I’m a believer – The Monkees

I was asked to write a short article on Natural Horsemanship for another ranch I was working with and what it means to me, my initial reaction was no problem.
It’s something I’ve been studying and practising for over a decade.

My initial introduction to natural horsemanship ,was being literally dragged, kicking and screaming to a clinic by a good friend who was enthralled by the whole concept. I was sceptical to say the least, coming from Scotland with a traditional riding background in English discipline with Pony Club and Hunter/Jumpers.

My friend eventually wore me down and I agreed to Audit the Clinic, the lengths we will go to for friends. By the end of the first day I was hooked, who knew? horse psychology is interesting.

Who can teach me more about horses? apparently the answer was staring me in the face – who can teach me more about horses? well horses that’s who! What do I need to learn, to be able to communicate effectively with my horse?

When do I apply and release mental, emotional and physical pressure in a manner that my horse understands? why does my horse behaves the way it does? Where do I need to be, mentally, emotionally and physically to be the best human my horse can own?

Developing a partnership with the horse is the essence of natural horsemanship. What does it mean to me? For me natural horsemanship is a way of being. It is a calmness of my mind, heart and soul. It is a longing to better understand a fellow-creature, whose world I stand in awe of and admire in its complexity and innocence.
It is a linguistic journey with a non verbal partner, a journey which I intend to continue for as long as I am given this wonderful opportunity to do so.

I would like nothing more, than for you to join me, do you want to communicate with your horse?

Do you want to learn the subtleties of horse psychology?

If you found this interesting, please feel free to follow more
of my thoughts on twitter or Facebook : https://twitter.com/BittmoreHorses or https://www.facebook.com/Bittmore

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Pilgrim – Steve Earle and Del McCoury Band

A post on gates, gaits, history, Chaucer, Saints, pilgrims and an etymological puzzle, oh yes and horse riding.

While repairing a broken yard gate, thoughts turned to the word gate and the homophone gait, and I started to wonder where the names for the classic horse gaits originated, well, walk was easy! but trot? canter? gallop? hmmm, what has this to do with pilgrims or Saints you are wondering? surprisingly quite a lot.

Firstly the word gait itself, to describe the way of movement was originally from the Old Norse, but the current spelling originated in our home country Scotland, and is still found in many street names, the Canongate in Edinburgh was originally Canon’s Gait – meaning the Cleric’s walk. So has nothing to do with garden gates unfortunately.

Trot – I had thought was onomatopoeic, e.g. trit-trot, trit-trot, but no it originates in Germany, with the old High German Trotton, to tread! ha, which describes the movement perfectly.

Then we come to canter – which is the most interesting, originally known as the “Canterbury Gallop“, it was used to describe the pace of many pilgrims riding to the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral, as described in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

Now ‘Canterbury Gallop’ is a bit of a mouthful for a riding instructor to call out to students, (ok – now Canterbury gallop!) so it is to all our benefit that it was shortened to ‘canter’

( see Canterbury Gallop )

So finally (yes I know!) Gallop, this like trot also orginates in old German, in the Frankish ‘wala hlaupan‘ meaning to run well. This made its way into English gallop through the French galoper. So gallop – originally means ‘to run well’ – now that makes a lot of sense.

So there you have it, a scatterbrained tour through woodworking, etymology, history, geography, religion, literature, language, music and possibly even horses.

See without this you may never have known the connection between the Western Lope and Saint Thomas Becket!

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September 29th 2113, will go down in my personal history and I’m sure his too, as me and my “Bonnie Laddie’s” BIG DAY!

All our preparation paid off big time.  Accept the saddle pad – ok! Accept the saddle – okay! Work at liberty with the saddle – okay!

Unsaddle and bring in a helping hand as I’m too wee to jump up and lie over his back then swing my legs up to lie horizontally on his back (well he is bigger than he was), I needed a hike up! Here’s how it went:-

Helper has Laddie on line and his hand out to give me a hike up. Up and over I went! Laddie looked to his right, into my eye thinking “how the heck did ya get there mom!” I got off and we repeated the game.

Helper – “You need to tighten your belt!”

Me – “Physically or figuratively?”

Helper – “Physically! It’s too loose!”

Me – “Whew…ok” 🙂

Belt in good shape, here we go again, hiked up, Legs up, horizontal on the “boy”

Helper – “are you ready to sit up on him?” 

Me – “Let’s do this thing!”

Next thing I know, there I am, sitting on my boy! He was an absolute superstar. Four hours later I’m still riding the wave. From an un-handled stud colt to today, what a journey and we’ve only just begun…

( Okay – here is the disclaimer! Don’t try this at home kids, it took many hours of appropriate work, preparation and reading the horse, to make it look so easy. One of the most often asked questions to trainers is what or how to do things, but the most important aspect of training is not ‘what’ or even ‘how’ but when and why to do things, that is what is often ignored by horse owners and it is the why that is not always apparent to the casual observer or inexperienced horse lover looking on at the round corrals or arenas. So until next time – stay safe out there!)

Laddie accepting a rider for the first time

Laddie accepting a rider for the first time

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Jump – Van Halen

Great session with Santiago today!

“Extreme” friendly game. Me jumping around like the Easter Bunny had Santiago looking at me thinking “Ok the Scottish gal’s totally lost it today so I’m just going to ignore her… poor woman”  His owner giggling as I rapidly ran out of gas, oh did I mention I have a broken baby toe on my left foot? My antics were not attractive and one can only hope that no-one was watching. Goodness knows what the uninitiated would have thought.

Driving – he is disengaging his hind quarters with just a tap both sides and moving nose, neck, front feet on his left but still working on the right side. His owner was fascinated to learn, that unlike humans, horses do NOT transfer information from one side of their body/brain to the other but have to be trained on the left and the right side.

Circle – Interesting! His Vet recommended he trot for a few minutes each day. Trotting has not really been in his vocabulary. Walk is fine, but put any pressure on and it’s GALLOP! (of course being a racehorse) Today we had a quick and effective conversation about that! The result three circles at the trot, change direction and three more. What a superstar he is!

Yoyo – We have been working on back up and today he backed into the round corral!

We also have been playing with cones, put a foot on it, touch it with your nose, go find it, back up to it etc. Today the cones were out and at the end of the session while Santiago’s owner and I were recapping what had been learned. He was around 8ft from us just hanging out, until he decided we were doing that human yak yak yak way too much. Next thing we knew he picked a cone up with his teeth and tossed it AT US! bringing up his play drive exuberance? I think so!

Curious, engaged, thinking and obeying, the state of mind you should be aiming for with any horse. You so often see other owners and trainers doing everything to ‘dull’ their horses, a dull horse is an unthinking horses and an unthinking horse is an unresponsive horse. Luckily Santiago is far from that!

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My wee Laddie.

I rescued Laddie from a bad situation as a stud colt, yeah just what I needed, and Bittmore needed it even more! A finished lesson horse might have been a wiser business choice but Laddie got to me emotionally, hook, line and sinker. I spent weeks convincing Mr B to even come out to meet him. Being a good husband and and a great guy all round he eventually succumbed to my insistence and persistence ( I’m a woman! ) and eventually caved. Mr B took one look and said ” He’s beautiful and he has a great attitude” It was a done deal.

Laddie had Crypt Orchid but the late,great, Dr Hibner ( The most wonderful vet and gentleman) came out to do a “partial gelding” He managed to do a full gelding! Thereafter I spent 5 days a week with Laddie working him in the round corral to reduce post op swelling and developing our partnership. I could wax lyrical for hours, suffice to say that our session today had him accept the saddle pad, as a hug. Then we worked on accepting the bit. I had a headstall and snaffle and was quite surprised that he was reluctant as he loves nothing more than to go fetch my stick and string and give it to me., I made a point of putting his “baby” mouthiness to a purpose! He readily accepts my “string” into his mouth…hmmmmm. Mr B and one of my advanced students were watching the session. Ok so lets break the goal into its component parts, headstall AND bit. Take away the headstall, we know for sure he’s mouthy, and VOILA! he took the bit immediately! Again and again he was seeking it…that’s my Laddie!  He has no problem accepting the bit, the headstall…not so much! Guess what we’ll be working on this week?

Here we are at the end of our play date!


Laddie and Fiona

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Getting to know you – James Taylor

Good Evening Reader.
Bittmore is proud to announce a new guy in training.
Santiago is a 7 year old rescue, Thoroughbred Racehorse.
He is a beautiful Bay.
Standing at 17.2hh he had over 30 starts out of the gate, obviously he was a winner!
Due to injury he found himself no longer running for his life, but in the loving and tender care of his present owners.
Last year he went into “gotta run, gotta run FAST!” mode whilst in turnout and pulled ligaments in both front legs.
His vet recommended hand walking daily, which his owner persued vigilantly for 10 months.
A few weeks ago, the vet gave the all clear for Santiago to be walked and trotted daily on line or under saddle, YAY! That’s when Bittmore became involved.
He’s been walking for months! He’s young! He’s ( in his mind) “the Alpha”.
Santiago is a L Brain introvert with R Brain extrovert traits, which in rehab makes him “the challenge”.
When he flips R Brain, which he did ( because a squirrel farted in a bush? ) and exploded, taking off like , oh ,yeah,, like a Racehorse?!! To keep him as safe as possible we have been playing with him in the round corral, no corners to do “reining” sliding stops in, so that if he does go R Brain he won’t cause himself MORE injury.

We have had a few sessions and he is proving to be quite the horsenality!
He is learning the 7 games, some “working on it” some “getting better”
As his mind is being challenged, each day he is more readily in a learning frame of mind.
I want to share a wee part of todays training session.
Circle Game : Walk around me 3 times, disengage hind quarters,stop.
Santiago’s Circle game : all good until stop, then “can I come in and put my head on your chest?? Ehmmm NO!
Me-You can back up, square up ( disengage hind quarters) and go again.
(Let’s make the right thing easy and the wrong thing more difficult.)
Me – stop
S – and come in?
Me – fair question but sorry, wrong answer! back up, disengage HQ
Fourth time was the charm!
Circle, 3 times, stop.
Santiago -Ok I’ll stop and do ya want me to back up a few steps????
His owner and I laughed fit to bust.
What a conversation!He was licking and chewing, blinking and yawning, just beautiful…

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Donkey Riding – Great Big Sea

Oh you came back! Why thank you!

I can’t remember ever not loving horses, actually a donkey named Duke at The Red Lion Caravan Park, Arbroath, Scotland was my first actual mount and boy did I love that Donkey!

I was four years old and my parents had rented a caravan for a week during summer vacation, it was right beside the beach and on the beach were Donkey’s for hire …I think it’s a British thing, donkeys on beaches? It cost a penny, Gods Granny strikes again! I rode him every day for seven days.

Definition of riding – Keeping the horse (Duke the Donkey in my case) between you and the ground.

You can visit my website Bittmore.com to see a picture of me and Duke, you’ll notice I am in a swimsuit with no helmet on, beach riding at it’s finest circa 1960’s No waiver required!

I mentioned that I have four horses so let me tell you a wee bit about them. I have Mystic, Whinnie, Talisker and Laddie the baby of the herd who was two years old in May of this year.

They are all American Quarter Horses

Mystic is a black and white paint gelding, age unknown but OLD! I retired him this Summer and he is spending his golden years as he did his early years, just being a horse…more about him in a future post

Dalwhinnie (Whinnie) is a bay mare, 13 years old and quite the teenager! She is in my lesson program and is a sweet girl who makes my job easy by teaching “her humans” what NOT to do…more about her in a future post.

Definition of Bay –  chestnut body with 5 black “points” mane, tail, nostrils, tips of ears and lower legs)

Talisker (Mr T ) is a bay gelding, 7 years old and bomb proof! I helped birth him then handed him over to my husband as a one year old stud colt. My husband had been on a horse ONCE in his life! I am a good wife! he needed to get on board with this horse thing FAST! Green on green made black and blue weekly but they figured it out and are now perfect partners. Talisker is in my lesson program and takes very good care of his humans…more about him in a future post

Bruichladdich (Laddie) is a Rabicano gelding 2 years old and a love bug. I rescued him from a bad situation 8 months ago and started working with him on the ground, preparing him for a future as my personal horse…more about him in a future post.

If you have time to visit my website Bittmore.com you can see pictures of my wee herd.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the journey

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Welcome to my World – Jim Reeves

Well Hello there! Thanks for taking the time to have a peek. Fiona here, owner of Bittmore and I’d like to welcome you to my world.

Jim Reeves? Seriously there are days when I feel older than Gods Granny…

Horses for sure keep me fit physically, no gym membership required when your lugging around 50lb bags of grain or having a ” wee discussion” on line (no not IM’ing, I’m referring to a lead line…sheesh)  with 1000lbs+ of living, breathing, emotional wreck of a horse!

I am the proud Alpha in my herd of four wonderful horses , “MOM!” of three teenagers, pack leader to three wacky dogs, wife to a husband who keeps me sane ( thanks darlin) and though I say so myself the daily domestic goddess in our abode. I have more hats than Philip Treacy and wear each one daily, mostly fitting nicely, sometimes a bit askew but always with love, with the exception of the domestic goddess hat, not too enamored with that one!

Come back soon and find out on what’s going on with me,myself and Bittmore.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the journey!

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