Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Why Rescues Rock

Popeye: 30 yr old Rescue Horse at Kimberlin Farms

Photo by Lauren Pigford of Lauren Pigford Studio

Okay, so horses of all kinds and ages ROCK. In my lifetime with horses (not divulging age here) I’ve stumbled upon a “secret” value to horses that I wish to share with others. This “secret” is quite simply that “Rescues Rock!” Naturally, people attach a value to a horse based on performance, competition value, or riding ability. So what value does ole back-yard Smokey, or Old Geezer Blue, or Lame Jane possibly have to offer? Even if they can be ridden, they aren’t competition worthy. What does that skinny horse down the street in the neighbor’s small, barren pasture possibly have to offer? If they’re skinny that just means their old, right? Old horses get skinny, right? Sure, they look bad, but there’s a reason….they must just be sick. Hum…all of them…that must be it?

Chances are, that skinny horse you drive by is a diamond in the rough just needing a little polishing in order to shine brightly once again. As is the case with the rescue horses I’ve encountered in my lifetime. One being my very first horse, Sampson, an OTTB who’d been “turned out to pasture” and forgotten for years to basically fend for himself in Mississippi. My mom and dad bought him for me mostly because my mom, being a lifelong horsewoman herself, felt sorry for him and the emaciated state he was in. She knew his luck would run out soon, and didn’t want to see him end up at the “killers”—even though he wouldn’t have brought much price for pound because of being so underweight. But, also, she was able to see something in his eyes that others had missed. This is because she’d been taught by horses to look beyond and see the hidden value…..the potential. She’d learned from horses to give chances and to take risks, no matter what others tell you makes sense or doesn’t. She learned from horses to listen to her own heart and instincts…and that voice inside that tells us which path to take.

Well, she was right! Sammy went on to become the most awe-inspiring, wondrous teacher I’ve had to date in my lifetime. I know without a doubt that horse loved me & was GRATEFUL for having found me after going through his rough years of hunger and neglect. This horse was ride able….and show -worthy. He was a self-confidence builder for me and a lesson that hard-work and gritty determination does pay off. It wasn’t easy; many a time did he dump me and challenge me! Many a time did I learn to meet his challenge! He let me know that force would never equal success with him. If a fight was what I wanted, you better believe he’d deliver! I realize now, he “let” me win some….but he eventually taught me how to more effectively “win” his challenges! He showed me through trial and error that true success comes through patience and consistency and not tiresome, yeehaw, stubborn (I’m after all a Taurus)”Horse you WILL do what I ask!” dominance.

Sampson was one of my greatest accomplishments. But far greater than the beauty and wonderful riding horse that he became, which consequently made me a good rider, was the special bond and relationship that we formed. Going through trials and tribulation…the ups and the downs….the humility and the success… my greatest joy was simply walking in the barn, calling out “Sammy Sue” and having him run to his stall door and nicker with wild excitement every time I came in the barn. That horse was ALWAYS happy to see me and let me know it! Every time he greeted me was like the first time he’d ever seen me. He was ALWAYS grateful to have me to his very last day! Anthropomorphize this or that… his unconditional, loyal, and count on me affection….genuine LOVE……warms my soul to this day and is one of the main reasons I’m on such a mission to spread the joy that all horses, but especially rescue horses, have to offer people.

Horses teach lessons in love and the self-confidence and respect that consequently develop from such bonds. Horses teach you the value that lies within your own hearts. They show us our own capacity to love, selflessly, and the rewards of such that feed our souls and help us to inspire, encourage others, and meet the challenges that life throws at us. They teach us that success in life is not railroading down the train tracks rolling over anything and everyone in our path. Sure, we may get ahead that way- for awhile. We may be profitable and successful in terms of society’s standards for success. But how will we “feel” about ourselves? Will our soul’s be at peace, be content, be happy and joyful? You will have to answer this question for yourself. For me, rescue horses have given me my answer.

Rescue horses are special amongst horses. Rescue horses never forget where they came from, what they’ve gone through. Rescue horses communicate more effectively with people. Some words that sum up rescue horses from my own experiences are: grateful, courageous, loyal, and open to communication. I’m not sure I can explain this adequately, but there is something about them that makes them extra special when it comes to being effective teachers. Their own breadth of experience makes them wiser. They are on another plane, a higher level. They see into our own hearts and more quickly reflect our own strengths and weaknesses. They just plain better understand us and bond with people more quickly and more powerfully. They leave us with an experience that we can draw upon long after they’re gone. The value is forever with us as we walk through our own life and meet the challenges that will inevitably come our way. We all have challenges. I have huge challenges ahead, but I’m not giving up. The harder I fall, the longer I’ll climb and the more determined I’ll be to reach the top of where I’m climbing to. But I won’t railroad others along the way. I won’t steam roll on past and not stop when I see reason to slow down! I’ll get where I’m going, and I’ll be proud of it when I get there. I’ll be the owner of my soul because I didn’t compromise my integrity. All of this because of the most true and honest experiences of my lifetime with rescue horses. Experiences that I can forever draw upon for clarity, motivation and inspiration. Experiences which I can share with others in order to pass on the valuable lessons that I have learned. Hopefully, I’ve answered the question as to why I think “Rescues Rock!"

Monday, August 09, 2010

Horses and Learning

photo by Lauren Pigford Studio

Have You Hugged Your Horse Today?

Equine Assisted Learning and therapy provides a unique opportunity for all people, but especially for people suffering with communicative disorders, learning disabilities, and emotional issues such as low self-esteem. Horses connect to their subjects on a level that does not involve “words” and communication becomes an interactive trial by nature situation. Horses "sense" our strengths and weaknesses very quickly! They size us up and test us to see who stands where in the "pecking order." In order for people and horses to truly "bond," people must "pass" such tests in order to work together with horses effectively as a team- otherwise, we don’t get very far with them! In this respect, horses teach us how to “troubleshoot” and help people improve their overall communication skills. If you can "understand" a horse and learn to "read" their thoughts by observing their body language, you'll probably be better able to "read" people.

Working with horses is very much a “mental” activity. Success with horses does not come from physical strength or overpowering them, rather from understanding them, gaining their trust, observing and learning to “read” their body language. They tell us volumes in the subtlety of a movement, gesture, flick of an ear, lick of the lips. Human willingness to learn this new “language” opens the mind and it feeds the soul. Once learning to “talk” with a horse, the horse gains respect and I believe shows you an unconditional love that warms the heart and heals the soul. It is not a selfish love, but one that is unconditional, honest, simple, yet an intensely powerful bond that can have a positive life changing effect on a person. It can be the first true glimpse of pure love, trust, respect and teamwork that someone has ever experienced. And all this, can come from the often gentle, persistent, and calming spirit of a 1000+lb horse, that chooses to work with us and submit their wild natural and instinctive roots.

Why horses do this, when they don’t have to….. sometimes still perplexes me? I don’t know many humans that would do so. But my own theory is that I believe horses to be our earthly guardian angels and teachers put here to help us “learn” something about ourselves. They can show us how we should treat ourselves, each other, and every living thing- with respect, dignity, and appreciation! They are mirrors of ourselves and reflect our own nature in how they respond to us. If we're nervous, they're nervous. If we're affectionate, they're affectionate, if we're hostile, they'll react as the big flight animals they are! Horses are after all, horses!

Most horses demand that people “earn” their trust. Not a bad survival trait, considering the number of dishonest folk out there! Once a human has earned the trust of a horse, they’ve earned a life-long, loyal friend. Not to say that horses won’t give “refresher’s” on this lesson….and test us from time to time. We must earn the right for them to view us as a leader- which they must accept us to be in order for the relationship to be successful. Horses MUST respect and trust us in order for their to be an effective partnership. This is when the true magic comes into play- when both horse and human have bonded, and work as partners and a team. Truly then, magic in the form of unconditional love, respect, enjoyment, and learning opportunities are born. This world would be a better place if more people had the opportunity to experience and learn common-sense, hand's-on, interactive lessons from some of the most effective teachers on earth- horses!

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Summer Recap: Horses & Kids-Keeping it REAL

Well, the summer heat is still with us, but oh my starts on Monday for many local Memphis area kid's....what? How the heck did this happen? Perhaps there are some parents out there saying, took you long enough? Nah!

I for one can't wait from a break from this HEAT wave Memphis is having. It's horrid for those of us addicted to outdoor activities, and especially difficult for our pets who can't come inside to cool off! With heat index's of 115 this past week, many poor horses have it rough!

Luckily, one of the highlights of my summer horse fun was before this annoying heatwave hit. And, it was still PLENTY HOT! My very first Summer 2010 Kids Horsemanship Camp was a BLAST and a great learning experience for campers and for me! It was a return to celebrating horses, educating kids about all things horses, and of course- good ole horsey fun! Some things I learned:

  1. More adults should spend time with kids- teaching them about their passions! Kids need role models and something to get excited about especially in today's world! Learning should be fun and creative, but unfortunately our society has become so "systematic" and "procedural" about education-"right vs wrong," "A students vs C students," "this label vs that"- that creative and hands-on learning opportunities are few and far between! Why is society as a whole so frighted to encourage independent thought and creativity? Sometimes I feel like society is encouraging a bunch of drones & worker bees....I say, why not encourage more Queen bees? I love it when kids have the freedom, space, and encouragement to "use their own minds" and think out of the "box" creatively! Now this is REAL learning! The type of thinking the "real world" demands of people in order to succeed, heck, more like survive in this economy! This is the type of learning that occurred at my horse camp! I'm really proud of this!

  2. I need to focus more on equine assisted learning, because obviously, I love horses, obviously, I love learning. I've spent almost 15 years making a corporate career out of it. Duh, bring them both together and voila... by Jove, perhaps I've finally stumbled across my calling?

  3. When you share something you truly are passionate about with others, there isn't a price tag on the reward you get! It's a great feeling knowing that you are doing something that matters and contributing to a special experience and memory for people!

  4. Sharing a passion refuels the soul, provides a clarity in priorities and direction, and provides motivation that becomes a force of its own. Whether I'm ready or not, some force greater than myself has grabbed hold of me and is pulling me in the direction I'm supposed to be going in. My job at this point is to keep up...and although I'm working my you know what off, from sun up to sun down, my work is a joy and doesn't feel like a burden!

  5. Have fun and don't ever lose touch with your inner kid! Be goofy, creative, messy, pout, have a temper tantrum, let your parent's be parents and "baby" you if you're lucky enough to still have them in your life! Laugh often, cry often, move your feet often and turn off the TV!!! Eat your favorite food's often, hang out with your favorite people very often! Thank them for being in your life and be thankful for having them! Hug your dog, hug your cat, don't be afraid to pick up that stray kitten that's wandered into your life and open your heart to it! Tell fear and reason to take a's worth living, not missing because your too "Afraid" of what you'll do right or what you may do wrong.....Naturally, hug your horse and spend lots and LOTS of time with him/her/them....after all, they are to thank for many lessons you've learned in life. For myself, horses are to thank for items 1-5 posted here! Without horses, I'd probably be a narrow minded, bitter, and angry person obsessed with things I can't take with me six feet under!
At my horse camp, I got to be a "big kid" and relive my childhood. The most important lesson I learned: EVERY ADULT NEEDS TO BE A KID ONCE IN AWHILE! This keeps us REAL! God Bless Kids and Horses for reminding me, what's REALly important :)