A deeper trust

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Whilst convention implies, worthy horses will walk thru fire;

Indigenous equines is inclined to receive every beck and call.

Necessarily by need a pony blindly must follow its leader,

Dearly in deep opposition I declare; one-way trust is obedience,

For an obedient horse is an unsafe fellow, I frankly foretell.

Leisurely listen and lament; a horses’ senses is much sharper than yours,

Once overlooking a pony’s’ ominous senses, her soul will be lost;

Wisdom is to not throw away what we want not be without.

Every well-broke steed may break, but genuine trust bows by the breeze.

Rest calmly in Windflowers arms; sweet daughter and filly, bonded by trust.

Writing 201
The third day’s assignment was prompted “trust” in the “acrostic” form and device “internal rhyme”.

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Need for horses

wernernokota 073One of the first days of spring travels towards dusk and the horses senses the great mystery. The moist condenses into a faint haze that embraces the muddy grassland. A growing but muffled sound of hooves against the ground interrupted by the strained exhalation from running horses calls to me from within. The comforting and soothing smell of warm horses that fills the air just as the mare runs by within five feet, is time-stopping.

wernernokota 063The experience of being close to free running horses has marvelled humans for millennia;

“The wind of heaven is that which blows between a horse’s ears”.

Horses were once unquestionably important to human life;

“She who owns horses goes where she wants”.

Today the ancient need of horses for labour and transportation is forgotten and the age of information-sharing keeps humanity indoors disconnected from nature and the great mystery.

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But the greatest task of all still remains for the horse; the job to teach.
We desperately need the horse to teach us what nobody does better; to sense the true value of nature and the great mystery.

Happy New Year!

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About “Ring Out, Wild Bells” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

A Swedish version of this poem is traditionally recited at Skansen in Stockholm at midnight every New Year’s Eve and broadcasted live all over Sweden. The actor and singer Jan Malmsjö has this honor since 2001. This tradition began in 1897 and Anders de Wahl recited it until his death in 1956. Swedish television began to broadcast this celebration in 1977 and actor Georg Rydeberg recited the poem until his death in 1983. Then the very charismatic actor Jarl Kulle continued and after him the likewise famous actor Margaretha Krook.

The Swedish version translated by Edvard Fredin is beautiful, but merely inspired by the Lord Tennyson poem “Ring Out, Wild Bells” and can not really be called a translation, even the verse is different. In later years it has been further changed and modernized several times, almost beyond recognition.

It is an excellent example that explains how difficult it is to make a change. My daily work has for decades been dedicated to making changes in technical systems, far more simple and utterly trivial compared to poems and horses. Even so I have learned that when making changes to improve something one also always loose something, sometimes even more than what is gained. Therefore always preserve the original safe!

So here I give you “Ring Out, Wild Bells” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

But first please save your money intended for fireworks and instead make a humble donation at The Nokota Horse Concervancy – a non-profit organisation working hard to preserve horses, already improved by nature it self!

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out thy mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.
Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.
Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

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Teddy and his horses

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During his time as a rancher in the early 1880’s Theodore Roosevelt met, and worked with, many horses in the Little Missouri Badlands area in North Dakota. In the book ”Theodore Roosevelt – An Autobiography” he wrote about the Nokota® horses, or their ancestors to put it very carefully:

”The ponies were of course grass-fed and unshod. Each man had his own string of nine or ten. One pony would be used for the morning work, one for the afternoon, and neither would again be used for the next three days. A separate pony was kept for night riding …. Each man would picket his night horse near the wagon, usually choosing the quietest animal in his string for that purpose, because to saddle and mount a “mean” horse at night is not pleasant.”

To put iron shoes on a healthy horse to make the hooves last over long working hours or heavy overload, is not  always an optimum solution. Another way is, naturally of course, to keep more horses to alternate between.

Theodore also wrote:

”I broke my own horses, doing it gently and gradually and spending much time over it, and choosing the horses that seemed gentle to begin with. With these horses I never had any difficulty.”

Gentle horsemanship is not a new invention and especially when it comes to free roaming horses like the Nokota® horses, it is probably the only way that turns out well.

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The Serpent

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A Common Viper, common in every meaning of the word, bit Rosie in the nose last Monday. The viper, or whatever it was, must have been resting all dizzy and newly awake in the winter corral and surprised by the curious young horse poking around. Rosie had two clearly visible tooth marks above her right nostril.

Luckily the vet was only three miles away when she got the call and came at once. Rosie walked into the barn and lay down on the side. She was in great pain, shaking, sweating, breathing hard and her nose was swollen. She was given pain killers, liquid and cortisone by intravenous therapy.

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During the night we kept Rosie in a separate stall box, while Bluebell and Windflower shared the big stall next to her. We wanted to keep Rosie as still as possible to prevent the poison from spreading to fast and to give her time for recovery from the chock.

It was the first time ever the horses were locked up for the night; otherwise the stable doors are always open, for the horses to choose freely where to go. We did not sleep much the first two nights. I wished I could take her place, why didn’t that common viper bit me instead? If Ireland have no wipers why must we, what are they good for anyhow? Why is it that when your children (and your animal children too) hurt it is worse than when yourself hurt?

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Our concern proved unnecessary. The horses did just fine and in the morning they all greeted us, with their heads sticking out of the open upper door halves. Rosie recovered amazingly fast. The third night we left the stable open, but we could see by the marks in the bedding that they had at least spent some part of the night inside the stable anyway.

Bluebell carefully groomed Rosie’s mane and Windflower was also very sweet to Rosie. Four days after the snake bite Rosie was just as good as before, but the incident has affected her in a way. She is even more affectionate now and it seems that she fully understands that we tried hard to help her. Her bold curiosity has hopefully turned into a slightly more mature and careful kind, much like Bluebell’s.

These wild Nokota horses are strong in both body and soul, so if we can’t save them what can we really save?

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Monty Roberts clinic

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Last Saturday we took the opportunity to visit Monty Roberts clinic at Flyinge in southern Sweden. It was beyond doubt a great experience to see this seventy-eight-year-young legend in modern horsemanship and to listen to his wisdom.

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Monty returned for this clinic at Flyinge with its 350 years as horse breeding and training facility, formerly for the Royal Swedish Cavalry. He spoke about the importance of seeking improvement and not relying on tradition when it comes to horsemanship. He also gave Sweden credit for being a lead star when it comes to the non-violent ways of working with horses.

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He started out with a fresh two-year-old, pointing out that he had never before touched any of the horses he will be working with tonight, only given the opportunity to watch the horses while talking with the owners. The demonstration of his hallmark, the join-up and follow-up technique was awesome. The handsome young colt entered the stadium with a pounding hearth and was calmly walked into the round pen by a lead rope looking insecure and vulnerable, staring with big anxious eyes at the audience of almost 1500 people, as we were holding our breath in silence; a few others were applauding frenetically.

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Note that the photos show the five year old, not the young colt.

Monty set the horse free and made the young horse trot about five hundred yards in the roundpen “away from his herd”, about five laps in each direction, until the horse “asked” Monty to let him return to the herd; the horse lowered his head and began chewing lightly. Monty demonstrated how he could increase the speed of the horse by just holding up his hand and spreading his fingers, then as he closed his hand the horse slowed down. Monty then lowered his own closed hand and bent his arm in toward his body and lowering his head slightly turning away from the horse; the horse immediately stopped and turned towards Monty and slowly walked right up to Monty totally calm and relaxed. Magical!

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The horse now had all his attention to Monty. The power of relief a horse gets when we turns away from him is very strong. A predator that approaches and then walks away can’t be dangerous, it makes the horse feel very relieved. He had been convinced that the safest place in the round pen, and in the entire stadium, was by Monty.

Monty Roberts then worked the horse with a Dually halter, talking about picnic; positive instant consequences, negative instant consequences, while building confidence and trust. Finally the horse was ready for a saddle pad and a saddle, again he made the horse walk and trot a few laps around the pen letting the horse finding out that it was alright. Then followed a demonstration of lunging with the Dually halter working as a kind of side-pull learning the horse to turn easily almost without resistance.

After that it was time for the Irish assistant Adrian. The first time a horse is mounted it is done in three steps. First the rider is lifted up to hang over the saddle a short moment to let the horse feel the weight. Then the same procedure, but Monty now leads the horse to take a few steps. The final step the above is repeated and then the rider puts his foot in the stirrup and sits up. He walks a short ride around the pen and then quietly dismounts. This first session took less than an hour and the young horse surprisingly calml left the arena looking confident and proud.

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Mr Roberts then went on to work with different horses. A small pony very afraid of practically everything especially plastic bags, a five year old horse who had thrown off every rider who had ever tried to ride him and a horse who refused to be loaded. Monty effectively solved all problems without any violence or discomfort, leaving all horses calm and settled. The last horse was equipped with a device to measure the heart rate which was displayed on a screen. Even if there were some technical problems, it nevertheless showed that the hearth rate slowed down as Monty made the join-up and then worked the horse with the Dually halter, contrary to what critics has suggested.

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Monty Roberts way of first getting the horses fully attention and then building confidence and trust is the whole trick, after that is established the rest of the job seemed easy. It looks simple and it really works. With some talent and hard persistent work it only takes about half a century to get the hang of it. Monty Roberts is not the only one using a similar technique, gentlemen like Ray Hunt and Buck Brannaman and many others following the same path has set a standard of non violence that is now the prevailing way of working with horses. Monty Roberts has a personality that not only makes horses trust him, he is a one of a kind, down to earth superstar and it is a privilege to have met him. After the show he promised to remain at the signing stand until somebody asks him to leave. In spite of the somewhat commercial touch of the whole event Monty gives a true impression. Compared to other shows by various famous performers and sports stars I must say an evening like this is well worth its price. Aside from being a good show the audience learns something that can make a difference for many horses.

When we walked back to the truck for the three hour drive back home to our Nokota Horses I could not help thinking about how different the reality is for Leo and Frank Kuntz and all the volunteers that put their lives into preserving the Nokota horses; just as skilled horsemen and horsewomen, but no glory and no fortune, just hard work for the love of wild horses. (Of course that also goes for many other wild horse volunteers on different locations, like The Pryor Mountains, etcetera.) The earnings from just one show like the one we saw tonight would support the horses of The Nokota Horse Conservancy for a pretty long time. It struck me that it was the charity part, in favor of horses in need, which was missing from an otherwise perfect show.

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