Posts Tagged ‘In the Company of Horses’

@ 2.5 years old, he reminds me of my human sons!

@ 2.5 years old, he reminds me of my human sons!.


Sports Psychology Simplified

What is it?  The difference between staying in the game and quitting! It is a behavioral science that helps athletes identify what is in the way of the athlete reaching her goal. What it is not is judgement.  It makes no difference what the issue is, it’s about putting strategies in place to put the past in the past and be in the present.

Many people athletes or otherwise have an internal conversation that is some version of I’m not good enough.  It could look like I’m not smart enough, fast enough, thin enough, tall enough; feel free to insert your own adjective.  It makes no difference  -how- we are not good enough; what does make a difference are the strategies we have in place to override this internal conversation, how is it we can not buy into the popular or personal ideas of what is ‘good enough.’  If we can quell this internal dialog, we can allow our passion to guide our sport of choice.  Michael Cleveland is a blind fiddle player considered by many of his peers to be the best in the world.  He leads his band on an album he calls “Let er go boys,”   He encourages his sighted band to do what he has learned;  to get out of his own way because he cannot see and not hold back but Let er go!

Many times this underlying “not good enough” conversation will outwardly look like fear, an unwillingness to take risks or put forth all of our effort, perhaps even inability for us to participate at all!  Many parents of young equestrians really want to ride but have a litany of reasons ( likely all valid!) why they are not, so they live their childhood dream of riding through their children.  This is an example of a “not good enough” conversation getting in the way of us living our dreams! It’s not about competition, but about having a life we love.

Putting aside raw talent, in competition, sports psychology is the difference between first and second place.  You don’t have to be the best that shows up, you just need to be the best who can fully ” be with” what’s so and do your best.  I heard a great performer say it this way ” I have butterflies in my belly every time I need to perform, it’s just that I’ve taught my butterflies to fly in formation!”  That is sports psychology.

We Must Progress!

  A Hot August Saturday Break Under a Tree

Who must progress?  Each in the horse and human team. Student, horse and teacher.  We all need to become calmer, braver and smarter, more coordinated, confident and athletic. We all need to progress to being better problem solvers, more aware, more able to see what we see, softer, more thoughtful, considerate and progressive! We need to blur the lines between who is teaching who and dwell in what is possible!

What is progress? Growth or development ( So that means we progress from wherever we are to somewhere else, a movement, in an appropriate increment,  toward a goal. It could mean progressing speed – doing something faster (extended trot) or slower (passage), distance – closer to you (cantering by your shoulder) or farther away from you (cantering at the end of your longest line) ,  or quality(more on this later.)

When should we progress?  Now.

Where? Wherever we are. Bring what you know with you!  Add to that or modify it.  Create excitement and interesting things right where you are.  This is where progressing our creativity from where it is to somewhere else comes in.  Here is where the impossible become possible.

Why? Because this is what keeps us all in this game! Because if we are not progressing we loose interest, horses become work and expensive.  When we are progressing it is a labor of love and money well spent!

How do we progress? Pay attention (Observe) to where you are now without judgement and keep track of your progress (compare)

Journal or at least keep a calendar where you can track your thoughts, the time you put in, your goals and then REMEMBER TO BE GRATEFUL FOR THE JOURNEY!

Stall Rest

Blog about Sterling and Hearty January 2012 (Autosaved)

It’s all about the relationship

She’s 9 and her pony is 16.  They attended a horsemanship workshop here at In the Company of Horses to better understand Focus. She was the youngest participant by far, but the most free to imagine and play with herself and her horse!

IMAGINE What's Possible!

The task was to ask her pony to stand on the tires or the balance beam with all four feet and if she found that too easy to somehow increase it’s quality.

She had lots of conversations with her pony over the course of the two day workshop, asking him to go with her or to go first, in circles, over jumps all in an effort to get to know one another.  They had a magical two days as they flitted about from one place to another always together challenging one another in the most playful ways.

The child had scary mental images in her mind of the times she had seen her pony ridden by some local teenagers.  Once the pony ran off with one of the teens, and another time; he bucked one of them off. But this day, he was lovely, looking to his little girl for reassurance if he got scared,  trying to do all that she could think of in her imaginative mind. Over, under, through, around, on top of,  in, forward, back; they played, both on the ground,  for hours the first morning as their confidence and trust in one another grew.

It was thought there were issues with the saddle and the little girl believed it.  All morning long she kept observing the pony having no problem with the saddle. Every now and again, she would head over to the tires to see what her pony thought  about stepping up on top and Lo and Behold ~ Done.

Knowing it was only the morning of day 1 she took me up on my suggestion to refine whatever you get!  If it’s too easy how can you improve the quality of your task.  See the tire in the foreground?  Well it has a pocket of water inside and whenever the pony would step on it, the water acted like a volcano and gushed out making a sucking noise!  When the pony finally stood next to the gushing volcano with all 4 feet at the end of Sunday, he looked at the water, then back at his girl. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that her pony stood there because his little girl wanted him to. No force, she just stayed in the conversation for two days. Now that’s Focus!

Article in today’s paper about In the Company of Horses

These horses are truly special 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.

© 2011 . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Learning To Let Go

It’s quite a task for any human being~ Letting Go~ Especially when you are committed to a particular outcome. It’s a great life’s lesson, learning when to hold on tight and when to let go.  What will teach you quickly is a rope burn! The kind you get on your hands when you hold on too tight for too long.  Oh, it creates blisters and hurts for days! And all week as we look at the dreaded rope burn, we wonder, why did I not let go sooner?  I wish I let go sooner.

Learning to Let Go

It takes two beings to create a rope burn a real one right there on your hands or a metaphoric rope burn on your heart.  Some get burnt and burnt and burnt before they learn the valuable lesson taught to any young person trying to have their way with a horse who has another idea.  It’s easier for everyone if you can just let go and watch the proud pony come back on on her own.  And the reward is an indescribable sense of accomplishment.