🌟I am starting the year with some familiar, and some new faces 🐴
2019 was a chaotic year, I desperately needed that last month off to recharge and basically do nothing.
Out of the blue, I was asked to take on two horses as a project. Of course, I couldn't say "no", so I found myself researching feed, minerals, vitamins, hoof- and dental care and realized how much I miss handling details like that. So, hopefully I'll be able to say a bit more about that in a month or two.
✨Another great surprise was assisting Stephanie and Theona, helping Eden learn how to rear for a videoshoot and watch it all come together during filming.
In the almost three years I've been in California, my work with horses was mostly about teaching them NOT to rear, kick, etc. It's very refreshing and definitely fun that I'm now able to do more trick training as well.🐎
As for teaching, it was a rough year because my approach/way of teaching - combined with the unique yet very natural life Freedom Ranch offers their animals - has been proven not to be for everyone.
Some might say I'm "too soft", or "not aggressive/fast enough" but the truth is, I am who I am. That's what matters to me. What you do or what you say, not so much. So I've found my peace with my (and the horse's) pace and with people leaving. After all, they are just making room for new people who are aligned with your destination!💕
And that brings me to another topic I hope I can tell you more about later this month. 😁
Last but - definitely not - least, I started volunteering at an Arabian horse rescue; Love This Horse, Equine Rescue operated by Vera and her amazing, dedicated team of trainers and volunteers.
Vera and I met last year during a horse show in Burbank and chatted about - duh - horses! Luckily she's only a half-an-hour car ride away so now I find myself in the Mojave Desert a couple times a week.🌵
Enough about me, on to what's this really all about; the horses! 🐴
So, these are the new faces of 2020 so far! Hopefully they will all find forever homes this year, thank you for following their journey and your support! 💖
If you'd like to learn more about the horses or the rescues/ranches, visit their Facebookpages below:
Facebook: The Horsewoman / Jeddah Ranch / Freedom Ranch / Love This Horse
Instagram: zoevanm /
Website: www.zoevanmourik.com /
I've worked with several horses who were showing typical signs of stomach problems, although they were in good physical condition which was very confusing for the owners.
They tried everything, from changing the feed to monitoring possible ulcers 🤔nothing worked.
After just one session of Energy Therapy, the horses were ALL calming down, processing everything we just went through together, with room to move on and leave this hurtful behavioral patterns behind 🙏🏽👋🏽
I'm always grateful for being asked to work with these horses, the ones that need a voice the most. A voice of their own 🔥
If you'd like to know more about the use of various types of Energy Healing, feel free to send me a message with your questions 😊
Do you know that feeling, when you see something so incredibly awesome, beautiful and inspiring, but somehow out of reach? You start questioning yourself and tell yourself that it's not for you. What if your curiosity could lead you to your passion? When I pursued my curiosity, my passion flowed and unfold naturally and lead me towards the feeling of Freedom.
For me, and for the Horse.
So, with that being said, let me show what the first week of our Freestyle Journey
Because our level of liberty/groundwork/playing with chi/energy is already at a high level, I simply started riding her as soon as we had a saddle that fit her. She already knows the cavesson from groundwork stuff, so I introduced this as a riding halter a while ago. She had absolutely no problem with the transition, although I gave her some extra time to get comfortable with it, just to be sure.
I started in the round-pen, since that is the place we're both very comfortable and where we've spent a lot of time together.
That's when I noticed her old 'bad' behavior was starting to show again, in the form of being impatient. When JP gets impatient, or bored, she used to leave the 'conversation' and do something of her own like sprinting or crow hopping. Naturally I wanted to prevent that behavior from taking over again, so decided to speed things up (after I made sure she was completely relaxed and up for it). While doing that I reminded her of the relaxing work that we did, helping her to understand that waiting can be a reward too.
This worked like a charm, we practiced linking all groundwork and liberty voice commands to seat cues and after just two rides of 20 minutes I introduced the Neck Rope. When I was absolutely sure she knew the One Rein Stop bitless, responded to my cues and was accepting the Neck Rope, we went 'Trail Ride Praciticing" just walking around the property of the ranch, passing tarps, machinery, trailers, other horses, etc. Again, I just wanted her to relax and have a good time with me. Every now and then I let her graze (because NOW is the time!! We usually don't have grass growing anywhere) and then I would let her know we were taking off again and she responded politely by taking one more chew (she knows she can have one more after I've let her know we're leaving) and walking off.
She was in heat that day, so (as always) she was extremely loud and mean towards other mares. Usually her deep-rooted instincts take over and she kind of forgets that I'm still on her. So before I even got on her, I walked with her to work on staying with the conversation instead of being rude and give in to your womanly urges (lol).
Watch what our little stroll looked like in the video below
When we reached the point where she was feeling confident and relaxed while being responsive towards me, it was time to quit. Later that week we practiced the same thing, we trotted a little and as a reward, she got a refreshing shower afterwards.
The next session - two or three days later - I saddled her for a short, basic session in the round pen. Everything went perfect, so I introduced the Neck Ring; a more stiff rein made out of lariat rope and adjustable (of course, mine is STUCK!, so still working on that). I bought it two years ago, after I read an article by Linda Tellington-Jones (from the 'TTouch' method) that made a lot of sense. They're like trainingwheels, for horses that need a little something in-between to help translate the conversation from bridle, to neckrope (and eventually, maybe, to nothing). I find them really useful for asking the horse to turn or bend, when they're responding to the Neck Rein you can basically translate everything to the Neck Rope (with lighter, smaller cues).
I let her walk around, saddled and with the Neck Rope ánd the Neck Rein, I let her graze and as expected she got a little bit spooked when the Rein softly dropped down her neck, towards her ears. We played with that and after about three minutes she didn't even care if they dropped down on her ears.
Fast forward another three days, and it was time for our first ride with just the Neck Rope. Again, in the round-pen and after a short groundwork session to get into the same flow.
As soon as I got on her, I felt her waiting for the next question. She gave me that feeling the whole ride, responding to every cue even when I only used the Neck Rope. So I simply couldn't resist to clip off my reins and just go for it!
We practiced transitions and I wanted to make sure she knows "Whoa", before I was going to take her to the arena next time.
*Watch our two sessions in the round-pen with the Neck Rope
Next time: Our first bridleless ride in the arena!
[HOW TO] START RIDING WITHOUT A BRIDLE | PART ONE: INTRODUCTION
Since my first freestyle/neckrope/bridleless ride in The Netherlands back in 2015, I've been dying to have this connection with another horse (since unfortunately, my own horse died three months after I came to CA). I just didn't realize how hard it would be, to open up to a potential new horse.
Of course, riding freestyle in California was something I immediately set my mind to when I came here. But it was a lot harder than I thought!
I work with lots of different horses, which makes it a challenge to find the time and energy to work on your own stuff with a horse. Luckily, the owners of the rescue offered me to pick any horse I liked, to call "my own" for as long as I'm around. When my own horse died just a month after I started volunteering, it was a bit upsetting and uncomfortable for me to open up to a possible new horse.
As always, the Universe was a few steps ahead of me and one day - when we went for an unexpected trail ride - the owner of the rescue put me on JP.
*The Few Things I Knew About JP At That Time*
- JP (Jaguar Paw)
- A mare, red (oh god)
- One of the first horses to come to the rescue
- Stunning, different
- Not up for adoption because she is a bit 'crazy'
- Acts weird when ridden, so nobody rides her (physically healthy)
I trust the owner of the rescue completely, if he says a horse is safe then it's safe. But I do remember me asking him "so... is it's safe to ride HER?". He assured me she's just a bit weird but wouldn't bolt. He was curious about her behavior on a trail ride, and since I don't have a problem with being a test-dummy, I saddled JP and off we went.
It was 45 minutes of HELL and TERROR. Every sound, movement or smell would set her off, jumping up and down, prancing, screaming. She could have done a lot worse if it wasn't for the One Rein Stop, the emergency brake that probably saved my life last year. Anyway, after that 45 minutes of horror, I was Madly In Love.
The fact that we got home safe and that I didn't feel uncomfortable or scared on her, made me feel like we could get somewhere. We fitted her a saddle and I took her to my Parelli lessons, in Tehachapi. One of the first things she needed to learn was patience. Her previous owner(s) probably let her get away with lots of things, so during our first lesson we all experienced first-hand a pissed-off red mare. While I was still on her, she got really upset about not getting what she wanted (walk away instead of just relax and stand still) and attacked the fence with her front feet. The result: a destroyed board and my instructor who yelled from a distance: 'What the hell happened to my board?! '
We experienced these "tamper tantrums" a lot more over the following months, but eventually she stopped arguing and tolerated me riding her. Of course 'tolerating' is not enough, I needed her to accept me. We got to a high level of liberty pretty quick, so as long as I didn't try to ride her we we're definitely bonding and creating something.
Her body was changing throughout this process many times, so we needed to switch saddles so often, we ended up with nothing. We do have bareback pads, but that would have probably meant flying lessons for me, and JP getting away with stuff again. So we went back to liberty, groundwork, walking outside.
After I went through some stuff of my own and accepted the fact that my own horse is no longer with me, I needed to get some time off and relax. When I came back after a few months, JP was upset and did not want me to touch her or even come near her. So would just hang out with her, clean her stall and feed her strains of grass. When we eventually got back to work again, the only focus I had for the both of us was 'relax'. We would walk around the arena together, breathe together, daydream together. I would groom her and watch her close her eyes, softly to the point where she just looked so happy and peaceful. I stopped at that moment, every time we were together, walk her back to her stall and say goodbye. After a while, we were back at doing liberty, like we'd never stopped. She even helped me with other horses, to get them emotionally opened up again.
So you might say that this is just crazy-talk, it cannot be scientifically proven, etc. but to me the truth is always in the horse. Just two months after I started working with her again, this is how we ride today:
Thank you for reading this first part of our journey, that will - hopefully - lead to more beautiful adventures!
Love, Zoë & JP
Horses and humans have a natural-established prey/predator relationship. With our eyes being closer together and our ears flat against the side of our head, a horse naturally sees us as “predator” in hunting position and ready to attack. Understanding this deep rooted relationship will give you an insight into how important body language and energy actually is.
So we need to tell the horse we’re not going to eat them. We are a friend. But the horse’s language is not through words, but by using body language and altering their energy. Natural Horsemanship is realizing that the horse’s world evolves around this. So instead of words, we use body language to tell them we’re not the enemy.
Establishing the leadership role is no joke and if you only “discipline”, “train” or work with your horse when riding or doing groundwork, you could easily end up in trouble.
I know a lot of horses who are calm and response when in the arena, but have very rude manners all around like bolting on trails or pulling on the halter, trying to walk off while you’re mounting. It’s like they’re constantly nervous, no wonder because nobody ever stepped in as leader.
So now the horse is unsure and becomes worried about the safety of its herd (even if it’s just the two of you). The leadership position is not up for grabs and it’s not something you can just learn, or train. It’s something you have to earn, as with anything that’s worth the effort.
It begins when you’re thinking about your horse, getting ready to grab him for a ride and drive over to the ranch. Sounds silly? That’s where knowledge about primal relationships, body language and energy work comes in. Again, no joke!
A simple example: I know a woman, who rescued a horse and went out every morning to grab him and go for a ride. Some days, the horse was fine, and they had a fun trail ride. But other days, she’d freak out as soon as the woman touched her or even came close. Long story short: turns out that horses can smell if you’ve eaten meat and (naturally!) freak out, because of their instinct. So becoming a vegetarian actually solved this uncommon problem for this horse owner.
Interesting, right? Now, what if you’re stressed or angry or sad because of something that happened with work or your family. You think a trail ride would help clear your mind, so with a head filled with worries you head towards your horse, who is peacefully grazing. Until he sees you coming, looks up and starts running in the opposite direction. Sounds familiar?
“Scared of the halter” is what some people call it, or a fight over dominance, maybe fear towards humans. But in a lot of cases, it’s not the horse OR the tool: It’s YOU.
A horse is not going on a trail ride (let alone leave the safety of home) if the supposed leader seems worried or nervous or just not sure! Some horses are not that sensitive, or they already have established a balanced relationship with their human.
But even then your relationship has to have deep roots and a solid foundation for your horse to understand that even though you’re not at your best, you will still be a good leader, a great friend and an even better partner. The only way to get there, is to constantly challenge yoursel to be better.
You're only in competition with yourself, to grow and learn together with your horse so that when the time comes when you have to take your place as leader, it will only makes sense to the horse to fully accept.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.