Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Back Acres Farm Open House - September 24, 2011

The Open House took place here at Back Acres Farm last Saturday and I was very pleased. The weather cooperated, thank God, since the forecast was not great. Present were old faces and new - and the demonstrations were just excellent. Wendy Bryant worked her dental magic on several horses - her magic consisted not only in technical expertise but in persuading the horses in question to cooperate. They were tranquil and accommodating and at times, it almost looked as though dentist and patient were dancing together. Wendy's e-mail is w-bryant@comcast.net if any of you want to contact her.

Dr. Kevin Landau, the demo vet, arrived during Wendy’s time slot and it was very nice to see them consulting together on horse teeth and general health issues. Kevin had insights about the relationship between overall health issues and proper mouth care, and also plenty of interest in Wendy’s technical savvy and experience, since vet schools were long delinquent in teaching much about it. It was nice to see the two professionals collaborating, with no pride of place or expertise...just sensible people talking together about the best possible outcome for their horse patients regardless of who could provide it.

Kevin’s demo was just as good. He is a former western medicine vet with a large animal practice who has re-focused his practice to only alternative care. He demonstrated muscle testing as a diagnostic tool, acupuncture and acupressure, and cold laser techniques. He used many attendees to demonstrate the muscle testing, and the crowd was riveted. Two horses were used as demos, and everyone could see the befores and afters of diagnosis and some basic treatments, and the explanations were simply put and very effective. Kevin is also extremely knowledgeable in Chinese medicine and the efficacy of nutritional healing (both in primary foods and in supplements). It was great to have the opportunity to ask him so many questions without being conscious of the time and his need to get to his next appointment - it was very relaxed. For more information about Kevin, check out http://www.landauvet.com/about.htm

The afternoon began with the horse dancing demonstration. Bonnitta Roy brought her Arab stallion Kemancho who was a complete pip. He gave an impressive demonstration of stallion posture and pride, whizzing around the ring looking as noble as a picture - tail and head up, trumpeting for joy (or for mares..whatever). He settled down after a bit, and Bonnie put on some music and began showing how even a distracted horse could be persuaded to twirl and dance in circles around her as she circled herself forwards and backwards. It was lovely - and for a more in-depth idea of what Bonnie does, here is a cite to an article about them.

The next demonstration was Farah DeJohnette and her horse Mercury - a large and impressive horse with high energy. Farah did liberty work with him at first - showing a horse focused on his human even though unrestrained and in a strange place with lots of new smells and sounds. He showed his form over a jump at liberty several times. Then Farah put a bareback pad on and a bitless bridle, and demonstrated his dressage moves achieved without the traditional equipment aides, and then finally took off the bridle all together and rode him in a neck strap over the jump and through some short dressage patterns, talking all the while about what was possible with soft, connected riding techniques. It was quite impressive, particularly since it was obvious that Mercury is not an easy horse, but one who is very, very connected to his human.

One of Farah’s students then did a demo with her horse - she is a young person whose pony used to be quite difficult. She free-longed him in several directions at various gaits and then over poles using just hand signals and a wand - there was a clear bond between them which was lovely to see.

The last event was with a Morgan gelding who had applied for the clinic portion of the day, as a horse who was difficult for his owner. He had a history of biting, and being unresponsive to leading (e.g. dragging his owner around): I understood that his behavior was often problematic and occasionally dangerous. The horse came in and went in circles for the first few minutes - head up high and turned to the outside - not a horse who was comfortable on any level. Farah sat and watched him for a bit, to assess him, and then began to have what she calls a “conversation” - minimal interactions to see what the horse (by means of his body language and his responsiveness to her - or lack of it ) had to say. It was evident that he had no desire or perhaps even capacity for connection at that point. So Farah began establishing the means for connection - getting his attention, setting up some boundaries, inviting him in. It was all very quiet - the loudest sound was a plastic bag tied to the end of a longe-whip, the noise of which she used to send him away when he was disrespectful of her personal space. There were no restraints, no yanking, no raised voices, but by the end of the hour he had volunteered to walk next to her at a respectful distance in any direction, and was willing to leave food in a dish unless she gave permission for him to approach and have some. And if she asked him to leave the dish and walk with her again, he did. He head was down, his eye was soft, and he was altogether a different guy. His owner practiced with him a bit what had been demonstrated, and was thrilled with the difference. It was really a very graphic illustration of what can be accomplished with tact and connected riding techniques. Farah’s website is full of information and videos of this work - you can find it at http://fdhorsetraining.com/

So I would say the day was a great success - we had hoped to demonstrate the benefits to horse and rider of a variety of holistic techniques and approaches, and I think we did!


  1. Nothing but good reports from our clan, four years old up through forty! I'm sorry I wasn't there. Next time!

    Thanks, Penn - and everyone - for your hard work. Chrisoula and I are very grateful that our children (and that pony!) are part of such a lovely community.