Connected Horsemanship
            at Valkyrie Ranch

Connecting horse and human in
relationship and communication

Articles & Case Studies

The purpose of this blog will be to record and track variouse case studies involving horses, students, training, etc.  and a place for all of my training articles to be posted. This is soley for educational purposes and is only an expression of my own experiences and ideas.

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Horse's Prayer

Posted by Lauren on August 25, 2017 at 7:10 PM Comments comments (1)
The Horse's Prayer To thee, my master, I offer my prayer. Feed me, water and care for me, and when the day's work is done, provide me with shelter, a clean, dry bed and stall ide enough for me to lie down in comfort. Always be kind to me. Talk to me. Your voice often means as much to me as the reins. Pet me sometimes that I may serve you the more gladly and learn to love you. Do not jerk the reins, and do not whip me when going uphill. Never strike, beat or kick me when I do not understand what you want, but give me a chance to understand you. Watch me, and if I fail to do your bidding, see if something is not wrong with my harness or feet. Do not check me do that I cannot have free use of my head. If you insist that I wear blinders, so that I cannot see behind me as it was intended I should, I pray you be careful that the blinders stand well out from my eyes. Do not overload me, or hitch me where water will drip on me. Keep me well shod. Examine my teeth when I do not eat; I may have an ulcerated tooth and that, you know, is very painful. Do not tie my head in an unnatural position, or take away my best defense against flies and mosquitoes by cutting off my tail. I cannot tell you when I am thirsty, so give me clean, cool water often. Save me, by all means in your power, from that fatal disease-the glanders. I cannot tell you in words when I am sick, so watch me, that by signs you may know my condition. Give me all possible shelter from the hot sun, and put a blanket on me, not when I am working but when I am standing in the cold. Never put a frosty but in my mouth but warm it by holding it a moment in your hands. I try to carry you and your burdens without a murmur, and wait patiently for you long hours of the day and night. Without the power to choose my shoes or path, I sometimes fall on the hard pavements which I have often prayed might not be of cement but of such a nature as to give me a safe and sure footing. Remember that I must be ready at any moment to lose my life in you service. And finally, O my master, when my useful strength is gone, do not turn me out to starve or freeze, or sell me to some cruel owner, to be slowly tortured and starved to death; but do though my master, take my life in the kindest way, and your God will reward you here and hereafter. You will not consider me irreverent if I ask this in the name of Him who was born in a stable, Amen. author unknown

Cowgirls Prayer

Posted by Lauren on August 25, 2017 at 7:10 PM Comments comments (0)
The Cowgirl's Prayer Dearest creator in Heaven Give me strength to guide my horse Make my hands soft and my head clear Let my horse understand me and I him My heart you have blessed with a special love of these animals Let me never loose sight of it. My soul you have gifted with a deep need for them. Let that need never lessen. Always let my breath catch as the sun gleems on an elegent head. Always may my throat tighten at the sound of a gentle nicker. Let the scent of fresh hay and a new bag of grain be sweet to me. Let the touch of a warm nose on my hand always bring a smile. I adore the joy of a warm day on the farm. The grace and splendor of a running horse. The thunder of hooves makes my eyes burn and my heart soar. Let it always be so Dearest Creator, grant me patience. For horses are harnessed wind and wind can be flighty. Let me not frighten or harm them. Instead show me ways to understand them. Above all dear Creator,fill my life with them. When I pass from this world, Send my soul to no heaven without them. For this love you have given me graces my existence And I shall cherish and praise you for it for all time. author unknown

Self-Mastery before Horse Mastery

Posted by Lauren on March 2, 2014 at 10:20 PM Comments comments (0)

Self-Mastery before Horse Mastery 

                The concept of self-mastery before horse mastery is often a very new concept to riding students, yet it is invaluable to the success of a rider at any level. It is so easy for riders to blame the horse for their short comings; but in the moments of failure the truth cuts deep… the horse is only ever a reflection of his rider. How can a person impatiently expect so much of their horse and then in the same breath demand the horse to be absolutely gracious and tolerant of them. It is absolutely absurd to expect an animal to show a greater degree of responsibility, intelligence, grace & patience then we ourselves possess.  When said so bluntly, again, it cuts deep; it is, however, absolutely necessary for the justice of all horses that we riders begin to realize and practice that truth.

                What exactly do I mean by self-mastery? I mean for you to master your own body, emotions & thoughts to a greater degree than the level you intend to control your horse. If you cannot seem to remember to look where you’re going, open your shoulder and keep your hands quiet how on earth can you expect your horse to maintain a bend, not fall in through the corner and keep from playing with the bit or tossing his head? As I said before it is absurd! To be a successful rider you must have a heightened awareness of your surroundings, your own body and the horses’ body. You must have the capability to remember and put into practice every valuable thing you see, hear, read and learn. You must be able to maintain a zen type mindset which is able to influence the horses mind as well. Emotions aside you must live in the moment, not of what should have been but of what is, while at the same time always thinking towards and preparing for your next movement. You must have absolute clarity of intentions and directions.

 It is almost comical at times to watch someone trying so hard to work on a specific little detail that they don’t even realize they are meandering aimlessly around the arena. I often like to interrupt their concentration to ask them where exactly they are going, to which they respond with a puzzled look, “well, I don’t really know”. Of course we all start there and we go through stages of development just like a child first learning to walk most certainly cannot be expected to walk a perfectly straight line with nothing to hold onto. But like a child we must eventually grow up and develop the automatic muscle memory of walking. As an adult you no longer have to think about each little piece that goes into walking, “Left knee bend, extend forward, shift weight, regain balance, right knee bend, extend forward, shift weight, etc...” Instead you simply decide that you need to go shut the door, make lunch, or whatever and your body just walks. Our adult bodies so often take for granted these automatic muscle memories that eluded us as infants. It is the same for a rider. Though you may be an infant now it is crucial to let go of the couch and take those first few wobbly steps towards maturity.  A successful rider must develop in themselves the appropriate strength and flexibility in their body; it is not fair to ask the horse to carry you when you cannot even carry yourself! Develop and enforce correct posture in and out of the saddle. Grab onto the reins of your nerves and learn to control your emotions instead of allowing your fear or anger control you. Gain coordination through intentional and precise movements (yoga, tai chi and the like are a huge help).

                I am not necessarily saying that you are required to obtain the ultimate degree of self-mastery before being allowed to touch a horse; but again, you must have a greater degree of mastery over yourself then the level of mastery you expect to accomplish with the horse. If you do not yet have mastery over your hands then ride in a bitless bridle on a loose rein. If you do not have control of your seat and the ability to keep yourself from bouncing on your horses back then by golly do something about it! Take lessons on a lungeline, strengthen your abs and legs, relax and stretch your muscles, develop some rhythm, whatever it takes. It is not right to expect the horse to carry you with absolute grace, beauty and integrity, without protest, when the being that he is required to follow is jerking, bouncing, unbalanced, unmotivated, unfocused, unclear, impatient, not confident, etc. And God forbid that the poor horse have enough and injure the obnoxious root of all his discomfort! Oh heavens no, now he is dangerous, crazy, unsafe! He is to be sent to some rough cowboy down the street or the auction if that doesn’t work. Of course no one would ever think that perhaps if that same horse had been handled with a greater degree of justice and skill the outcome would be quite different.  If riders and handlers stopped expecting the horse to “take care of them” when they refuse to make any effort towards taking care of themselves, the number of “unmanageable” horses or even just those with bad habits would significantly diminish.

                In order to achieve self-mastery one must be perfectly and completely honest with themselves. What are your weakest points? How might you overcome them? Often times the solution is found far from the barn; but I guarantee your extra curricular efforts will benefit your horsemanship. By all means continue to spend time with your horse and developing your riding skill, it is a good test of your progress. Continue to work on yourself until you have acquired strength of body, strength of mind and strength of spirit. Do not fool yourself in thinking that you can get there without some blood, sweat and tears. It takes time, hardwork, determination and dedication. The rewards, however, far surpass your effort. If you can achieve self-mastery and a heightened sense and balance of the physical, mental and spiritual you will discover a whole new dimension of horsemanship that you never even knew existed.


Equine Gastric Ulcers

Posted by Lauren on December 1, 2013 at 8:55 PM Comments comments (0)

Click on the link for information about Lauren's study on ulcers and her Ulcer Heal Herbal blend:

What every horse owner should have on hand!

Posted by Lauren on November 6, 2013 at 11:20 PM Comments comments (0)

After being called out to help with a clients "semi-emergency" on a Sunday (which, by the way, is my day off) for the second time that month I decided it was neccessary to put together a basic list of natural remedies that every horse owner should have on hand and know how to use. Of course there are real emergencies when we need a vet and of course you should not hesitate to call one if that be the case, however, it is still nice to have something that can help in the mean time...

Horse Owners Natural Remedy Preparedness Kit 

¨      Lavender Essential Oil: Forany kind of trauma, stress or injury. Calming & healing, creates overallsense of well-being.

¨     PeppermintEssential Oil: For respiratory & digestion. Goodfor colic, digestive upset, coughing or other respiratory issues.

¨     ArnicaMontana: A homeopathic remedy that helps kick start thebodies healing response in the event of any trauma, injury or illness.

¨     NuxVumica: A homeopathic remedy, can be used for colic/upsetstomach, also should be given before &/or after any necessary vaccines oranesthesia to help it clear & prevent side effects.

¨     EpsomSalt: Internally used as a detox & laxative, can begiven to help alleviate/prevent colic. Externally used as a poultice or soakfor injuries (sprains, strains, swelling, soreness, etc.). Being a source ofmagnesium it can also help balance minerals in certain horses.

¨     Psyllium: Clearssand out of the digestive system to help alleviate/prevent impaction colic.

¨     TeaTree Oil: Very strong, natural, topical antiseptic to helpprevent infection.

¨     Peppermint Leaf: Given internally as a brewed tea or just the leavesmixed into feed. Supports respiratory & digestive systems. Can alleviatedigestive discomfort/colic.

¨     FennelSeed: Given internally, can be whole seed or powderedform, helps alleviate gas colic & upset stomach.

¨     PainRelief: Cayenne Pepper & Devils Claw (both in powderedform, given internally) have anti-inflammatory & pain relieving properties.

¨     AcupressureChart: You should make sure to always have an acupressurechart available as one of your first lines of defense in the event of anillness or injury. Using acupressure points you can support any/all of the bodysystems that are being affected. Here is a link to a great articles about thebasic of acupressure & a free chart you can print out:

¨     Activated Charcoal: Use internally in the event of poisoning.

Conventional First Aid suggestions to also have on hand…

¨     Antibacterial:Iodine, hydrogen peroxide, nolvasic or the like, for cleaning any open woundsto prevent infection.

¨     Topical Wound Care: Includes dressing/ointment, cotton rolls& bandages.

¨     PainRelief: Aspirin, Banamine or Bute; always nice to haveavailable in severe situations & emergencies. Use as directed by aveterinarian.

¨     Liniment: Used topically for stiff, sore, achy or injured muscles.

¨     Extra things to have around: Buckets, palatable feed to mix with medicine/herbs, clean rags, an oral syringe, polo wraps, twine or rope, all emergency contacts & phone numbers.


What Is Rein Contact? by Ross Jacobs

Posted by Lauren on August 27, 2013 at 12:35 AM Comments comments (0)

What Is Rein Contact? by Ross Jacobs

The question of what is contact gets argued on dressage forums all over the world. Amateur and professionals have different opinions. Even many of the gurus of dressage can’t agree. With that in mind there is no chance that what I am going to say is going to sit well with everybody.

I think in order to understand what contact is you have to understand what is its purpose. Why do we want to have contact? If you can understand the purpose of it, you will be able to know when you have it or not by how your horse responds. If you have correct contact you will get the result you want (or closer to them). So here is my take on what is the point of contact in training and riding.

Contact is a line of communication between the rider/handler and the horse. You can have contact in the saddle and on the ground. You can have contact through your seat, your legs, your hands, your voice, your whip etc. All these open a line of communication whereby you can convey your intent to a horse. Contact is nothing more than communicating to a horse.

The appropriate contact is never constant. It is always changing. It needs to change because the availability of a horse’s mind to listen to the contact is always changing due to his changing focus. The contact a rider might need to convey a meaning to a horse may have to change in a moment-to-moment fashion in order for the horse to get the message. The amount of feel you might need to apply to the reins or seat will change many times during a ride. It’s no different to be a teacher in a classroom. Sometimes the teacher can speak softly if the students are listening and other time he will have to shout in order to be heard.

Now that we know what is the purpose of contact, we can then define it. When riders and coaches talk about contact they are almost always referring to the feel on the reins. So for the purposes of this discussion I will confine my thoughts to how a rider might use the reins to achieve contact.

I want you to look at the photos and think about what they all have in common. It might surprise you if I tell you that they all have the same contact! This is why.

“Contact is the minimum amount of feel on the reins required to evoke a change in a horse.”

I refer here to contact as being correct contact and by change I mean a change in a horse’s thought (which is the only change worth having).

So if you look at the pics again you’ll see each rider is using different rein pressure, yet each has the correct contact because that’s how much rein pressure is required to get a change in each horse. So they all have the same contact because they all have the minimum amount of feel on the reins to achieve a change in their horses.

In the world of dressage horses are taught to “seek” the contact. In other words they are trained to push into the reins. In some horses it is a simple holding of the bit at the end of the outstretched rein. In other horses it is a bearing down onto the bit – a leaning into the reins. It will differ a little from trainer to trainer. But what dressage people almost universally criticize is to ride a horse on a rein with slack in it. It is widely considered to be incorrect because they think that slack in the rein means no contact and no control.

But let’s again look at the purpose of contact. It is a means of communicating a rider’s intent to a horse and the correct contact is the MINIMUM amount of rein pressure needed to evoke a change in a horse. So if riding a horse with a rein that is not taut can achieve both these criteria, then the rider must be using the correct contact. In fact, I would argue that to ride such a horse with more rein pressure than that is incorrect contact.

The purpose of riding – any sort of riding – is to achieve as close a unity with a horse as possible. To me, this means that the means of communication we use to talk to our horse should be quieter as we approach that unity. The more advanced a horse becomes the more subtle our aids and the less pressure we need to transmit our intent. It would seem that the ultimate goal of every rider would be to have a horse that can be directed by the smallest change and the least amount of pressure. It just seems logical therefore that a horse that can be ridden correctly with slack in the reins is more advanced than a horse that requires anything more than that in order to be correct.

But I want to emphasize the importance of being ridden CORRECTLY. Correctness is key here. I would not want to sacrifice the correctness just so I can say my horse does canter pirouette on a loose rein if it is a poor canter pirouette. If taking a stronger feel on the reins would help my horse find a better quality canter pirouette, then I would. There is nothing to be gained by letting a horse flounder in mediocrity so you can ride on a loose rein. This is one reason why I don’t like most of the liberty riding that I see. Most horses ridden at liberty perform very poorly and correctness is forgotten just for the sake of showing that the horse can be ridden without a bridle. To me, that has no merit. And I say the same thing about contact. There is no merit in riding a horse with hardly any rein pressure if he needs more rein pressure in order to help him be correct.

Contact is not one thing. Contact is the minimum amount of rein pressure a rider needs to evoke a change in a horse. On some horses that might be 10kg and on others is might be the weight of a carbon atom. Both are correct for those horses. But to ride a horse with a stronger feel on the reins than is needed is incorrect use of contact. Likewise, too little feel on the reins to help a horse change his thought is also incorrect use of contact.

I think to argue that a horse that can be ridden correctly with slack in the reins is either evading the bit or falling behind the bit is to forget the purpose of contact. I believe once you appreciate what is contact and why it is needed, that idea seems backward and counter to what our ultimate goal should be in riding. I believe it comes from a reading of the books and not a reading of the horse.

Extreme Mustang Makeover Competition

Posted by Lauren on August 19, 2013 at 7:45 PM Comments comments (0)

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Extreme Mustang Makeover: Week 2

Posted by Lauren on February 8, 2013 at 12:30 AM Comments comments (1)

Day 9 (Monday): Had the bareback pad and the little kiddie saddle on her today and turned her out in the arena. She is a great mover :D

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Day 10 (Tues): Today I put the light weight synthetic saddle on and stood up in the stirrups on both sides. Also bridled her...she is not so sure about the bit lol. I have also been starting to teach her to side pass to me.

Day 11 (Wed): Started today with the taking territory exercise. She is pretty submissive so I wanted to wait until she trusted me first and then just use it to reinforce my leadership. It only took once on each side before she had it down like a pro lol. Backed her with the light weight saddle again and worked on "side to" me up on the fence and would put my leg over her from the fence, all just preperation for getting on.

Day 12 (Thurs): She is pretty well used to being groomed every day and she leads really well, just follows me around. Worked on "side to" from the fence again and put my big ol' ranch saddle on her. I have been putting her in the little catch pen in the corner of the arena while I ride Cheyenne...she watches and learns ;). And I actually sat on her for the first time today!!! Had my dad there as ground support and then got on the bareback pad from the fence, just sat for a little while petting & talking to her and bouncing/moving around the jumped off the other side. Her main concern was whether or not she was going to get a carrot for this! lol

Extreme Mustang Makeover: Week 1

Posted by Lauren on January 31, 2013 at 12:05 AM Comments comments (0)

Here is the video of us bringing her home!

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Day 1 (Sunday): We sat in her stall reading for a few hours and she would approach us and smell us.

Day 2 (Mon): Spent a lot of time in her stall throughout the day. She does let me approach her and stand next to her now. I also threw the tarp into her stall and she played with it! So then I put the lasso rope in and she sniffed it. She likes to explore things!

Day 3 (Tues): Today she let me pet her! :D Only at her middle though (side, back, shoulder, neck...). Continued to play with the tarp and this time I put the rope in stretched out a bit so every so often she would step through one of the coils as she was walking by and drag it a bit, she would kick it off but did not get bothered about it.

Day 4 (Wed): We got a lot done today! Still spending time just sitting with her throughout the day, also going in and giving her a pet when I walk by. I started with a cinch wrap. We played with the lasso rope, just touching her all over with it and swinging it around at first. Then I put it around her neck and worked on giving to the pressure which she picked up very quickly. I did the same thing around her nose, that took a little longer for her to get the hang of and she didn't like it at first, but after she learned togive to the pressure on her nose she let me stand at her head and pet her face. Also but the rope around her rump which she intitially wasn't too fond of but after she relaxed into that I was able to put the figure 8 wrap on her.

Day 5 (Thurs): Repeated the pressure exercise around her neck and nose but used a lead rope instead today. Haltered her for the first time and started on leading.

Day 6 (Fri): Wrapped 1 hind leg & practised leading.

Day 7 (Sat): Practised leading, worked with tarp, wrapped other hind leg, walked out for the first time, turned out in the round pen with surcingle, saddle pad and started on picking up her front feet.

Here is a video of her leading out

Your Horse Gets A Say!

Posted by Lauren on December 10, 2012 at 3:35 AM Comments comments (0)


      Most often the questions that come from horse owners and handlers one way or another trace’sback to how to communicate something to their horse. Everyone wants to learn how to make their horse better understand what it is they are asking of them. Few people ever turn that around and ask “what is my horse trying to tell me?”or “how does my horse tell me what they want?” The difference between communicating something to your horse and communicating with your horse is an understanding that is mutual.The definition to me of a mutual relationship is one where the horse freely chooses you; even with all the ropes, fences and equipment taken away your horse still has a desire to be with you and to participate in what you are doing. But there is a catch, a relationship where the horse freely chooses to be with you can never be forced, taught or coerced. The bottom line is that your horse gets to have a say! If you want your relationship with your horse to move past slave and master into an equal friendship then you must accept that the horse has a right to an opinion and must be allowed to freely express it. This does not, however, mean that your horse has the right to whatever it wants, to be without any respect or discipline and to walk all over you or abuse you. You also have the right to your space which you must protect. An example of this lived out would be that your horse may freely express its anger but it may not take its anger out on you.

      One of the hurdles on the way to this kind of relationship is the ridicule or well-intended “help” of others…”you’re not going to allow him to behave that way are you?!” “Look at how disrespectful she is being! My horse knows better than to balk when she’s told to do something.” Don’t listen to your barn friends…your relationship with your horse and their emotional wellbeing must be more important in your mind then what others think or say.  Again this does not mean that your horse can do or not do whatever it likes, what it means is that you never assume that your horse is just being naughty. If your horse balks at something stop and think, is it possible that you have not properly prepared them for that exercise and need to slow things down? If your horse kicks is it possible that they are in pain? If your horse is nervous or spooky could they be trying to tell you that their need for a strong, confident leader has not been met? Ifyour horse doesn’t stop acting up from the time you get it out till after you’ve gotten on is it possible that they are trying to tell you that they do not want you to ride them because they hate their job? If your horse paws constantly while tied could it perhaps be that they are just full of energy and would like to play, stretch and roll before being asked to concentrate or work? If your horse is hard to catch might it be because they actually don’t like you? In order to build a mutual relationship with your horse they must have the freedom to express themselves without fear of reprimand. When your horse is presenting undesirable behavior stop and ask yourself “why?” There may, however, be times when you never find out why. You must be willing to accept that. You may never know why your horse hates to jump or why they refuse to go into that particular trailer or why they always act up when that other horse or person is around but I’d bet you that they have a good reason for it. Now it’s up to you, are you going to cause your horse continued emotional and possibly physical pain by forcing the issue which will only lead to a loss of trust and their resentment towards you; or are you going to allow your horse a say and listen more then you talk? Your horse will only love you more for it. It may be a very bumpy road at first but as your horse begins to express itself and you begin to listen and understand, your relationship will grow exponentially! When you have a real, mutual friendship then you can always assume that your horse will do everything you request as long as you asked properly, your horse is well prepared and has the physical capability to do it. When you can assume that your horse always wants to follow you within this criteria then you can take any signs of displeasure, anger, depression or irritation as your horse trying to communicate something specific to you. You may also be surprised that the more you allow your horse a chance to express itself the more animated they become. As time goes on and you dedicate yourself to always listening you will be able to easily decode your horse’s signals. There is of course a universal type of horse language that you will pick up on and then there will also be little things that will become unique signals between you and your horse. For example I can always tell when Cheyenne does not want to be ridden that day; now sometimes that may mean I turn right around and leave her alone but often times we may do body work to see if she’s ‘off’ physically, or maybe she has felt like there has been too much work and not enough play and so we may just have some good quality bonding time and play without me really asking anything of her. After an adjustment or some fun, together time she may change her mind and be up for a ride… or she may not. But there is always tomorrow; and a stronger bond with a happier horse is well worth giving up a day of riding. 

    You will find that in allowing your horse the chance to express himself you will get a happier, healthier and more willing partner. Your horse will no longer be filled with pent up frustration, depression or anger and will be so much more in tune to what you are doing together. The partnership will be that much more beautiful and the dance will be honest and graceful. As Xenephon said in The Art ofHorsemanship “For what a horse does under constraint…he does without understanding and with no more grace then a dancer would show if he was whipped and goaded. Under such treatment horse and man alike will do much more that is ugly than graceful. No, the horse must make the most graceful and brilliant appearance in all respects of his own will with the help of aids.” One of the worst fallacies that plague the horse industry is the idea that you must always win, once you start something you cannot walk away until your horse has done what you want. No matter how long it takes and by whatever means necessary you must win! To ‘win’ is really just a code name for dominating. Sure your horse may respect you more, they may obey you more but you have crushed their spirit and shattered any love or trust that may have existed between you. Is it worth it? As you bend their will to yours through domination you remove from them the very thing that makes horses magical to us.Their freedom, grace, strength and beauty will be replaced by shallow,untrusting eyes. Real, genuine respect must be earned not forced. You must seek not to create obedience from your horse through domination but instead to inspire willingness and trust in your horse because you have honestly earned their love and respect. If you are truly, honestly seeking a better relationship with your horse then you must allow your horse a say and you must focus more on what they are trying to tell you then on what you want to ask of them.