Lesson horse Louie balked at approaching the mounting block until Freedom Farm’s Hoof Beats member Jamine Itti decided to help him get over his resistance through patience and fun training games. Two years later he’s happy to go there — or where ever else Jasmine calls him — sans tack.  —Photo by Karen Griffiths/for Peninsula Daily News ()

Lesson horse Louie balked at approaching the mounting block until Freedom Farm’s Hoof Beats member Jamine Itti decided to help him get over his resistance through patience and fun training games. Two years later he’s happy to go there — or where ever else Jasmine calls him — sans tack. —Photo by Karen Griffiths/for Peninsula Daily News ()

KAREN GRIFFITHS’ PENINSULA HORSEPLAY: Back to basics help horse, rider to grow

TURNS OUT, THE mounting block students used as an aid to climb on his back was a stumbling block for Louie, a Freedom Farm schooling horse.

“Riders used to have to drag him to the mounting block,” says Mary Gallagher, farm owner.

That behavior went on for years until two years ago when instructor Jessica Crouch challenged Jasmine Itti, a riding student and Hoof Beats Riding Club member, to help Louie learn to like approaching the mounting block.

Jasmine, like most Hoof Beat students, doesn’t own her own horse. Instead, she’s assigned one of the farm’s schooling horses as her “special horse” to ride during lessons. And like the other advanced students, she also gets to ride and help train the farm’s other horses.

Jasmine says she started working Louie “online,” using a halter and lead line, and went back to training basics.

“He began responding very good to the mounting block with online, but it was when I started doing liberty work with him he started liking the mounting block,” says Jasmine.

“He views it as a fun game we play. The mounting block is now a place I hop on, then hop on him and slide off.”

Based on renowned horse trainer Pat Parellli’s natural horsemanship techniques, liberty is practiced only after the horse has a solid understanding and correct response to the basic online maneuvers. Performed without a halter or bridal, it works to strengthen the mental and emotional connection between horse and rider.

The two know each other so well that all Jasmine has to do is motion for him to go away and he complies. Other times, she asks him to lope in a circle around her, to which he obliges her.

Sometimes, she lightly runs toward him to chase him away, and when she turns around to run back to the block, he races right back behind her.

He even side passes, or turns on his hindquarters, when asked, and all without a bridle, halter or rope touching his body.

“I usually give him treats when training, so now he associates me getting on and off the block with him getting treats; now he associates the mounting block as a happy place,” says Jasmine.

“With horses, every herd has a leader,” says Mary. “When working with horses, the rider needs to become the respected alpha, or head of the herd.

“That happens through communication together that’s based on a herd’s natural dynamics.”

It also helps to find whatever treats or rewards motivate the horse to perform the desired task.

“Jasmine got all the basic commands down pat with Louie, and from then on, her imagination took over, and she’s made all sorts of commands a game for the two of them,” Mary says. “But if she sees Louie’s a little uncomfortable with a task, she waits and doesn’t get on him until they take care of whatever is bothering him.”

The challenge brought out the best in both Louie and Jasmine, who will be a high school freshman next fall.

“Jasmine has been so consistent in helping Louie get out of that negative mindset,” Mary says. “She’s just been working and working at it, and now he likes stepping up to it, so she’s seeing the reward for all her hard work.”

Jasmine’s communication with Louis is so tight that all he needs to do is look at her body language to understand what is asked of him — move away, change direction, come here, side-step to her, stand still so she can slide on or off his back. He keeps an ear and/or an eye turned in her direction at all times.

Their adoration for each other is obvious.

“I just love him,” says Jasmine, whose passion is for jumping. “He’s my favorite horse here.”

During the summer, Jasmine and her fellow Hoof Beat friends can be found there “every day as long as it’s open, from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.” They spend their time riding horses, helping Mary, forming lasting friendships and cherished memories.

Sounds like a childhood well spent.


■   Sunday, 9 a.m. — Silver Spurs 4-H Horse Show, Clallam County Fairgrounds, 1608 W. 16th St., Port Angeles.

Contact Theresa Whitney at 360-457-6028 or silverspurs4hofclallamco@hotmail.com.

■   Sunday, 9:30 a.m. — Patterned Speed Horse Game Show, Crosby arena, 122 Franson Road, Agnew.

Contact Pam Crosby at 360-670-3906.

■   Sunday — County Mounties 4-H Club Fun Day Show, Jefferson County Fairgrounds, 4907 Landes St., Port Townsend.

Phone Glenda Meek at 360-385-0195.

■   Monday-July 3 — Freedom Farm’s Summer Horse Camp for Kids II is for more experienced campers, ages 7 and older.

More advanced horse games will teach balance, confidence and technique on safe horses.

Campers learn about hoof care, diet, grooming, health, horse breeds, discipline and horse art.

For more information on the Freedom Farm horse camps, phone Mary at 360-457-4897 or visit www.freedom-farm.net.

■   Tuesday — Horse Partner therapeutic riding classes for ages 8-17 by PATH-certified riding instructor Mary Craft Nepute at Jefferson County Fairgrounds.

To enroll or volunteer, contact Mary at marymcraft@yahoo.com or phone 713-0449-7418.

■   July 6-10 — Freedom Farm’s Summer Horse Camp for Kids III.

■   July 9-12 — Jefferson County 4-H Horse Camp (open to public), Jefferson County Fairgrounds.

Phone Glenda at 360-385-0195.

■   July 13-17 — Freedom Farm’s Summer Horse Camp for Kids IV.

■   July 18-19, 9 a.m. — Neon Riders and Pre-Fair 4-H Horse Show, Clallam County Fairgrounds.

Contact Nancy Hodgin at 360-809-0524.

■ Aug. 18, 20, 25, 27 and Sept. 1 — Horse Partner therapeutic riding classes for adults with Nepute at Jefferson County Fairgrounds.


Karen Griffiths’ column, Peninsula Horseplay, appears every other Sunday.

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 write Griffiths at PDN, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362.

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