Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Workshop follow up

From Jane:
Received a nice comment from Jeri and Don Eisermann, who participated in the workshop:
"This clinic was AWESOME! The people, the setting and the general atmosphere was like no other clinic we have attended. The free flowing of information was special."

Thanks Jeri and Don!

Folks have been requesting contact information.

Doc can be reached at workshops@dochammill.com
Steve can be reached at admin@wildwoodsleighandcarriage.com
Theresa can be reached at tdburns@yousq.net.

Doc will be at Horse Progress Days this weekend. Be sure to stop by and say hi.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Natural Gait Workshop, Day 3

9:40 Relaxed start this morning as Doc discusses the progress he's seen with horses and with everyone's line handling. He's going to spend the morning session addressing questions and discussing bits. Steve would like to learn how to teach a horse to hobble. He says east of the Mississippi we dont hobble horses, but in the west horses are routinely hobbled.

Doc also discussed bits and bitting, providing some advice he learned from Tom (Triplett) and Addie (Funk), two of his mentors.

10:35 (pm!) Had some connectivity issues today. I promise to update on Monday. Stay tuned . . .

(Monday) Yes, it's the day after, but I want to keep Sunday's blog post on one day. And what a great day we had. Lots of fun. First of all, here is a photo of Sunday's class. A few people had to take off Saturday night, so this isn't everyone. If we missed you, next year remind us to take the class photo on Saturday!
Lisa's mare has some bad leading habits -- she tries to walk ahead of Lisa instead of behind her. Doc said that when your horse walks with its shoulder next to your shoulder, they are doing the leading. Instead, the horse should be behind you. As you can see, she is a big girl, so lead manners are important.
Look how much better she leads now.

And, as promised, here is a shot of Barb and Mo.
Mo has one annoying issue: He paws. And paws. And paws. Steve and Doc discussed this and Doc mentioned that he will hobble horses with this annoying habit. (Hence the hobbling discussion at breakfast.)

Doc and Mo demonstrated how to teach a horse to accept hobbles. There's a process to it so that the horse doesn't panic and hurt himself. I'm going to show the photos, but not go into the process lest I leave out a critical point. Like driving and other tasks we require of our horses, it's essential they be taught properly.

Kal, Doc's brother, mentioned that the old timers would teach the horses to have any of their legs hobbled so that if they became caught in a fence they would patiently wait for help instead of panicking.

Mo was a fast study and it took about half an hour for him to accept having his front feet hobbled. Here he is learning to "walk" with the hobbles on. You can see he is doing a little jump.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Natural Gait Workshop, Day 2

9:10 We're back at it at Doc's Natural Gait workshop. Just finished breakfast and everyone is sharing new revelations and asking questions from yesterday's workshop. The first question was about teaching the horses "gee" and "haw," and Doc is explaining how to use a fence to block the opposite direction. The head is heavy, he explained and if you turn the head, the horse will have to move a foot to support it. You can use this to get great precision and teach the horse to move a foot sideways instead of forward. Beak it up into tiny baby steps, he emphasizes. If they take one step forward, you can stop them, but it would be better to have them back up and take that step away. Then pause so they can consider what happened. If you "give" them that step, they will learn to take ten steps to get over to that grass they want.

Harley asked a question about Charlie slacking in the lines; Charlie's perfectly happy to let Tom do all the work.

Favorite quotes:

"Driving horses is a waltz, not a polka."

"When we train a horse with force and punishment, it will work only until we encounter something the horse fears more than the punishment. "

10:03 We are teaching every moment we are with our horses. It's a concept we can't be reminded of enough.

Doc is discussing boundaries and how never lets a horse touch him with its head. Consistency is key. "If we're going to be the boss we have to be the boss all the time. We have to think and act like the boss. A horse that respects your space will respect your leadership. This is incredibly important for safety."

"Paying attention is the difference between people who have wrecks and people who don't. My mentors were all phenomenal horsemen, but I learned there was a category that had wrecks and a category that didn't. The guys that didn't have wrecks paid attention to details, they wanted everything just right and they required their horses to follow the rules."

Steve: "One of my pet peeves is the mantra: If you drive long enough you're going to have a wreck. The difference between a fast drive and a crash is that you've got an escape route planned. You've got to always be looking ahead."

10:20 Doc and Steve are both emphasizing the need to look at our own emotional barometers. If you're in a hurry, it's not a good day to drive. You have to set it aside. Time is a huge thing in our society, but horses don't share our concept of time.

Favorite quotes:

"You can't have a romantic notion that driving is easy."

"Riding is to driving like football is to soccer. They are kind of alike, but they are nothing alike!"

Everyone is commenting about how helpful it was to drive different horses yesterday.

11:15 Folks are out by the outdoor arena taking turns driving different horses. Below, Jim takes a turn with Tom and Charlie.
Steve helps Karen with the lines:

Those who brought horses have them out in the arena right now. For some horses are practicing how to stand quietly. Doc is checking bridle and harness fit again for others. Jane and ? are ground driving their horses.

Below, Theresa and Harley instruct Sherry on ground driving. Sherry has never driven before, but she is in good hands with Tom and Charlie.

Look what a great job she's doing.
In the meantime, we also hear that Mo may have made a love connection with Barb.

3:05 Folks are hauling carts into the arena. It looks like some horses will be hitched under the watchful eyes of Theresa and Doc. At events such as this, it's always helpful to have an expert check your cart, harness fit, and most import . . . your horse's attitude.

I wonder where Steve is. He must be in the outdoor arena letting folks practice driving with Val and Cole, his best team.

4:35 Just checked in from the arena where Val and Cole were tied to the fence while Steve helped drive Larry's pair of gaited horses. (Breed to come.) On my way back up the the indoor, I saw Doc heading Lisa's horse. There's a potluck at 6:30 pm, but horses will be worked until it's it time -- by their clocks -- to stop.

(Sunday am) Didn't finish posting last night, but I need to include the last horse, Paige, here. Paige is a gorgeous paint mare with a lot of "issues." She belongs to Karen who sent her to Steve for training last November. We don't know a lot about her background, but her recent history includes an auction and three owners in one year. For a young mare as beautiful as Paige is, that in itself indicates a problem. Steve characterized her as one of the angriest horses he has ever worked with. Her progress was very slow. She would not allow anyone to stand near her hindquarters or pick up her hind feet and she would not bend her neck in one direction. When asked to stand still, she would have a fit.

In her determination to rehabilitate Paige, Karen has been willing to try alternative therapies. She recently engaged a woman who does healing touch massage and healing touch. The healing touch practitioner was able to release her hind end so that she would allow her feet to be picked up and she encouraged Karen to have an equine dentist look at her.

The dentist found hooks on the back molars that were rubbing her cheeks raws. She was given a short break to heal after her teeth were fixed. When Steve started ground driving her again, the healing touch practitioner asked to watch her work. When Paige would freeze up, the practitioner would do some body work to help her release. Finally Paige was making real progress.

Karen also asked Steve to speak with an animal communicator about her. Steve was skeptical, but willing to comply with his clients requests so he made up a list of questions, being very careful to not give out much information. I think he was surprised at how much sense some of the answers made.

Steve brought Paige to the workshop and last night we got to watch her pulling a stone boat in the indoor arena. He wasn't even sure he'd be able to ground drive her past the outdoor arena. She was nervous, but held it together, and as she worked in the arena, she began to relax.
Even Ross, Steve's 22-year-old son, was amazed. "I've never seen her do anything but breathe fire," he remarked.

Karen nervously drove her with the stoneboat while Steve headed her.
Afterwords, Paige held court in front of the Mercantile.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Welcome to the Natural Gait Workshop

From Jane:
9:45 "It's not the heat, it's the humidity," and here at the Natural Gait we've got a little of both, so we're enjoying our introductions in the air conditioned Natural Gait dining hall. We are missing Steve and Ross, whose truck broke down yesterday about an hour and half from here. With the help of The Natural Gait manager they managed to pull the horses in around 1:30 am, but now they've gone back to fix and/or collect the truck.

Doc just started the workshop. "Comfortable horses don't have wrecks," he explained. As drivers and as horse people, our job is to make the horse comfortable.

As we introduce ourselves, we hear a variety of stories. "I hear Fjords are born broke to drive," says one participant. "I'm here in case that's not true."

Another participant tells the story of how she had a wreck because she dropped a line, and Doc uses this as a launching point to emphasize the importance of sitting on the lines. One of his mentors, Addie Funk, would never ride with someone who wasn't sitting on the lines.

We all have something to share and we can all learn from each other.

Barb is here to learn from Doc, but also to meet Mo, a horse that Steve feels will be just right for her. Mo is a homebred horse horse at Wildwood Sleigh and Carriage. Mo is a great horse, but Steve's teams are either sorrel or black. Mo, unfortunately, is a bay. Will there be a love connection? Stay tuned.

1:15 We're out in the area to learn about holding the lines. Another Addie quote, this one about folks who drive with completely slack lines: "They aren't drivin' those horses, they're herdin' 'em!"

Doc demonstrates starting, stopping and guiding the horses. Then it's time to try it out. The driver is always pleased when the "horse" doesn't wander all over the place. The person acting as the horse is pleased with how helpful it is to have more information from the lines, which prevents them from wandering about.

3:00 Harley Weyer has graciously brought his Belgian team, Tom and Charlie, and folks are getting some practice driving them in the arena. Tom and Charlie recently pulled a covered wagon across part of Iowa. In the meantime Steve has harnessed Val and Cole, his black Morgan team and Theresa has harnessed Opal as a single so that participants can practice with a variety of horses.

During the driving practice, Doc sat down with those who have brought their own horses to find out what they'd like to work on. Later he helped them adjust harness.

(Later) It wasn't blogged at the time, but the workshop went until about 7 or 8 in the evening. When Doc is working horses, he puts all aside and stays with it until he's done and everyone has gotten what they needed for the day.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

"Live" blogging from The Natural Gait

From Jane Fallander:
Hi all. This weekend is the annual Doc Hammill workshop at The Natural Gait in beautiful northeastern Iowa. I'm originally from Colorado, and I have to admit I had pretty low expectations for Iowa. (Sorry Ioweigans.) However, when I first visited The Natural Gait near McGregor in northeastern Iowa, I was blown away. What amazing country!

The Gait itself is an incredible place. It's a horseman's getaway with state-of-the-art facilities that are comfy for horses and humans. Howard and Donna, the Gait's owners, have a business selling cultivated native plant seeds, and The Gait is a showcase for native wildflowers.

This will be Doc's fifth weekend workshop and we're going to try something new: Live blogging. Okay, it may be more like semi-live blogging, as we cannot do constant updates, but the plan is to do many frequent blog updates each day so that everyone can have a taste of what's going on at the workshop.

Doc will have his hands full teaching, so I will be the guest blogger logging in from The Gait's Dining Hall.

I think there may still be some openings, so if you'd like to join the fun, call The Natural Gait at 877-776-2208. If you don't have a horse or can't bring yours, you can audit or they'll fix you up with one.

I know Theresa and Steve will be there. Cathi G. is coming. Who else is coming?

Talk to you all soon!


Friday, June 12, 2009

Springtime in Montana (part 3)

From Doc:
Spring returns as quickly as it left, and the snow's moisture has made the pasture lush. Barney (to the left) is enjoying the new grass and has declined to be photographed.

The yellow flowers are not dandelions; they are a small alpine lily.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Springtime in Montana (part 2)

From Doc Hammill:
Weather changes rapidly in the mountains. Saturday it was a warm 83 degrees. Saturday night winter came calling!

Not to worry. Spring will return just as quickly.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Springtime in Montana (part 1)

From Doc Hammill:
Wildflowers are always especially abundant after a fire. Here at the ranch it's no different as the forests and meadows regrow.

Can you identify them?