Friday, December 6, 2013

Horses 101

Shelley Hamilton is the proprietor of Spirit Horse Farm and the facilitator/instructor of Horses 101, a program geared for all ages of horse enthusiasts! From Ontario, Canada, Spirit Horse Farm embraces the wonders of horsemanship…

Welcome Shelley!

What is Horses 101?
Horse 101 From the Ground Up is a non-riding program where students come to learn about horses through hands on teaching, improve their level of handling horses, and to teach and then communicate in ways the horse understands! 

Our classes run every day, however, our classes are just one student at a time, no groups.  We want every personality to get the most from this program.
We start students at the very beginning at ground level and give them the information on how to look after horses, and inform them on what the horse’s needs are.

Our goal is to train both horses and people the same way. Small forward detailed steps for better and longer retention.  Safety is ALWAYS our priority.  Topics covered include proper brushing, anatomy, bandaging, stable management, taking vitals, major horse illnesses (how to spot them, and what to do),  colors,  markings, breeds, nutrition, horse massage and relaxation, lounging, join-up, parts of the saddle and bridle, how to place and adjust your equipment properly, and respect.       

Who can benefit from this course?
After 35 years in the horse industry there are some things that you see and hear over and over, and most of it has been questions or concerns on things that should be general basic knowledge.  This program, designed in 2009, was designed for everyone who has questions on horses from ground level.

The starting place... It does not matter if your ride English, or Western, or have miniature horses or big draft horses, “from the ground” the horse world is equal. So it was created to help those that seek that information. Students that have come through our program have normally fallen into categories below, including ages from 9 to 76…

*The new horse owner.

*The rider or owner who is coming back into the horse world after a long absence.

*A rider who wants to improve their riding by learning control and communication from the ground.

*Riders, and or people that have had a bad or scary encounter.

*Family members who do not ride, but want to get more involved with their horse-loving family.

*People who just want to experience the wonderful magical connection of a horse-human bond, but do not want to learn to ride.

*People who do not want to own their own horse, but want to donate their time to horse rescues.

Why is Chancy called the 'Jungle Horse'?
Ahh Chance.

Chance came to The Spirit Horse farm and joined our program at a young age.  In general I like older, more mature horses to deal with the public, but when I met him I knew he would be perfect.
Chance (or Chancy as his owner affectionately refers to him) had a bad start in life. He was separated from his mother young, and he lacked the proper teaching from his mother on herd etiquette. He was outcast and ranked very low in the herd when I found him.

When we brought him home he would stay away from the other horse, in fear that he would be chased, and it took some time before he trusted and felt comfortable to eat close to the other horse. Once he had established himself and was no longer chased off,  Chance’s personality really began to shine. He became the horse version of Inspector Jacques Clouseau.  He was allowed to go where he wanted and check out the things he had not seen before. There is a wooded area in the middle of the horses pasture, and once Chance found his way in, he was in his glory, eating different types of grasses.

His favorite thing was to sneak in one way, and pop out the other scaring his herd mate (which I think I have even seen him smile doing this activity),  but the best is he can go in and scratch himself up against a tree to scratch areas that he normally can not reach by just rolling.  I have watched him carry out sticks and use them as personal toys, entertaining himself for hours. So his name has been changed to Chancy the Jungle Horse.

I have Ripley's (Believe it or not) on speed dial waiting for the day I see him climbing one of his beloved trees. :)   

What training method do you favor for horse and rider?
If you were to take the world’s top 5 trainers, and give each of them a young, unbroke horse, and ask them to train it in 3 days so that it can be ridden under saddle, I have no doubt that you would end up in a arena with 5 horses that would all walk beautiful under saddle at the end of 3 days.  The key is that each of them will get the finished product all with very different styles and techniques. Everything that is learned by rider and horse moves them to a new level, and each level or goal has its own training.  

In my opinion, there must be trust and respect between horse and rider before we can have love.  We as humans enjoy the love part, but horses need leadership. And in order for each to have what they need and want – there are steps to building that.

For me, when I train, I start with a Join-up always.  It allows me to talk in a language the horse understands on who is in charge. (Join-up uses natural body movements that a wild herd of horses would use to communicate and is done in a round sand pen). Then once I have completed that I start training in small steps of information and work with the horse over many repetitions until they understand and do what has been asked freely. I never set my horse up to fail, and I have learned from my mentor, Martha Josey, that practice does not make perfect…. “PERFECT practice makes perfect.” 

Describe the perfect horse....
The perfect horse, is not all about blood lines, or just how they look, it is if he/she wants to have that human connection, the one that keeps you safe during riding or working with him. Where both horse and rider have respect for one another.  For without respect first, then neither will ever get what they hope – a loving, strong partnership.

To date, what has been your favorite horse adventure?  
I have been blessed with MANY.  Certainly building my own farm, and creating Horse 101 From the Ground Up has been a wonderful experience. But 35 years has given me a long time to make, see, and experience many things.

But I do have one that always comes to mind and always makes me smile. In was 1980 and it was on a horse that took me from beginner to pro.  All horse owners remember their first horse that takes them to a different and higher level. And he was mine.

I wanted to travel to Texas to study and learn from a top Barrel racer whom I have admired and respected my whole life. So I packed up my truck and trailer, loaded my horse and off we went to Texas for 3 weeks. Because the trailers back then did not have the suspension they do today, in order to stop my horse from seizing up, he had to come off the trailer and be walked every 3 hours.  The people I met and the glorious places I stopped were just fantastic.  I had the best time in Texas at the clinic, but the trip itself was just as much fun - well except for the tornado, but that’s a story for another day!

What does horsemanship mean to you?
To me, horsemanship is learning all you can, and to give the best you can. To listen to all the advice that is given, and pick and choose what works for you. To respect the opinions of others and their experiences.

Never think you are better than anyone, because there is always someone better than you.  Never set your horse up to fail.  Take the time to help others if asked because you were there yourself once.  To provide the best care for your horse, so they never feel pain because of human ignorance, and finally horsemanship is about the end result of hard work, a quiet ride on a warm summers day with the sun peeking in and out of the trees, and a cooling breeze that floats your way; to feel the power of muscle under your seat, yet feel the softness of fine sleek hair through your fingers, to know that you have created a partnership that is forever.  

Connect with Shelley…

No comments: