable truths, etc. The gift of this concept came as the title of one of Boorsteins books, a kind of guide to creating your own meditation retreat.

As a representation of one of the main concepts of Buddhism, Boorstein’s exhortation is truth-in-a-nutshell.

Since humans generally do not see things in the most uncomplicated way possible, we often exhaust ourselves making up our own version of reality on a platform of our individual histories, fears, memories etc. We frighten or discourage ourselves before we even get going. It is believed that animals do not burden themselves with such destructively creative forms of perception.

Mindfulness is seeing things as they actually are, not as we imagine them to be….Pleasant and unpleasant experiences, the Buddha explained, the joys and pains of everyday life, are not the problem. The yearning and despising—the imperative in the mind that things be different—the extra tension in the mind that disappears when things are seen clearly and understood fully, is what the Buddha called suffering. Mindfulness—the relaxed, non-clinging, non-aversive awareness of present experience—is a skill that, like any other skill, requires developing.

Years ago, Boorstein developed a kind of do-it-yourself mindfulness retreat for people who weren’t yet ready or able to take the plunge and visit a mindfulness center. I love this idea of setting aside time to care for our selves in a kind of constructive restfulness. Not only for the mind, but also for the body as we ride.

As we ride???? Yes!

Sally Swift employed ideokinesis (the use of imagery to effect changes in the body) very creatively in Centered Riding®. Riders can use the tool of ideokinesis to imagine an active resting state in the saddle.

Active resting? Yes again!

Try this first at home. For five or ten minutes, lie down on your back on the floor. Don’t drift off into the mind-numbing daydreams you might be tempted to allow. Put your arms by your side, palms up or down, whichever is comfortable. If you need a towel under your knees or a pillow under your neck for comfort, get one. Imagine gravity as the active entity it is. Watch it work on your body as it helps your muscles release tension. During the process of release, notice any areas of tension that have become patterns in your body. You will recognize those spots where gravity has to work harder. Send messages of gratitude to those areas, for they will be your teachers. Also, send gratitude to gravity for assisting you in releasing them. You may find that you have to be very clear in giving suggestions to your body to assist gravity in its task: “allow my neck to be free of tension,” or “I’m noticing the rise and fall of my breath, but this makes me breathe faster.” The most important thing about active resting is doing nothing. Don’t just do something, lie there. Do not cling to any idea of what you must accomplish during the exercise, even if it is relaxation. You might find that this is even more refreshing than a short nap.

With practice, you will begin to develop more awareness of your body and its relation to the earth. “Well what do you know? It’s not my body’s job to resist gravity! I can allow my body to move within the earth’s gravitational field without undue stress on my muscles! All I have to do is allow it!”

Remember that the path of least resistance is always available to you, because it will be important when you try this exercise in the saddle.

Now that you have set up the conditions for awareness of your body in space and maintaining a space of least resistance, you can try this active rest in the saddle. Your horse will be thrilled. At first you may worry about this idea of some kind of floppy-muscled Zen session in the saddle: is it safe? Think about the last time you stopped getting in your horse’s way, and your muscles stopped competing with his to get the job done. There was a much better flow, wasn’t there? That’s what this exercise is all about. You can set up an active resting retreat in the saddle anytime you want.

Make sure you are in an enclosed area, such as a fenced arena or round pen, just in case anything goes wrong, or your horse is really fresh or extra delighted to be liberated from the constraints of your muscular control.
Swing yourself into the saddle, make sure to give your horse a good rub on the neck, and explain to him what you are doing. This is important.
Keep your eyes open (you’d be nuts to close them!!!). Be aware of your surroundings but try not to focus on any one thing. Hear the sounds around you but don’t listen. Alertness without that laser-like focus of the straight-line, left-brain thinker is the goal. You can do it. It’s only a few minutes’ worth.
Remove your feet from the stirrups, let go your vice grip on the reins, and practice the same non-doing that you tried at home. If you are willing to let go of any desired outcome, you will feel gravity work to join you and your horse together as one being.
Being physically together without an agenda, allowing the stress of your muscles’ resistance to gravity (and to the horse) to melt away. Remember those resistant muscles in the active resting exercise at home on the floor? Recognize them now, give them the extra attention they deserve, and your will feel your horse do the same.
Notice what you feel beneath you. Has the horse’s back come up beneath the saddle to meet you? Perhaps it has shrunk away? Does his breathing match your own or is it slower?
In time, each of you will learn to allow your bodies to stop resisting one another. Your mutual awareness can flourish and grow in this space.

Active resting can be expanded to include riding, as in the practice of walking meditation. But that’s a post for another day.

The active resting retreat is a useful tool because the rider is setting up conditions where insights are likely to arise. In this intimate encounter with your horse, you rely on perception rather than action, receiving rather than sending. It’s like becoming a child all over again. Bringing a “beginner’s mind” to being with your horse can awaken us to a fuller, wiser understanding of what riding him really is.

© 2009 enlightened horsemanship through touch and Kim Cox Carneal

NB Thanks to Debra Crampton who wrote Nothing Doing in this month’s Centered Riding eBulletin for giving me the impetus to finish this this post (started many months ago) as well as the term, ideokinesis, which I add to my working vocabulary with delight. It’s interesting to note that the “Construcive Rest,” “Active Rest,” and other techniques for generating attentive stillness do not trace back simply to the Alexander Technique or to any school of Ideokinesis, but to Buddhist meditation techniques as described by the historical Buddha more than 2,500 years ago.

I learned of Sylvia Boorstein’s DIY Meditation Retreat concept in a recorded interview at Shamhala Sunspace.

My first trainer was very wise when she reminded us, “What you think of as pressure and what your horse thinks of as pressure may not be the same.” I spend a lot of time wondering about the nature of pressure and the need for it. How to train and ride with it and without it. Especially while writing myRoutine Tasks…post, which made me feel awfully guilty about just about everything I’ve ever done with a horse.

So what is pressure?

Cheryl Ward at I Feel Good, My Horse Feels Good has nailed the definition. No need for me to struggle to reinvent the wheel.

Here it is:

What is Pressure?
Let’s jog on over to a natural horsemanship clinic.

(Before I begin, I have a disclaimer. The only reason I have disclaimer is when I tell people I predominately train without pressure, they tell me, with their fists clenched, that it’s impossible and they look like they want to punch me.)

Disclaimer: I am not against the use of pressure. I am against pressure being disguised as gentle, warm and fuzzy or a force-free alternative. I am against negative reinforcement being the only line of communication with a horse. I am advocating a balance of using attraction based methods and pressure based methods in the proportion that horses spend using each during their day. I am for using attraction-based methods to introduce pressure to a horse. Often when I train this way I don’t have to use pressure. I am for understanding the differences between using pressure and using attraction.

Okay, now let’s jog on over to a natural horsemanship clinic. The basic gist at one of these clinics is that horses communicate with pressure and that their deepest heart’s desire is the release of pressure, to be left alone. The conclusion is that the release of pressure is the reward. This theory has left me empty.

Pressure is defined by Merriam Webster online as:

The burden of physical or mental distress.
The constraint of circumstance.
The application of force to something by something else in direct contact with it.

You’ll have to visit the link to Cheryl’s blog to read the rest. It’s SO worth it! She has a wonderful counter-definition of the concept of ATTRACTION.


the Carnival of the Horses

image courtesy of burdyboo @ Flickr

image courtesy of Burdyboo@flickr

I certainly hope you’re not still shopping. Take a break for a few minutes. Rest your tired dogs and think about your entry for December’s Carnival of the Horses, which will be held at From the Horse’s Back. If you haven’t yet visited Michelle’s blog, I suggest you get over there and start reading. She’s a thoughtful and thought-provoking young writer who includes some very nice photos in her blog as well.

Submit your blog article to the next edition of the Carnival of the Horses using the blog carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on the
blog carnival index page

© 2009 enlightened horsemanship through touch and Kim Cox Carneal

Rachel Allen, TTouch P1, and Linda Tellington-Jones at La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe, NM

Heart Coherence is a term describing a state of being when all bodily systems are synchronized at a high performance state. When a group comes together sharing a common intention, each individual is like a tuning fork resonating to the vibration of others nearby.

At the 2009 CELLebration conference in Santa Fe, NM, 77 TTouch inspired human beings experienced profound heart coherence from the moment we gathered together. Linda Tellington-Jones, the founder of the Tellington TTouch Method and TEAM, led us to a place of higher awareness and connection through her presence, her compassion and her infinite wisdom.

The church bells of the neighboring Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi serenaded our conference with regular chimes, a melody that has been heard in downtown Santa Fe continuously since 1887. From the deck outside our conference room a statue of the Saint could be seen gracing the church entrance. In the type of synchronicity that seems commonplace with TTouch, St Francis of Assisi is historically known as the patron saint of animals. I believe we all felt his presence as our conference delved deeply into the realm of compassion for and communication with animals. Continue Reading »


Once again, It’s Thankful Thursday, and I’m taking a moment to consider all the things I have to be grateful for. Part of mindful awareness is living gratitude every moment of every day, and not just while writing Thankful Thursday’s post.







As Simrat at Akal Ranch says,

Gratitude creates its own attitude.

What a year it has been since last Thanksgiving day. I don’t like roller coasters. Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you. County fairs and amusement parks will see Kim on the midway shooting paper ducks and throwing rings at bowling pins instead of riding crazy hills and valleys. Ups and downs, crazy curls and straightaways, near-stalls and sudden accelerations. My life provides enough of those, thank you.

This time last year I was in a personal turmoil I don’t actually care to remember. I was awaiting surgery for my damaged disks, which were torturing my spinal cord with a skill that rivaled even the worst pain of labor and childbirth. And I was juggling the varied and pressing needs of my daughter at the same time. Yet there was a tiny ray of light–my job, which was to provide me with the key to my present day freedom and contentment.

I did not use the word, joy, you will notice. Things seem to have leveled off at the moment, and I’m taking it one day at a time. I’m not going to create a roller coaster of an opportunity to rise and then fall precipitously. A steady state of contentment will not only do nicely but is my ultimate goal.

For today, I have found it in the following:

My daughter’s delightful reveling in her freedom to live her own life, unhindered by constraints of mom. Her new apartment is a study in modern cool: the browns, blacks and oranges a reflection of her desire to remain grounded. The deep greens reveal her hope for growth. In our phone conversations, she has shared with me her reconnections with friends form high school, her activities with friends of the family, and all about the new friends she is making. It appears there is never a dull moment. I am incredibly proud of her, and full to bursting with gratitude on her behalf. She is 21 years old. She is healthy. She is living life.

Take a few minutes today to create your own Thankful Thursday. If you don’t have a blog of your own, you are welcome to post your thoughts here. If you have a blog, post what you are grateful for there, and please link back here. Feel free to tag other bloggers. We are trying to get a mindful movement of gratitude going.

For more thankfulness try out Akal Ranch, From the Horse’s Back, Tired Dog Ranch, Earth Dancer Spanish Mustangs or the Pony Expression

© 2009 enlightened horsemanship through touch and Kim Cox Carneal



Enter your idea for a suitable caption below. Deadline for entries is November 30.
The winner will be announced December 1.
The prize: one pound of fabulous Kona coffee, the best in the world, shipped right to your door!

© 2009 enlightened horsemanship through touch and Kim Cox Carneal

You clip the lunge line to his face and send him away. A flick of the whip or the rope and off he goes. Short time, long time, whatever, he walks, trots or canters in a circle. Your purpose for this exercise is clear in your mind: exercise, smooth transitions, an attempt at calming, lameness detection, etc. His understanding of the point of lungeing? ZERO.

Mounted or on the ground, you tug gently on the lead rope in the direction of his withers to ask for flexion to the left and then to the right. You practice this each and every time before you ride. Sometimes it’s a part of all the groundwork you do each day. A routine. It’s good horsemanship. You have a clear intention of what you want to achieve: a quick and soft yield of the head. Your horse’s attention. You have his attention al lright. But do you know what is in his mind? I wonder if it’s this:

I learned what you want in this flexion thing in a few tries. I don’t understand why I have to do it over and over. It’s boring. If we don’t do something new pretty soon, I’m going to find something else on my own. Oh hey, look what I can do…!


Backing up on the ground.

20 meter circles at the walk and trot.

Lead changes.

Trotting over cavaletti.

Sliding stops and spins.

Most of what we ask our horses to do on a daily basis is not as inherently harmful as dressage practice with rollkur. Yielding the head and trotting in 20 meter circles can’t physically hurt a horse unless he has health problems or injuries.

It can be harmful in other ways, however, as Frédéric Pignon says,

What people do not appreciate is that every time a horse submits to pressure, whether subtle or overt, he is diminished. Probably the great majority of people who achieve their own ends by making their horse submit are not even aware of what they have done. It is a sad fact that a horse can be made to do many things by breaking his will. If he can be persuaded to give his assent freely and pleasurably rather than give into man’s pressure or clever techniques, he is not diminished.

In Do We Really Know What We Do?, I posted the quote above also. I don’t believe we can contemplate what Frédéric was telling us enough. Horses who cannot find meaning in what they do are sour. They “misbehave.” They go lame. What we often do not realize is that it’s our fault.

Each and every time we as ordinary riders, just like the stars of the horse world, ask our horses to repeat an action they have already learned, or to do something contrary to their nature as horses, we are asking for a kind of submission, “making” him do things that make no sense to him. Most of horseback riding is not natural to horses, to be sure.
Horseback riding and training require a certain amount of repetition. This is irrefutable. But how much is enough? How can we be sure that our horses’ activities have clear and valid meaning for them?

One way is to change the way in which they are rewarded for producing the desired behavior. The pleasure of spending time with us is a reward for social animals like horses. We don’t always have time, but making time within our riding and training schedules to add a few extra moments of just being together with no goal in mind, and using this as a reward/positive reinforcement adds meaning to the tasks we ask horses to do.

Another way is to increase the amount of physical contact we have with our horses. Not the kind with the whip or with the leg. The kind where you both are on the ground and your hands are on the horse. Touch is a miracle communicator because horses are sensory creatures. Like us, touch in equine life is an important part of the establishment of social hierarchies and family interaction. The reward of human touch is powerful for such tactile animals. You’ve seen a horse with a metaphorical sign reading, “will work for food,” but most of them also will work for touch.

Do what comes naturally to your horse. An Icelandic Horse is bred for moving out across country. Their minds are not suited to riding in circles in arenas. If you are going to ask them to work in confined spaces at tasks they don’t inherently understand, make sure they get to do what they do understand, on a daily basis. Ride out, at speed!
Likewise, a Percheron is not built for, nor does he have the mindset for, the rapid changes in tempo and rhythm of dressage. Don’t even try it! I’m not suggesting that owners of Percherons take up hauling logs instead of riding. But perhaps long rides in the country are a better option for the health and sanity of the horse.
The much-abused Thoroughbred also comes to mind. OTTBs just aren’t constitutionally suited to a great many of the jobs we give them. Sure, they are in plentiful supply. They are inexpensive and easily replaceable. But consider suitability for your desired activity first. And if it’s just impossible to match breed to discipline, make sure you keep in mind my suggestions above for keeping your horse sane: avoid mindless repetition of meaningless tasks, give plenty of downtime in your company, and make sure to touch touch touch! I have one further suggestion for helping your horse find meaning in his working life.

The best way to ensure that horses find meaning in what they do is to change things up. On a routine basis. Yes, we will have to put considerable thought into this.

Non-habitual movements, like those described by Moshe Feldenkrais, capture the horse’s attention in a way that habitual actions do not. When practiced in a relaxed atmosphere without provoking typical fear responses, any new activity involving all four feet, the head or tail, or the back or belly engages the horse’s mind in a new way. Expanding the horse’s body image through new and different (non-habitual) movement sequences brings attention to parts of his body he might not be fully aware of (we all know those horses who forget they have hind feet and leave them parked out, for example). Asking a horse to do new things allows you to become more aware of their habitual neuromuscular patterns and rigidities as well because you are seeing them in a new way. You can then expand his options for new ways of moving and living his life more fully and comfortably, not to mention with greater ease of performance.

The Tellington TTouch Method™ has a variety of ground work and ridden exercises called the Playground for Higher Learning . Through brainwave studies, it has been shown that working on the activities in the Playground activates both hemispheres of the equine brain and calms the sympathetic nervous system, the part that excites the flight reaction so common in horses when they don’t understand what is being asked of them. The opportunities for learning are increased greatly. It is interesting to note that when navigating corners in the labyrinth, a horse’s BETA brainwaves are activated. They are actually thinking logically while working in the Playground for higher learning.

Why get excited about a horse thinking? When lungeing or repeating the activities we might need endless practice at, horses turn off their brains. They get sour and sometimes they get angry. A sour, angry horse who is merely becoming fitter as a result of all this mindless exercise is not the horse we want. This does them a profound disservice and does not further our goals.

Guiding a horse deliberately and gently through non-habitual paths while in close physical contact is the very essence of mindful horsemanship. The bonus is that it’s fun!

It’s easy to make any of the items in the Playground for Higher Learning. You can use the stuff you have lying around the barn or purchase it cheaply. It’s not heavy and can be set up and then moved out of the way to ride by one person in minutes. Here are some examples of what you might want to include.

The Zig Zag

The Tractor Tire

The Labyrinth

The Fan, or Star

The Triangle

These tools are not your typical obstacle course. They are not intended to be negotiated at speed, or as objects for desensitization. Rather the object is to practice focus and self-control, and to increase flexibility, body awareness, balance, coordination, and confidence. Increased patience is a wonderful side effect of working in the Playground. You can immediately see the benefits of working youngsters here.

It is beyond the scope of this post to describe how to use each of these obstacles. I suggest that you visit the Tellington TTouch website to read about them in more detail or get a book or video. Better yet, take a training so that you can practice with a horse before trying yourself. The TTouch methods of leading a horse through these obstacles is an integral part of the exercises. Last week in Bodega Bay, California, horses worked in these obstacles, and on a plywood platform raised 6 inches off the ground, in addition to walking through a gradually-built path of straw bales with people standing on them, eventually holding bright pool noodles in an arch over the horse. I saw striking changes in these horses in a short time–just four days of work two hours a day. These horses ranged from a youngster aged three (not yet mounted) to an elder aged 23 (unrideable due to past neglect and possible abuse), to a Grand Prix dressage horse with impeccable training and manners.

Horses’ capacity for learning and engagement with their human handlers never ends. It is our responsibility to meet them more than halfway by providing the opportunity to do so.

I’m not suggesting that we all drop our favorite equestrian disciplines in favor of turning our horses out into a field and visiting them daily with a carrot, a massage and a turn in the Playground. Though that would be excellent. We have horses so we can do things with them. Balance is absolutely necessary. It takes skillful means to strike and hold that balance. It isn’t easy, and it takes more time than grabbing the horse from the stall or field, scraping off the dirt, slapping on tack and circling the arena 50 times.

Rather than seeking yields (submission), we might instead seek cooperation, fun and learning with these tools, which will allow us to pursue our personal horseback riding and training goals without completely eradicating the soul of the horse. In this, we can all learn from Frédéric Pignon and Linda Tellington-Jones, whose mutual goal is to uphold the sanctity of the horse.

Youth-centered education and interactive programs in science are not new. But equine presenters acting as figureheads for these programs are pretty unusual. The Rutgers University Equine Science Center in New Jersey is revamping its website with an interactive, youth-oriented component to coincide with the annual Equine Science Update on Tuesday, December 8, 2009. There Lord Nelson, a a 36-year old American Quarter Horse, will guide budding scientists and horse enthusiasts in learning equine science. I wonder exactly how he is going to do this.

We are pleased to present Lord Nelson as the ‘Professor Emeritus’ for our youth-centered website component. Lord Nelson has witnessed the development of the Equine Science Center and experienced over 20 years of Rutgers University history. I cannot think of a more qualified candidate to help teach budding scientists and young horse enthusiasts about equine science.

says Dr. Karyn Malinowski, director of the Equine Science Center.

Lord Nelson arrived at Rutgers University in 1978 where he worked first as a patrol horse in the university mounted police unit and later as the Scarlet Knights mascto at sporting events. Lord Nelson had quite a resume before retiring in 2000.

The online classroom will see Lord Nelson as the lead educator in interactive elements and games, though the major focus will be equine science for youth 10-13 years of age. Modules will include equine healthcare and nutrition, equine exercise and physiology, and horses and the environment. The first module in Lord Nelson’s lesson plan book will be the Scoop on Poop, a lesson about animal waste management and manure as an agricultural resource. I can just see it now: Lord Nelson chatting happily away with the aid of computer animation as he poops unselfconsciously in demonstration.

The annual Equine Science Update is open to the public for the purpose of presenting the center’s activities and initiatives, current research projects, and scientific work in advancing horse industry issues. Guests are invited to tour the Ryders Lane Farm, which includes meeting the current crop of weanlings in the Young Horse Teaching and Research Program, attending a high-speed equine treadmill demonstration, and enjoying supper at the Cook Campus Center.

The time for my long-awaited and much anticipated change to WordPress.org, the self-hosted version of WordPress, has come. I figure there is no better time than when sequestered by the Bodega Plague. I have no idea what I’m doing. I am already flummoxed at step one.


Bear with me as I make this enormous step and please keep coming back, no matter what formatting horror you may find here.

Thanks for sticking it out!

The image is from Reasonable and senseless: the technical disaster by Donna Szoke. Excellent piece. Go read it.

Though it is primarily concerned with shod horses, it’s worth taking for fun.

Hoofcare Quiz

What’s Your Score?

I got 100%, of course! 🙂

MINDFUL MONDAY image courtesy growabrain@typepad.com

I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of working on a document/concept exploring a set of universal rights for horses for an international organization for horses’ welfare. This is in its nascent stages and I’m constantly thinking, “how should this be communicated? How can I write this so that it is compelling, emotionally accessible and easy to implement worldwide?”

Wonder and it shall be delivered!

Into my inbox last week popped a flawless example of how to enumerate the absolute compassionate approach to other beings. Compassion (karuna in Sanskrit and Pali) is the foundation of mindful living and Buddhist practice. How timely then that this wonderful link should arrive just as I approach this task with new vigor.

The Charter for Compassion

The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect. It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others – even our enemies – is a denial of our common humanity. We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.
We therefore call upon all men and women ~ to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings, even those regarded as enemies.
We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity.
It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensible to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.

PLEASE AFFIRM THE CHARTER by clicking on this link and signing your name.

See also Toward An Equine Bill of Rights and The Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare A sold Foundation for an Equine Bill of Rights

© 2009 enlightened horsemanship through touch and Kim Cox Carneal

The White Horse of Uffington, about which I have written several times, is my totem, my spirit guide to the elemental horse.

Untouched and untouchable by human intellect, this horse always has been, and ever will be, perfect.


Edited on the 24th to add: Fickle blondes! I’ve changed it again. There’s no pleasing me.