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Thursday, December 8, 2011

On Leadership~

Three foundations of a great life written by Michael C. Jensen is Jesse Isidor Straus Professor Emeritus at the Harvard Business School and Chairman of the Social Science Research Network, Inc. (SSRN). This article is adapted from his commencement address at McDonough School of Business, Georgetown University, in May, 2011. It is based on eight years of research into leadership with colleagues Werner Erhard, Steve Zaffron and Kari Granger. Links to the talk and other work on which this article is based are at:
The full article and easy to follow instructions are in the online magazine (link below)

This is the ultimate gift and everyone can have it! enjoy! 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

In today's newspaper

Article in today's paper!

These horses are truly special

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Posted: Thursday, September 15, 2011 5:00 am | Updated: 6:57 am, Thu Sep 15, 2011.
His name is Josiah. He is 10 years old and has autism. When he visits In the Company of Horses’ therapeutic riding program at the Majoda Stables in Moorestown, his favorite equine is Patches.
One day Josiah looked in the face of the paint horse and was convinced he detected a light flicker in its eyes. It caused the boy to wonder. And think. And explore.
In the months that followed, Josiah repeatedly returned to the stables and talked about experiments he conducted at home as he tried to find out about that flickering light. He drew diagrams and pictures of what he believed the light source was. He asked his mom to get him books about horses. His learning fuse had been lit.
“Josiah eventually learned that the light in Patches’ eyes was actually him,” said MaryAnn Brewer, president of In the Company of Horses, founded in 2006 and based in Pemberton Township. “What being around Patches did was make him curious to find out why.”
Brewer, 49, a 1980 graduate of Lenape High School, said the kids come, get on horseback and ride, offering them body stimulation along with emotional and cognitive connection.
“I’ve had autistic kids who went through the program who talked for the first time because of it,” Brewer said. “You can’t measure what that means.”
Brewer said horses and humans have a long relationship in the world of learning and growing. In stepping into the world of horses, people are affected physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
The therapeutic riding program combines the living power of equines with the accepted standards and practices of psychotherapy, physical therapy, group therapy, character education, life skills, leadership training, and team building to produce uncommon results.
In one-hour sessions, equine specialists work in concert with mental health professionals to help those with challenges clear life’s hurdles.
“We need people to see that horses can be used for more than just riding,” Brewer said.
Brewer didn’t have horses as a child, but a friend in Monmouth County did. The love affair began. It continued into adulthood, when she graduated from Parelli University in Colorado, the top horsemanship program in the world, and when she bought a farm, which 12 of her horses call home.
“Horses don’t care about race, or socioeconomics, or whether you’re the president of Johnson & Johnson, or if you’ve been incarcerated,” Brewer said. “What they do is give honest feedback.”
There’s an old “MASH” episode in which Col. Sherman Potter says, “I’d still rather spend a day with a horse than with most people.” I sense that Brewer and the old colonel would have gotten along just fine, same as the horses at Majoda and their riders with challenges.
“The big thing is these people are getting out in the world and doing things others do,” Brewer said. “For example, if there are weak kids with cerebral palsy, riding may be one of the few things they can do. Riding helps them build courage and learn how to take risks. When you can learn to make a 1,200-pound animal do what you want it to do and go where you want it to go, imagine what that does for your self-confidence?”
Brewer recently heard from a man whose 25-year-old son has Down syndrome and who attended her therapeutic riding program. He said that last summer his son participated in the Gloucester County Dream Park equestrian disciplines for those with special needs, but had not ridden since and began failing to thrive.
“The father said doctors didn’t know why this was happening,” Brewer said. “They ran tests and everything. They concluded that the son was just depressed.
“But through psychotherapy they learned he wasn’t thriving because he wasn’t seeing and riding his horse every week. He was experiencing symptoms from lack of being with the horse he had a relationship with for two years. It just shows you the benefits of what a horse can do.”
For more information, visit
Phil Gianficaro’s column appears weekly.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Old school meets new thought~

I came across this woman based in the Netherlands who has done her homework and has devised a new and clear way to share an ancient knowing.
Check her out!

  Cool video;
website/blog/more videos.

Here is a photo of Maestro "the problem horse that started it all!"  
academicartofriding1 255x300 Maestro

Ancient wild horses help unlock past

Ancient wild horses help unlock past
This is a pretty interesting site with lots of research being done into the past about genetic diversity in our horses. There are articles about Lusitano's and other wild Iberian horse herds. Interestingly enough there is even
some research shared about wild SEAHORSES!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

EAGALA Advanced Training~ The art of improvisation creates great partnerships!

In the Company of Horses Inc. just returned home from the bran new training created by Lynn Thomas, the co-founder of the international certifying body of the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA) .
We journeyed to Long Island to Pal O Mine Equestrian Center where we spent three days in the company of fourteen people who came to learn how to create even quicker results facilitating learning by way of the horses!

Any mental health professional who works both in the office and in the arena, knows clients find the solutions to life's problems much quicker in the company of a horse. The horses actually become the human client's  issues on a live storyboard and play out the solutions with them!

On this story board, this little one armed  wooden bunny became their metaphor for  their
"Higher Power"  The horse was labeled as the metaphor "us exploring." 
It's fascinating work and while working through our 'issues' can be challenging it can be lots of fun. What we spent three days practicing was how to be a better facilitator/team member/ listener/ sounding board through the actor's world of improv!

You've seen it on Saturday Night Live when an actor throws out a one liner and another just picks it up and runs with it, then they toss it back and forth until it flows into a whole story. Well, that's an art.  And when there are 14 people doing that on the first day, it's hard!  But by the third day when we were doing it in our own familiar facilitation teams, it was easy and fun and the best part is, it's all about the horses.  So the client gets to explore their own answers to their own questions through the activity of the horses in real time, in real life and the focus is not on them, making the client in the arena feel safer and more willing to map their AHA! moments onto their own lives.

Sometimes over our three day training the team from In the Company of Horses Inc. were the facilitators and sometimes we were the clients.  As clients,we took the opportunity to work out some of the things that seem to be patterns of stagnation in the effort to expand into our neighbors back yard so to speak.

 For twenty years our neighbors have been the Military bases of Ft. Dix and McGuire Air force base. Now merging into a super base including Lakehurst Naval Air Station with the new name JBMDL.  For the past 10 years, our nation has been at war and many of our neighbors have been deployed and returned home with new concerns within their families.

 In the arena back at Pal O Mine there were a herd of donkeys moving around looking very uniform and they reminded us of a regiment of military people.  One thing led to another and before we knew it, we found solutions to our stagnation problem and there were the whole herd of dark grey donkeys in our space!  Now we get to use those new found solutions to help our neighbors!

You have to qualify to do the advanced training, all the info is on the EAGALA site.  I highly recommend it!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Managing Testosterone~

Maybe this blog title should be called managing Hormones.  Today for the first time since April, my whole herd is together!  None of the girls are in heat, so Sterling is with them all!    I was pretty sure he could not be with them all again unless I wanted babies. Gratefully, with the help of  my herd and the global community on an equine mastermind group on LinkedIn who answered a question,  I realize I was wrong.

I asked if anyone was keeping a young stallion with or in close proximity to mares and expecting him to manage himself.  I received close to 100 comments from people the world over.  In general, the answer seemed to be, people do this, just not in America.  Let alone in New Jersey, maybe in the west on vast acerage.  Stallions must be kept separated, isolated and managed with great restraint.

From left to right Valentine; Harley; Sterling July 2011
The herd is 7 mares 1 gelding and 1 intact colt (Sterling).  Two of the mares are a miniature pony and a miniature  donkey, but the rest of the girls are full size and fair game.  One of the most important things to me, having an intact colt and one day maybe having a stallion, is that his life is full of family, friends, variety and adventure! No chains over his nose, just relationship based communication with mutual consideration for one another's want's wishes and needs.  This may sound like a tall order here in NJ, but I have found countless people the world over who already have this relationship with their stallions.  In "Holistic Horse" magazine there is a whole article about "Magnificent Stallions & The Women Who Love Them" (April/May 2011)

Mya is the short horse
We are well on our way, Sterling came to me in October at six months of age he is 15 months old this week..  It's already August, so he's been with me for 10 months, and I love that I don't need to raise this boy alone!  I have 8 helpers who are on the job 24/7.  Mya, Jacquie, Harley and Valentine are always with Sterling.  Mya is only 30 inches tall, but she's nothing to be overlooked, sometimes maybe tripped over, but by no means ignored.  She has been "playing" with Sterling from the moment he arrived.  She is 15 years old now and fast! I thought after our trip to Tennessee in April that he was playing too rough with her and I had a concern that she would get hurt, but thankfully, Valentine stepped in and told Sterling to be careful.  They play just as hard, but Sterling is careful with Mya.  I like it when they play too, because of the way he has to move his body and hold himself to play with such a short horse!  Jacquie    
 is our angel in a donkey suit; maybe 4 inches taller than Mya.  She is wise, now 10 years old, elegant, vocal, opinionated, loving and very clear with Sterling about what he should be doing where she is concerned.  I have watched her on her hind legs, bite his withers!  I couldn't believe she could or would do that.  Sterling knows where the line with Jacquie is and Jacquie didn't need anyone's help to make that clear.

Sterling is now 15 hands tall and a reddish grey color.  He has bonded in a uniquely male way with Harley.  They play rough and leave marks on one another.  They do not play with or leave any  marks on the girls in this way.  In fact, I have watched the herd running and come to a place where they are going to stop and Sterling will move around all of the girls and jump on Harley; biting, rearing and wrestling with one another.  He does not even think of doing this with any of the girls, or me. This is the help I'm talking about, I'm grateful I don't have to do this work alone.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Where to start when "starting" young horses~

Starting the young horse.
By; Andy Beck Equine Ethologist
We had better begin by defining what we mean by ‘starting’! And since any decision about where to draw the line and say “from this point on” has to be arbitrary, why not start from conception?
For any living creature it is the environment, interacting with genetic makeup, which produces the individual. This is true to such an extent that we can usefully begin by discussing the condition of the mare from fertilisation through to foaling, since the womb is the first environment a foal experiences. 

Thanks to the massive amount of research that has been carried out on the development of the human embryo we have a good understanding of those stimuli that get through from the environment in which the pregnant mother grows her foetus. So we know that stress, whether physical or emotional - especially prolonged or high level stress - has a powerful impact.  And from this we might generate a very basic starting rule that we are most likely to get a complication-free birth, and calm, easy to handle foal by paying a lot of attention to management of the pregnant mare. And while this article focuses on the young horse we can make a couple of short statements about what mares require. 
As with all horses a management system that allows expression of natural behaviors is favorable. So ideally she should be part of a cohesive harem group of perhaps 6 or so adults – including stallion. The group should have access to sufficient space such that they are fit and active, and be provided with grazing that provides quantity, quality and variety of herbage. There should be shelter from the elements, adequate clean water and good management of parasites – both internal and external. And while the ideal is safety, the environment should not be sterile: mental exercise is good for the horse also, so an element of challenge in the terrain is a good idea – given that it is not greater than that which the horse can reasonably meet. 

The point of these few statements is not to say that this is the way things must be, or that anything less is not good enough, but to give us a point of reference that can be used as a foundation on which we can build our discussion.

Probably the most common departures from the ideal are those mares kept alone and with no supportive social structure, but even then it will depend to some extent on how the mare herself was raised. With luck she may have been raised in a social group, in which case we can hope that she will have been exposed to the sight of either her dam or ‘aunts’ (herd ‘sisters’ of her mother, not necessarily biologically related) foaling and had some opportunity to watch a pattern of effective maternal behaviour and, at best, to have been able to act as a ‘baby-sitter’. Clearly a mare with such experience is far more likely to ‘know’ what she is doing than one that has never seen a foal before. And, given the increasing number of unnaturally kept mares that refuse to have anything to do with their new-born foals, it’s reasonable to suspect that the lack of such experience is a critical indicator.

So let’s move on and say that our lone mare has accepted her foal. What are the likely deficits in the situation? Social contact will be greatly reduced and, if the situation continues, the foal will most likely fail to be able to discriminate between what is appropriate behaviour towards a parent and another unrelated horse. Parents tend to be indulgent toward their offspring, allowing them far greater latitude for lack of manners than an unrelated horse could be expected to. This may well colour interactions with handlers too in which case manners, or the lack of, are likely to be an ongoing issue. Taking this a little further, there is good evidence to suggest that colt foals will be particularly badly behaved when raised by a lone mare.
Other problems that may arise are that the mare becomes very tired, perhaps to the point of exhaustion. In the natural social group the mare is supported by the herd’s security network, in which one horse, and invariably more than one, is always keeping watch for danger. A human analogue of this would be that the new mother might ask a female relative to “keep an eye on the house and watch the baby” while she takes a nap. Filly daughters, and even colt sons, will carry out this important task, leaving ‘mum’ to take a bit of time for herself during which she can graze further away and look for particular plants that sustain her milk yield or merely rest lying down, allowing important REM sleep that she cannot get while resting in a standing position. And beyond these sibling ‘babysitters’ the outer cordon of defence is maintained by those adults without duties to young foals. The lone mare has none of these comforts and will need extra feed and care in order to compensate for the effects. 

What is certainly true is that the period during which the foal is running with its dam and, hopefully, its social group, is one that offers countless opportunities for ‘teachable moments’. So let mum teach junior how to pass safely through gates and yards, get on and off trucks or trailers, eat concentrate feed from a container. A large natural part of a foal’s early learning occurs through a process called maternal facilitation. Simply put, the foal is encouraged to do what it sees its mother doing, but this simple beginning is also the start of the foal’s induction into mother’s culture and is the wellspring of those experience-based behaviour patterns that it will carry throughout its life and that will shape much of its interaction with the outside world. What mother begins will continue through a very similar but extended process; social facilitation. In the equine social group the foal will continue to learn by observing the behaviour of older siblings, of mother’s herd sisters and of the group stallion. Each is able to contribute to the growing foal’s knowledge set and, with each contribution, the ability of the growing youngster to make sense out of its environment and – that most precious commodity, the ability to predict the behaviour of others – and to place itself within a variety of contexts. We know that studies of domesticated animals have shown a reduction in brain case size compared with their wild cousins. These studies suggest that this is most likely due to the reduction of opportunity to react cognitively to their environment. So, if you want to ‘start’ clever horses with well developed brains the answer is pretty obvious, raise them in social groups, add the dynamic of interaction with other species (humans, dogs, cats, cattle – each one contributes an extra dimension) and play your part in facilitating their learning of a complex equine culture!

All right – let’s suppose that we have got this far – foal and mare as part of a little social group – what next? Forced weaning! To wean or not to wean – and if yes, when? Pretty much everyone is in agreement that forced weaning is extremely stressful for both mare and foal yet, oddly, they carry on doing it. Why? Well, listening to what is said; it seems some believe that this is the only way to breed a foal per year without the mare becoming exhausted and the size and quality of foal decreasing. And it is certainly true that suckling a foal takes a whole heap of nutrition! But we know what it takes, since each and every requirement has been very well studied and researched by a veritable army of equine nutritionists, so what’s to stop us supplementing mum’s intake with high value concentrates that contain the whole range of nutrients, vitamins and minerals that she might need? It would be crazy to argue that cost is the problem; the foal is going to need this nutrition whether it gets it from his mother or from the owner’s feed-bowl. So isn’t forced-weaning another of those bits of traditional equine management that may have been required in the past – before owners had access to such complete information – but is no longer necessary now? Most likely yes! Of course, if there are no good reasons why forced weaning should not be done, then the point is moot. So are there reasons, and if so what might they be? And why am I calling it ‘forced weaning’ anyway?  
Definition time once again! First ‘weaning’; this is very simply the process that all mammalian mothers go through during which their young are gradually given less and less milk and finally stopped from suckling altogether. If the mare is in foal, a good part of the process occurs normally within her body’s autonomic system, with some extra assistance from her genetic programming that assures her limiting behaviour towards her foal plays the necessary support role. This is one of those elements of being a mammal that evolution has got down to a fine art and, after 600,000 years of practice, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. 
Next: ‘forced weaning’; the process in which humans interfere, quite unnaturally, to prevent the mare suckling her young, most often by physically separating the two. Now I suppose that a human mother weaning her baby early, for whatever reason, is not a lot of fun for the baby but at least junior still gets the warmth of mum’s cuddles to comfort him, and bottled ‘replacer’ to suck on when breast milk is refused or unavailable. There is no such comfort for the foal. Not only does the poor little creature stop getting milk but it also loses mum completely! And if this sounds like a severe emotional trauma for a young creature – it is! Not that the mare is going to enjoy the process either!

Now let’s look at what would happen in the wild, and why, and determine whether we can easily create an analogue for use in modern management. In the natural state young horses leave their natal band between 2 and 3 years of age, depending on development. Easy conditions in which there is an adequacy of food would tend to lower the age (which is what tends to happen under domestic conditions) while harder conditions make it later. In small groups of, let’s say, 6 or so adults including stallion, all mares are likely to foal once per year, given that there is sufficient feed to support them. If conditions include periods of drought or other factors that serve to impose critical limits on feed, mares will spontaneously abort. Equally, if group size increases, let’s say to stallion and 10 mares, then high status mares will foal less often, perhaps only once in every three years, but they will make a far greater investment in each foal. It seems likely also that a greater percentage of such foals will be male. In the larger group, as long as feed is adequate, lower status mares will continue to foal each year. This then is a brief outline of the naturally occurring ethogram, as it has been for many, many thousands if not several hundreds of thousands of years. If, during the process of evolution over that period, a better variation had developed, which supported a higher level of evolutionary survival fitness, then that would have become the ‘default setting’. That it did not argues that there are benefits in this that go far beyond suckling. And logically, if it is not about growth through milk, then the benefit that accrues must have a largely (or completely?) behavioural component. So let’s investigate what that might be. 

Being with the parental herd is not just about milk, but about learning how to be an efficient member of a social species. And if 600,000 years of evolution has produced an ethogram in which the young horse stays, soaking up this learning, until it is between 2 and 3 years of age then surely it is illogical for us to ignore it, or to impose an alternative that offers far less support for the development of efficient behaviours.

Arguments that we have selectively bred this behaviour out of the modern horse are without any foundation whatsoever. Take a group of mares from the most highly and selectively bred horses on the planet – the racing thoroughbred, that has the oldest studbook – but which have had no experience at all of life in a ‘natural’ herd or in an extensive environment rather than intensive small paddock and stable, turn them loose with a stallion that is equally ignorant and, within a very short period, you will see them return to exactly this ethogram! How do I know? Because that is exactly what I did, spending close to 15 years watching it happen, and the development of a complex equine culture that is as highly efficient in terms of this centuries’ environmental challenges as it would have been for those of the past.
If the products of ‘traditional’ or ‘intensive’ breeding were socially and behaviourally adept and functional there would be no reason to look at this, but that is just not the case. Each year, greater numbers of horses are produced that go on to be dysfunctional in a behavioural sense. In the US this has got to the stage where the number of mares that are either unable or completely unwilling to raise and nurture their foals is so great that there are now ‘foal barns’, in which foals are raised without any access to adult nurture. Throughout the developed world large numbers of owners are frustrated by their horse’s (many of them extremely expensive) inability to socialise with others of their species without anxiety or aggression, often to the point where competing in an environment filled with equine ‘strangers’ is simply impossible, when at home they perform beautifully. Because of mares’ violent resistance (through fear and lack of natural courtship ritual) and stallions’ aggression (through frustration and deprivation of social contact) owners of mares and stud handlers have to dress up like some hybrid between an American football player and Darth Vader, and use all manner of ropes, sedatives and other control paraphernalia, simply to get stallion and mare to do that most basic of all animal functions, procreate! 

Moving on again. When our ‘natural’ youngsters reach this point between 2 and 3 years of age what happens? Colts are driven out by the stallion and, being naturally very sociable and co-operative they look for and join up with a bachelor group. And in this supportive fraternal social group they will then stay, either until they mature into dominance and receive the assistance of their bachelor ‘brothers’ to run off a couple of filly ‘wives’ from the periphery of a harem group, or they become eternal bachelors, always deferring to higher status group members. Play fighting is one of the most compelling features of these bachelor groups (just as it is between colt foals and yearlings in the natal band) and particularly with the newest and youngest additions, who put a great deal of time and energy into these games and, as a result, become highly practiced and skilful equine athletes, fast, acrobatic and beautifully balanced. So important a function does this play serve that those colts born into a family group in which there are no other colts with whom they can exercise tend to leave a lot earlier in search of the male playmates they need.

There is much talk about beginning the training of young horses at two years (or younger) in order to cause that ‘loading’ on bones and tissue that promotes good profile and development. But, rather than experiencing this as something into which they are forced, and which is often made very boring for a young equine mind with only a very short attention span, how much better to let the bachelor group do the job instead? From experience, injuries from such play are far fewer than those that result from early training in round pens and schools. What’s more, the colt knows when he’s had enough, and his proprioceptors tell him when his joints are becoming liable to over-flexion due to tiredness, something the human trainer could not possibly do anywhere near as well.

Now, given that we have been steadily keeping up with the basics of handling, what is the best age to begin training for work under saddle? Perhaps we might take the word of someone who has achieved international recognition at the very highest levels of equestrian sport; Reiner Klimke, Olympic Gold Medallist, World Dressage Champion, European Dressage Champion and European Horse Trials champion.  Not only did Klimke ride these championship winning horses – he also trained them! What’s more if you track down photos of Klimke riding horses such as 1984 World Dressage Champion Ahlerich,
or Maiko or Volt, it is immediately clear that these are well balanced animals, happy and relaxed in their work. Of starting his horses Klimke, in his book Basic Training of the Young horse, states; “None of my successful horses have been shown as 3-year-olds. I bought “Winzerin”, my three-day event horse at the 1960 Rome Olympics, as a 4-year-old in 1956. She had just been backed. “Arcadius” came to me as a 4-year-old just backed. I only started working him seriously at the end of his fourth year and when he was a 7-year-old in 1962 we won the European Championships in Rotterdam. I bought “Fabiola” as a 2 ½ -year-old , started riding her a year later, and won the Dressage Derby with her in Hamburg when she was a 6-year-old. I bought “Ahlerich” as a 4-year-old at the Westphalian Auction at Munster. I hardly rode him as a 4-year-old and only took him to one show. He won 10 medium and advanced classes as a 6-year-old and as a 7-year-old 9 Grand Prix classes. I am convinced that had I started these horses earlier I would not have been so successful. One must have the patience to wait until the horse is physically and mentally ready for the work demanded of it.”  (Here's the link to a ride on BioTop it's worth the trip over to see how kind this rider and how happy this horse.) 
What is true of Klimke’s warmbloods is equally true of other breeds, and even more so of the hotbloods. Many an Arabian or Thoroughbred has been spoilt by demanding too much too early, resulting in a horse that is overly emotional and liable to become so excited that they simply cannot concentrate on the task at hand. For these horses a 20 minute session on the lunge at three years of age amounts to punishment rather than training – and can easily produce a base-level resistance that will become a defining restriction for the rest of its working life. Invariably such resistance will be characterised as ‘naughtiness’ or ‘disobedience’ on the part of the horse, rather than ‘impatience’ on the part of the handler.
Nor is the down-side of early training limited to emotional impact – there are severe implications in terms of bone and joint function too where horses are subjected to excessive weight carrying prior to 2 ½ years of age. Tiredness and overwork can easily result in repeated small overflexions, in which joints – or articulations – are made to flex over a greater angle than they should. Each time this occurs, the bony ‘stops’ and check ligaments that are responsible for controlling the degree of flexion may be damaged. Such damage may never amount to anything critical in the normal course of events but, at high speed, or during the pressure of top level jumping courses, it may become just that, resulting in a hideous broken leg and death. Anyone who has seen the result of this in racing will know just how sickening a sight it is to witness and the habit within the racing industry of starting horses into work as juvenile 2 year olds must surely account for a good measure of this damage. 
There is a lot of talk about holistic approaches to horse management and training, in which a total philosophy is first formulated and then put into practice. And what’s good about such an approach is that it protects us, owners and horses, from the confusion of disjointed elements and muddy thinking. So while in the past ‘starting the young horse’ was just about the process used to get a horse working under saddle, maybe entry into 21st century, instead of being used as an excuse to deny horses’ right or need to express natural behaviours, requires that we really look at how we do things. Sticking to a cohesive and well considered strategy might seem like a burden – but the benefits far outweigh the cost!              

Monday, May 23, 2011

Sterling's first trip to Tennessee~

Here is my lost blogpost from the end of April.  So much has happened since then, I went in and added all of the lost pictures and hope you can see it all this time! 
Since our trip to Tennessee,  last week, Sterling has really gained some confidence in himself and is happy to share it with us all.  He is still the loving, fun and respectful, really fast learning Andalusian colt I keep falling in love with,  but now his body is growing more even, his legs seem straighter and he is able to come under himself instead of having those gangling legs go every which way! I'm more and more enamored by him each day!

The way he holds himself is a really exciting glimpse into his ancestral greatness ...... and into his future.  He's like a dream of the future and a memory of the ancients all at once!

Pegasa is our friend, she is a 17+ hand grey  Holsteiner Mare who took our trip with Sterling and  My Valentine in the trailer, while Carrie and I rode in the truck to Tennessee to spend some time with our friends Aimee and Tammy.
The trip had so many magic moments.  Our first overnight stop happened in Bristol, TN at a lovely place with two adjacent rectangle paddocks with shelters.  Since Sterling and Peg had not been together yet, he stayed with Valentine and Peg had her own paddock.  When we arrived, the weather was beautiful, the moon was big and bright and the sky filled with stars, but soon enough, just after we settled into our camper for the night, the clouds rolled in, the wind began and lightning crashed all around us.  I could only see the horses when the lightning lit up the place, then the rain and hail came.  In the brightness of the lightning, I could see Peg galloping the fence line. Valentine was no where in sight, likely already in the shelter. Then I could see Sterling ~ Mirroring Peg! He was her shadow on the other side of the fence, matching her every motion. It was fascinating!  Made equally ethereal by the flashes of lightning. It was a movie etched in my minds eye that I won't forget.  And I think it was a bonding experience for them.  I wonder if he was supporting her because as a stallion that is what he should do?  I only know it was pure instinct for him.  It has to be, he is only eleven months old and I have not witnessed this before. Magic~

Pegasa, Sterling, Valentine 
When we arrived in Murfreesboro the next day, it was already summer.  Sunny, warm, light breezes.  Coming from what feels like eternal cold in NJ, I was pleased.  We turned the herd out together and had dinner with our friends. Sterling travels really well, he eats and drinks on the trailer, something, not all horses do readily.  Another thing I am grateful for.  His quiet presence creates a lovely feel in the trailer. He joyfully loads and unloads.

I set out to give him his 1st bath!  Ha Ha, there is no way that was this boy's first bath.  He was a champion, he loved the massaging water sprayer, loved the soaping process and stood tied to the hitching rail until he was dry.  I suspect he was bathed during his first summer.  A fine tribute to his loving start in his life with people!
Peg, Valentine and Sterling heading over to visit with Aimee's horses!  Such a lovely thing for a little colt to be able to do.

All winter, we have done most things at home at liberty.  My place is just set up that way, and it works.  I did tie him to the hitching rail, but didn't use ropes for much else.  So when I was taking Valentine and Sterling to the newly fenced meadow in TN, for grazing, I realized Sterling didn't understand traveling together with ropes! They always seemed to be in his way.  By the time we got to the meadow gate, we mostly got that worked out, but I kept noticing how bold he was being with Valentine!  This was unusual behavior for Valentine, My Herd Leader, to "put up" with this. Sterling kept biting her.  She kept looking at me and I was wondering why she wasn't managing him.  Then, like a blinding flash of the obvious, it hit me, I am the herd leader!  I'm always telling them, that when I am there, I will manage such things, be nice to your sister and such.  So gratefully, Valentine allowed me to step up with loving patience to let Sterling know, that was unacceptable behavior.  Like all things, he got it. Quickly.

My experience with Patches as a baby nearly 20 years ago was nothing like this, I longed to have what my gelding had. Horse sense, presence, boundaries,  leadership, control! Patches was always on top of me, literally, she would run me over in a heart beat. I credit Pat Parelli for teaching me "hide your hiney".  That single technique, saved my life and kept me in the game!  I knew I loved horses, but the only time I would wear my helmet was when I was walking Patches from one place to another!  I am soooo grateful to her for those lessons.  If you never had a horse that wanted to be on top of you, you may not have learned those lessons like me! When your life is in jeopardy, things take on a bigger priority.

I asked Sterling to lay down, and he did. 
So Aimee said to me, "You don't need to teach Sterling about Sterling, You need to teach Sterling about MaryAnn" .  Boy, what a relief! I wish someone had told me that when my kids were little! I would have worried less about them turning out!  I can see that is what each of my mares are doing.  Jaquie, my miniature donkey (Angel in donkey suit) has told Sterling, flat out from day one, you may not touch me. I have never seen her tell anyone or any thing that, except Sterling. Mya is all about running with Sterling.  She's only 30 inches tall, but FAST! Now he is bigger and seems to have some purpose for moving, their level of play has intensified! Whispering Jessie has it on her terms every time.  If she says yes, it's yes, if she says no, it's no, Sterling believes her and seems to respect this clarity. Patches wants his babies, and that's who he is with her.  I want to be smoochie and loving with him, his fur is so soft, I want to touch him allover and I want him to feel free to interact with me.  However, I will not be pushed on, pulled on, stepped on, bitten or ignored. So far so good! His first birthday is in two weeks, where we will all enjoy his favorite thing ~ carrots.
More later...................... :)