During last month’s Freedom Farm Hoof Beat classes the theme was No Stirrups, No Tack November. In its final class, instructor Jessica Crouch re-emphasized the need for riders Ellie Damm, from left, Kathryn Bleiweiss, Haleyanna Fell and Elise Dean, to pay close attention to the Three C’s: connection, communication and collaboration with their horses when riding without a bridal or saddle. (Mary Tulin)

During last month’s Freedom Farm Hoof Beat classes the theme was No Stirrups, No Tack November. In its final class, instructor Jessica Crouch re-emphasized the need for riders Ellie Damm, from left, Kathryn Bleiweiss, Haleyanna Fell and Elise Dean, to pay close attention to the Three C’s: connection, communication and collaboration with their horses when riding without a bridal or saddle. (Mary Tulin)

HORSEPLAY: Riding school connects students with horses

Nonprofit organization OPEN needs help providing hay, feed for horses throughou winter

FREE REIN; ACCORDING to Webster’s dictionary, the two words side by side mean an unhampered freedom of movement, choice or action.

According to the Book of Karen (me) free rein is the freedom I feel when it’s just my horse and me exploring trails through the woods, and it’s a glorious feeling.

In the horse world giving a horse a free rein means the reins are held loosely to allow a horse freedom of movement as opposed to reining him in, which means to hold the reins without slack or to pull him back with the rider controlling his movement.

And then there’s Freedom Farm, a place where advance riding students have the freedom to throw their reins away while riding, or even jumping over obstacles, in the arena.

I’m a big fan of Freedom Farm, and not just because I covet its solidly built, large covered arena.

Rather it’s because owners Mary Gallagher and Jerry Schmidt have a riding program that emphasis riders getting to know — and truly connecting with — the horse while learning to ride in balance and in harmony with the horse, along with training the horse in a patient, consistent manner.

The students and horses look to be having fun, too.

Of course, there are other local trainers, and I’ve featured them in my column before, that offer riding programs that are just as good for kids and adults.

Freedom Farm’s edge is the covered arena people can ride in regardless of the weather.

Hoof Beats is Freedom Farm’s after-school youth program.

Last month its senior riders took part in No Stirrups, No Tack November. In it students were instructed on ways to communicate with their horses mainly through their body movement while riding bareback and without relying on the reins.

Safe riding is always important, so know that the riding took place in a controlled environment (the arena), and a horse or rider who wasn’t ready for riding without a saddle or under control didn’t take part.

Regardless of what they are learning students are always taught to pay attention to the Three C’s: connection, communication and collaboration with their horse.

In learning how to ride independently of tack, students were repeatedly reminded to take the time to get the details of each step correct before moving on to the next — no rushing. Both horse and rider should understand what’s involved before moving on to the next.

For example, cuing the horse to go from a walk, to a trot or a lope, or getting the stop right, backing up straight, and giving clear signals with leg and seat.

If needed, sticks were used to help with cuing, such as tapping a right shoulder to move left.

Yep, at Freedom Farms it’s more than just learning how to ride well, it’s about patience, paying attention to safety, a humble willingness to continual learning and students connecting with their horse.

For more information, call Mary Gallagher at 360-457-4897, visit the farm at 164 Spring Farms Road, or visit the website freedom-farm.net.

Help

This is a reminder that Olympic Peninsula Equine Network is always in need of more hay and feed during the winter. That’s due in a large part to the nonprofit horse rescue and horse owner helping organization giving aid to owners who might need temporary help in keeping their horses fed.

Sadly, there are some owners unaware there is little to no nourishment in winter grass and that horses need good hay to survive.

I find it comforting to know OPEN will provide temporary help in the way of hay — if they have the resources.

“Obviously we make sure we have enough feed for the rescues that live with us before helping others,” said Diane Royall, co-founder of OPEN with Valerie Jackson. “But there’s always an ongoing need for feed, not just hay.”

For example, some rescued horses have bad or worn down teeth so can’t chew hay. Others have metabolic issues and can’t eat grass or hay with a high sugar count. For those horses she feeds Haystack Farm & Feeds Special Blend Pellets.

Horses also need iodized salt in their diet. Royall said she can always use more of the smaller-sized salt blocks so she can easily move them with each horse.

“Horses love to lick their salt blocks,” she said.

OPEN’s plan is always to rehabilitate and re-home horses they’ve rescued in order to make way for the next in need of help, and there’s always more.

A recent success story is about an older horse named Whiskey who ended up at a scary, strange place called a horse auction.

There he was sold to a “kill buyer” and sent to live in what’s called a “kill pen.” There he waited with other terrified horses for owners who never came to take them home.

Some “Kill Pen” horses are listed on various online sites with a price to “bail” them out before they are jam-packed into a trailer and taken across the border to Canada or Mexico to be slaughtered.

Someone saw Whiskey on such a site and bought him.

Sadly, Whiskey ended up living in what turned out to be a hoarder situation. He, along with many others, got little food or water, and were left standing in knee deep mud with no vet or farrier care.

By the time Whiskey came to OPEN he was in terrible condition. Skinny and starving, he was covered in lice, ticks and full of worms. His feet had not seen a farrier in what looked like a year.

He also had an open wound on the top of his head that was infected and smelled of death.

He arrived at OPEN with five other horses; each suffering from the same type of neglect. The remnants of the mud could still be seen well past their knees.

“We have been asked many times why we waste our precious resources on these older or emaciated horses that no one will want anyway and our reply is always the same,” Jackson said. “If they make their way to us, it’s our job to do the best we can for them, even when that means giving them a humane end to their story.”

Thankfully this was not the end of Whiskey’s story.

His wounds and parasites were treated, and he began to recover and grow stronger every day, loving all the new attention.

One day, a couple called OPEN and asked if they had any older geldings available for adoption. These people had two retired draft horses and one had recently passed away.

“They were concerned about the remaining horse who had become very depressed and we immediately thought of Whiskey,” said Jackson.

The volunteers who took him to his new home told Jackson, “The old draft horse was still standing on the grave when we arrived, they said he had been standing there for two weeks. When we got Whiskey out of the trailer and brought him into the pasture, the old draft horse looked at Whiskey and realized he was no longer alone. They met and then wandered away far off into the pasture and started grazing together. It was a perfect match.”

It’s the type of story that tugs at our heartstrings, doesn’t it?

OPEN and its volunteers are constantly dealing with horses that have been abused and neglected. It’s a lot of work and takes a lot of money.

Some folks help out in large ways and others help with just a few dollars a month. All of it helps in big ways.

OPEN now has an onsite used tack store that helps bring in money, too.

To donate or buy tack, call ahead and arrange to meet at OPEN’s headquarters at 251 Roupe Road in Sequim.

Monetary donations can be mailed to PO Box 252, Sequim, WA, 98382 or made online at olypen equinenet.org.

For more information, call and leave a message at 360-207-1688.

________

Karen Griffiths’ column, Peninsula Horseplay, appears the second and fourth Sunday of each month.

If you have a horse event, clinic or seminar you would like listed, please email Griffiths at kbg@olympus.net at least two weeks in advance. You can also call her at 360-460-6299.

Daniella Damm, 7, with Snickers, is a beginning Hoof Beats student at Freedom Farm. When not riding, she enjoys practicing her ground work, such as trotting side-by-side through obstacles and enhancing her horse communication skills with farm co-owner Mary Gallagher’s mini-horse Comet. (Mary Tulin)

Daniella Damm, 7, with Snickers, is a beginning Hoof Beats student at Freedom Farm. When not riding, she enjoys practicing her ground work, such as trotting side-by-side through obstacles and enhancing her horse communication skills with farm co-owner Mary Gallagher’s mini-horse Comet. (Mary Tulin)

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Cutline: A fundraiser for WAG and Open starts Today at 11 a.m. with an English and jumping fun show, followed tomorrow with a Western Games show at Kari Payne’s 4-L arena off Blue Mountain Road, 95 S. McCrorie Rd. Port Angeles.  Fox-Bell Farm owner Shelby Vaughan, and her assistants Sophie Feik and Kaia Lestage (holding Marley) will be there to host. Shown is Tatar Trots, 10. a horse Shelby got from OPEN five years ago when he was a feral, unhandled stallion and, now, after castrating and training,  he’s a docile horse who enjoys teaching kids how to ride.

 

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