Visiting clinician Martin Black instructs the principles of working with cows to students earlier this month at Freedom Farm in Agnew. He’ll be back to give another clinic on horsemanship skills the week of March 16-20. For more information, call Mary Gallagher at 360-457-4897. (Submitted photo)

Visiting clinician Martin Black instructs the principles of working with cows to students earlier this month at Freedom Farm in Agnew. He’ll be back to give another clinic on horsemanship skills the week of March 16-20. For more information, call Mary Gallagher at 360-457-4897. (Submitted photo)

PENINSULA HORSEPLAY: Wind, vandals wreak havoc on trails, camps

Howling winds have knocked trees and other debris down onto trails, effectively blocking the way. If venturing out, be sure to bring wood-cutting tools with you to clear the way. Members of local Back Country groups periodically go out to clear trails, but since fallen trees and branches are a constant issue, more volunteers to clear trails are needed.

Mount Olympus chapter members Larry and Sherry Baysinger are always clearing the trails near their home, such as those at Mount Muller, and they also provide much of the maintenance work at Littleton Horse Camp.

The Baysingers were quite disappointed to find vandals once again destroyed items at the camp and used a vehicle to pull over the Iron Ranger they had just reinstalled at the trailhead.

“At $5 per campsite, I’m sure they really raked in the dough,” Sherry Baysinger said sarcastically.

Larry Baysinger contacted the U.S. Forest Service and the Olympic Discovery Trail officials to report the vandalism, as well as theft of wood on the trail system. Perhaps it’s time our local forest and national park service put up hidden motion-detection cameras at all well-used trailhead entrances to try to find these vandals.

Horsemanship clinic

Mary Gallagher of Freedom Farm shared her reflections on the Martin Black Horsemanship Clinic the farm held earlier this month. Black stressed his approach to “evidence-based horsemanship,” which is recognizing the results of our communication in the horse’s immediate response.

She said participants came away with a good foundation in connecting to their horses’ feet, adding Black was able to “further refine our understanding of communication with horses and inspire us with his unique insights. He got us out of our comfort zones, challenging what we thought we knew while giving us tools to communicate more effectively.”

Perhaps the most profound insight for all of us, she said, was Black’s instruction to leave the horse alone with his thoughts after performing a task or exercise. That is, no petting and praise after performing a task, just walk the horse around or stand him and relax to give the animal the mind space to process the task.

Gallagher said she thinks all of the riders realized, to their own chagrin, that, as good as we thought we were at rewarding the right thing with comfort, too often that “comfort” was on human terms: petting, praise, etc. Then, we noticed that, when left to themselves, the horses would take time to let whatever we’d just done sink in. The transition to “ready for the next thing” would be really clear, such as blowing wind out the nose, putting the head down and licking the lips.

Black shared his take on an exercise he likened to floating an inner tube down a river. Others teach a similar one called The Barge Exercise. It involves moving the horse’s feet in a particular sequence in eight directions, moving forward and back around each foot in succession, then changing directions.

It was challenging, to say the least, Gallagher said. Chairs were needed as props to spare the horses as their human brains wired in the new information.

Black stressed practical application, and after the students had a grasp of the idea, they went out and worked with the farm’s cows. In an unusual and graceful way, the rider learned to hold a cow he or she had separated from the herd while driving the herd at the same time. Gallagher said the cows caught on quickly and got in rhythm as students applied the steps in relation to them.

“That cooperation really showed up as efficiency as we and our horses got in sync, then with the cows,” Gallagher said.

Another exercise involved transitions, counting down from five to one, with one being the signal to trot off. Then counting one to three, with three being the signal to be back in to return to walk.

Students enjoyed it so much Gallagher made arrangements for Black to return March 16-20. To sign up, contact Gallagher at 360-457-4897 or email [email protected] Freedom Farm is located at 493 Spring Road in Agnew.

________

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 [email protected] at least two weeks in advance. You can also call her at 360-460-6299.

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