Episode 65 // Senior Horses and the Non-Ridden Equine
Updated: Dec 13, 2022
This episode is dedicated to my gelding Cash, who passed away recently. I share his story and how he was a shining example of just how valuable a non-ridden horse can be.
[00:00:00] Welcome to season four of the willing equine podcast, the podcast, where we chat about all things, horses and being the best horse people we can be for our horses. My name is Adele Shaw. I'm a certified behavior consultant, and my passion is for creating positive relationships between horses and people.
[00:00:29] Hey, so today's episode is dedicated to my late horse Cash. Cash passed away a couple weeks ago on August 26th, 2022. And um, I shared some of the details on Instagram and I'm sure many of you guys who are listening are familiar with that and, and saw the news. Oh, it was really upsetting of course, and we're still feeling his loss and I'm quite emotional about it, but I'm doing better. Um, And I felt like I could really honor Cash's memory by doing a podcast episode, talking about senior horses, but also I wanted to, or I should say, and also I wanted to talk specifically about unridden equine um, horses, that are in their value and how important they are. And just, I wanna just dedicate this whole episode to those horses and everything, all the value that they bring to our lives, how important they are, who they are and just share about just how much they have to offer and how valuable they are. And I just wanna share Cash's story and then everything that he's taught me and everything I've learned through that experience and time with him.
[00:01:50] Um, So the first thing we're gonna do is we're gonna dive into Cash's story. And I wanna share more about him and just all there was to share about his wonderful self and who he was. So About six years ago, Cash came into my life through the process of actually I was horse shopping cause I'm a chronic horse shopper or at least I used to be I'm recovering chronic horse shopper. And I came across Cash. Well, actually I came across another horse that the owners had that was looking for a new home and was being advertised as like a kid friendly family, safe, blah, blah, blah, all that. And unfortunately that horse had sold, but they told me that they had another horse that I might be interested in that really fit what I was looking for. And so I scheduled with them to go visit this other horse. Well, Long story short. I arrived and Cash was in really bad condition. Um, There were other horses on the property that were also in equally as poor of condition and it ended up being an animal neglect case. There was a lot of story behind that. I was able to get Cash out. They did require me to buy him. And the unfortunately legally the county, you know, the law enforcement didn't do anything about the situation. I'm not exactly sure what happened to the other horses. I tried my best to get that situation um, taken care of, but anyway, I was able to save Cash. And he came home with me. He ended up having multiple fractured molars and he also had strangles, which is a highly contagious and potentially lethal disease that horses can get. So he had strangles that he had to be treated for. He was also a body score of a one, multiple fractured molars. He was older, they were still riding him in this condition. It was really, it was a really sad situation. Thankfully, you know, when I brought him home, I actually was concerned that he wouldn't be able to make it that maybe he had organ damage that does happen with starvation cases sometimes. So I wasn't sure how long he had been in that state for, I didn't know a whole lot. I did know that, or they told me he had passed homes a few times. They had gotten him from an auction. And then he had gone to live with these other people and then he came back. And so it sounds like based off of what I've been able to piece together, he used to be a roping horse and he worked on a cattle ranch, and then he got injured and he ended up being sold and just kind of kept being sold until he ended up in this terrible situation. Um, They had also promised me that they had done his dental work and all that regularly, which was just definitely not true. There's no possible way that he had had regular dental work. And if that, so then yeah, I have some things to say to that person who did the dental work anyway. So. Turns out also, he had multiple fractured ribs. He had a bunch of fused, vertebrae and different areas. He had had a partially dislocated jaw. There was like a whole lot going on in his poor body. And he was older at the time too. We suspected he was about 18 years old when I took him home. And that was six years ago. So for the last six years, cash has been just. Just growing in health and doing amazing. I mean, the first couple of years, it was all about putting weight on him, getting him healthy, getting his feet balanced, getting his teeth taken care of doing the body work to help him cope with his old injuries that had remodeled. He had remodeled ribs and stuff too. Um, Just helping him really get to a comfortable place as comfortable as he was going to be. He was never going to be, you know, performance riding horse again, but he could be, you know, a comfortable, retired horse and he could live with us and enjoy a really good life. And, oh my gosh, this horse was such a Saint around my kids. He was so patient and quiet and just really easy going. And you know, when you have horses, that you rescue from situations like that and even horses that aren't rescues. When I have, when I bring in horses that are coming from a living condition or just a handling, you know, style where they are used and pushed around and their behavior is suppressed and their way of communicating is suppressed. And they are just just really treated as robots and like, they need to be obedient servants to the humans. Um, A lot of times I wonder what's going to come next. So when the horse starts to what I call, wake up. Because they've been really, you know, shut down and suppressed and, and hushed and quieted. And they're just kind of blindly obediently following the instructions and doing whatever it is required to stay alive. When you start to show the horse that they're in a place where they can speak freely, basically, where they can start to communicate and show their fears and show what they're worried about and show what they're uncomfortable with and what feels good and what doesn't, what hurts, what doesn't, when they can start to communicate again, they start to really engage in their environment and start to trust people. Well, first what comes is they oftentimes start to what I call, wake up or unpack and I wasn't sure what, what the unpacking process would look like with Cash physically and emotionally and mentally? What was, I mean, was he gonna go from this quiet robotic kind of horse to just like a don't touch me, I'm terrified of people and lashing out and all that, or was he going to be timid and withdrawn? Was he going to be spooky? You know, there's all these things that can start to happen when the horse starts to unpack and awaken up. Thankfully though with Cash. What really happened was he started to, you know, he stayed really quiet and he was very patient and very gentle, but he, he definitely, he definitely had a transition period where he started to communicate no more often, which is totally fine. I wanted him to communicate freely with me. I wanted him to feel safe doing so. And what that would look like would be that I would ask him to leave the barn, like to go on a halter and lead rope or, even at Liberty that's I try to do as much as I can that way outside of the barn. And he would just kind of stand at the edge and be like, no, I'm good in here. And he wouldn't wanna go forward. He wouldn't do anything, you know, lash out or run away or anything. Like he just kind of stop and he would look at me and he'd be like, no, we're good. And that's fine. And I wanted him to communicate that and he became very comfortable communicating that with me. And that was so important for him to be able to do. Then from there, the transition process turned in or the transformation process turned into him starting to say yes, more so first we had a lot of, no, and then he started to really learn to trust and learn that it was okay. And that it was okay for him to go with me and do things and, and, um, that it was gonna be reinforcing for him. Gonna be a good experience. And so he started to say yes, a whole lot more so that took time, but it did happen. And I see this happen a lot in horses and the unpacking process is so different for diff for every horse. There's no, you know, just standard process. There's no path that every horse takes. They can all they all have different histories, all have different learning histories. They all have different personalities, genetics, all of that. And, you know, body condition and all of that plays a big role too, like how they're feeling physically. And so the unpacking process is going to look very different and the timeline is going to look very different for each and every horse they're unpacking their trauma, they're working through it. They're learning to trust again, they're learning to express again and to be heard and seen. And then that takes time.
[00:09:17] So with Cash, I was very, very thankful that. Even with that unpacking, the, the process of him unpacking looked a lot, like him just kind of be like, mm, not gonna do that today. And I'm like, okay, that's fine. I'm going respect that. I would rather, you tell me that in that way than any other way. And he was always just so gentle and patient about it and he loved my kids. Actually, if you guys saw on my Instagram, I created a, like a tribute to him. Like it was a video montage collage, whatever you wanna call it. Where I've put together all of the videos or not all of them, that would be a lot of videos, but it's put together like a highlight real kind of thing of his life with me the last six years. And a lot of the videos included my kids and he was just so amazing with them and loved them. And um, just really patient. And so even though, and this is what inspired or is part of what inspired this episode, even though we never really rode because of his physical stuff. Now he did in the earlier years, when I, you know, when he was still a little bit younger uh, we did do a little bit of riding. Like there was, I think I actually sat on him two times before I realized that this probably wasn't gonna work. He didn't, he didn't really enjoy it and I didn't need to ride him. And there were so much we could do without it. And this was In the amount of just, it was just gonna be so touch and go on whether or not he was gonna be comfortable that day. And there was such a risk with his learning history that he would not feel comfortable telling me that he didn't wanna be ridden that day, that I decided to set that aside. And I didn't, we didn't pursue that any further. However, with my kids and some of my students that were smaller. So like I'm talking like five year olds he, they would. Sometimes in like a bareback pad, like a really, really well padded bareback pad with another pad on underneath it and to get it off his spine and everything, we would just do some basic little like short five, 10 minute walking around with lots of food and just made it really fun and enjoyable for everybody. And sometimes we would have a you know, they would be training him to like push a ball while they rode. And it was a lot of fun. So he did do a little bit of riding early on, but in the last couple of years, so he was 26 when he passed. So I guess it was be, he was like, so yeah. Anyway, it wasn't quite six years. I don't know. My math is all messed up. So he would've been more, almost 20 when I got him again, we're all kind of guesstimating here because it was just going off of his teeth, which were a mess. So he He, oh yeah. So really what kind of inspired this episode along with just talking about senior horses and their value is talking about the unridden horse and how valuable they are and how important they are and how you don't, you know, horses don't need to be ridden. You don't have to ride a horse to, for them to be fulfilling a purpose, their purpose, you know, and being of value. And I can't tell you how many times I could say that over and over again, to just like really drive it home. You know, he wasn't really ridden much and yet he was family and such a part of the herd and so important. And he taught us so many lessons for me in particular. Cash taught me so much about patience and working with horses that were in are, are really shut down and reserved and go internal. And by that, I mean, when they're presented with a challenge or they're concerned, or they're under conflict, like they're feeling conflicted about what to do, they oftentimes will internalize. So they'll just like, you'll see them kind of shut down.
[00:12:49] And I actually had this happen to me the other day with a client's horse where we were. This horse was particularly, is particularly prone to going internal when he's feeling conflicted. And so he was in a position where he wanted to get into the trailer. That's what we had been working on, but he was also worried about what was behind him. And there was no explosive, you know, thing. There was no elevated head eyes wide, anything like that. He, he had a little bit of tension in his face and eyes, a couple of calming signals, and then he lowered his head and kind of then he just like started to close his eyes. So it almost looked like he was going to sleep, but we're in an active training session now, ideally I would not have put this horse in this situation. There's a lot of, you know variables surrounding this situation. And this would not be something that I would want to intentionally repeat, but it's just a really good example. So I'm sharing it with you. Um, He went internal and Cash would do that quite often. He would go internal. Whenever he was conflicted. And so Cash taught me a, a lot about how to help horses through that and how not to use pressure, how not to push them through that and to give them the time that they need to process what's going on to wake back up to re, to become external again, so like engaging with their environment to start looking for feedback from you and from the environment to just kind of like wake back up. And part of that is just patience. Honestly, it's just sitting and being patient with them and waiting for them to go through their process, being there as a support, being there to sit with them and show them safety. And then also taking that pressure off. So stepping even, you know, not asking them to do anything, taking deep breaths yourself, taking the pressure off of just how you're even standing. Like what are you doing physically with your body language that could be inadvertently putting pressure on the horse even mentally, like we ha tend to be very agenda driven and we just, we have these goals. We wanna do this. We wanna do that. That's putting pressure on the horse. Even if we're thinking it's just in our head, I guarantee your horse is picking up on that. So he taught me so much about not putting pressure on horses, especially horses that feel very conflicted when they're put under pressure and and tend to go internal. And so, you know, prior to Cash. You know, with with my mare Tiger. She, so my mare Tiger, who I've talked a lot about, and I just told her story in the podcast episode, that's I think it's titled Love Without Conditions. Anyway she was very expressive when she became worried or conflicted. You could tell she was very clear about that with her body language, she was just like wide eyes start to have all the displacement and calming signals. She was just, it was just very, very obvious. So I needed something that was extremely obvious. To start this learning process for me. And to start this journey for me of looking for a new way to communicate with horses and be with horses and Tiger was that horse for me, she really pushed me to start the journey. Then, you know, obviously I've had other horses in my life that have taught me many lessons, but we're gonna fast forward to Cash. And Cash was one of the first that really started to drive home. This idea that there are a lot of ways that horses communicate conflict and communicate that they are stressed and they need time and they need patience and they need you to break down the lesson further. They need you to strategize better set up the antecedents, better thin slice the criteria more set them up for success, better, et cetera. And one of those ways is them going still. And them going internal and them just. Diving deep inside themselves and kind of shutting themselves off to the world. And yes, it's not them bucking, rearing or bolting. They don't look dangerous at the time. I'm not saying they are dangerous, but that horse, that horse that is internalizing that is going internal, that is shutting down is just as much in need of patience and making all those other adjustments that I mentioned as the horse that is being explosive and expressing it very loudly. And he was such a important horse in my life to start that process of me learning that it at a deeper level, I knew it to some extent, but he just really drove it home for me because he was so calm and it just on the outside looking at him, you're just like nothing he's perfect. You know, you could just do anything. You could ask him to do anything. He just deals with anything. He's great. Like if you were just gonna blindly go forth and do he would do whatever you asked him to do, he would never stop and, and meaning that he would never really push back. And but if you quieted yourself and you really watched him and you really observed, you could see the subtle shifts, you could see the slight head turn to the left. You could see the slight tensing of the nostrils. You could see him start to close his eyes just a little bit or lower his head just a little bit. He would start to go internal. And so that was such a valuable lesson for me. So that's kind of a little lesson within the episode, talking about the different types of horses and the unpacking and, and going internal and waking up and all that.
[00:17:55] And. All of this was to say that as much as no, I wasn't riding him. And just the horse world, the equestrian industry is so hyper fixated on riding and I love riding. Don't get me wrong. I love riding. I have multiple horses that I do ride. I I find it very reinforcing, very enjoyable. I would hate to have a day where, just the day, the idea of not ever being able to ride again is just really hard for me to even consider. However I have gradually been learning that horses are not valuable based on their ability to be ridden. They are valuable for them. They are valuable for just what they bring to the table as individual beings. And Cash was such a prime example of this because we didn't. I never really rode him. And he was never really ridden. And yet he taught me so much and he brought so much value to my life and to my kids' lives and to all my clients' lives. And he was such an important being in my journey and such an important presence in that and such an important just, he was so motivating in, in a very subtle and gentle way, almost in a way where I didn't even realize what was happening until much further down the road when I would reflect and, and be like, oh, of course, this is so important. This is such an important thing I've been learning. I didn't even realize it cuz it was so subtle.
[00:19:24] And, you know, we did a lot together and this is where I wanna dive into all of the things that you can do with unridden horses, the non ridden equine. We would go on walks together. We would learn, he would learn new tricks and stuff. Meaning he could learn how to push a ball. He could learn how to say yes or no, or wave a flag, or there's just so much. And those sound like, right. It's just tricks, right? What's the value to that. Humans are the ones that label things. We are the ones that attribute value to behaviors, to a horse learning to wave a flag is no more or less valuable or important than being ridden. Or going over a jump or winning a ribbon. To a horse, those are all tricks. They are all learned behaviors. They are all behaviors that are taught and learned in the same way in their mind and have the same amount of value attributed to them. We are the ones that put value on the individual behaviors and tricks. We're the ones that say, okay, waving the flag is quote, just a trick while going over a jump is the important thing. I mean, think about it going over two sticks, like a crossrail or something versus learning to wave a flag. I mean, they both sound like tricks. Like if you were to remove all of the context around it, right. You'd be like, oh yeah, that sounds like tricks. It's all tricks to horses. And so. It really like moving beyond the idea that the ridden horse is the most valuable horse really comes down to us as humans, changing our mentality and deciding to change our, The value that we are attributing to things. We are the ones that decide that. We are the ones that get to make that decision. And, you know, it's gonna be hard though, because your friends and your family are gonna be like, why aren't you jumping your horse yet? Why aren't you riding yet? Or aren't you ever gonna ride? Or why are you keeping a horse that you can't ride? I mean, the it's just all the cultural conditioning and the societal conditioning that goes, that is just focused on, or I should say that is, that has come with the horse industry, just because, well, primarily I would imagine has come from the fact that they used to be, you know, our form of transportation. They used to work the fields. They were necessary for survival. They were machinery. They were our livelihood. They were the, they, the backs that our societies were built on. Now it's not so much that way. And we're at a stage in just life where we can make a decision to not ride a horse or, and keep a horse that is not ridden and value them just as much as a horse that would be ridden. And that is definitely going to come down to a personal decision. You have to make that decision for yourself, but I am here to advocate for that horse because that horse that's not ridden or can't be ridden because I cannot tell you how. How just the endless lessons, the endless value that all of my horses that are not ridden have brought to my life.
[00:22:27] I have, well, at the time when I had Cash, I had seven horses and three of them were rideable or in the process of learning to, or starting under saddle. And then I can't do math. Okay. Four horses were unridden. So I have a mini. I have a, a big warm blood mare that isn't being ridden. And I don't know if we'll ever get back to riding stuff with her. She's got some physical stuff and then I've got, I had my two seniors that are, yeah. so I've got my two senior horses and and so they're not rideable either. We've just, they're just retired at this point and they still move around a ton. They're still doing physically quite well for their age and how hard their lives were. But they're both not riding ridden. And I have four horses that are that way. My mini, my mini pony fin, who definitely couldn't ride. Is just as valuable as my mare, Raven, who is just now starting under saddle at five and is going to be a wonderful riding horse. If we pursue that. I mean, if she's choosing to opt in for that, which right now she's very eager to participate and I hope to continue that and I hope it'll continue to go well. But should tomorrow she not be rideable. She's still just as valuable because Raven is valuable as Raven, as the horse and has so much to teach me so much value to bring to my life. So much importance just for being herself. Some other things that you can do with non ridden horses is taking them on hikes going on adventures with them, take them swimming if they are physically up for that, you can do agility. There's horse agility is a fast growing discipline. That is just really fun and exciting to do. You can, they can go over different obstacles, learn to do different things. So horse agility. So you can even be competitive in that. You could do in hand dressage work. That's also a very well recognized type groundwork type exercise that a lot of horses could do, at least walking. Even if they have some physical limitations, there are definitely some things they can do there. There's like different Liberty training. There's even a whole organization dedicated to competitive Liberty training. So there are ridden tests, but there's also a lot that's on the ground. There's scent tracking and they might call it something else. But basically you're gonna teach your horse who horses by the way, have very powerful senses of smell. Just like dogs. You can teach them to track smells. You can track people, track different objects things, food, et cetera. There's a whole way of doing that. And that's such a fun thing to do together. You can just spend time together, groom, you know, hang out together, just sit out in their pasture and read to them, read to yourself while you just hang out with them. If you find that reinforcing and valuable, then don't let anybody stop you. That is just as much fun as riding and just as reinforcing as riding and for many people. Just being able to have a horse in your backyard, that you can look out your window while you're drinking your morning coffee and see your horses, enjoying life, being horses. If that's reinforcing to you, like it is to me. Okay. Like they are getting to be them. They are being horses. They are enjoying life. They are fulfilling their God given purpose, which is to be a horse and to be a a social species. As a herd, if you're meeting all their needs. And they are, they are gonna be happy and content. Now you do again, need to meet all their needs. We need to have movement. They need to have 24 7 forage access. They need to have their basic medical care, et cetera, especially meeting domestic horses. It is important that they have their basic needs being met. I'm not saying to not meet their needs and then let them get obese and keep 'em by themselves and say, it's okay, you have to meet their needs and you have to keep them happy and healthy as far as that goes. And then after that, All fluff. It's all tricks. It's all things that we choose to value or not value. And I encourage you to find what's valuable and reinforcing to you. And also to your horse, ask your horse what they like. Some of my horses are like for example, my River, she, I talked recently, she's been diagnosed with PSSM and we've been, she has started under saddle and she was doing really well under saddle and she's continuing to on some days, but some days really not, she does not want to be ridden. And I've given her the ability to communicate to me what, which days are those days that she's okay with it and which days are not. And sometimes that's hard. I'm not gonna say it's not, I can't, you know, I spend all the time like tacking up whatever, and I have this whole idea that I wanna go ride today. And it's really reinforcing for me. We're gonna go have this adventure together. And then I get all the way out there and she's like, no, I don't feel well enough to ride. Sometimes that's really hard. Sometimes I have to check myself and be like, it's okay. I gave her a choice for a reason. I gave her a voice for a reason. I want to hear it. It is hard though, but. Actually, I don't remember where I was going with this tangent, but my whole point, oh, asking your horse to me, what's most reinforcing is that it's not just that I'm getting what I want from the horse, but that the horse is enjoying the process with me, that we are doing it together. As a team, we have that relationship. We have that thing that we are doing together that is enjoyable for both of us. And we're spending time together, it's relationship building. So if I'm just tacking up my horse and being like, well, you're enough to ride. Let's go ride and I don't give them that voice. Then I'm only getting part of the package, right? I'm only getting some of the reinforcer to me, ultimately that reinforcer like the, the fullest level of that reinforcers, that my horse wants to do it with me. And so I encourage you guys to consider um, as much as you can, and as much as you're ready for, to give your horse voice and to make sure that your horse is actually enjoying what you're wanting them to do and what you guys are doing together. And sometimes this means that we have to grow and we have to check our agenda at the door and we have to keep reminding ourselves, or I should say, we have to keep at the forefront of our mind what the primary reinforcer is here for us. What is the, not primary, that's a technical term, but the ultimate reinforcer here, cuz I can say yes, writing is reinforcing for me, but, or, and, ultimately like the highest level of that reinforcer. So like riding, just riding any horse is, you know, fun. Okay, great. Somewhat reinforcing. Even more reinforcing is riding with a horse that has opted into riding and wants to ride and is enjoying it and choosing to be there. That is the better reinforcer to me. And then I even honestly, I've gotten to the point where I just don't find riding horses that don't wanna be ridden fun. I don't find it enjoyable. I won't, I don't really do it. I don't, you know, people offer to, for me to go out and ride their horses with them or whatever. And I usually say, no, not because I wanna offend anybody, but well, I, I should say, yeah, it depends on the horse. It depends on the people, but a lot of times what ends up happening, you know, like they just have horses and they just go out and catch them from the field and then they go make 'em, you know, tack 'em up and the horses do not look like they're enjoying being there. They can't wait to leave. I don't find that as reinforcing anymore, as I used to, I used to do that all the time. Just be like, yeah, let's go ride, you know, like, forget what the horse wants. Let's just go do it. And honestly, it's just because I didn't even realize how to recognize what that looked like in a horse, but now I do. And so it's really hard for me to even consider or enjoy a riding experience where the horse is not opting in. So. I think as humans, we can really evolve and change and improve our perspective and, and be selective with what we find reinforcing about riding. It's not just all riding, it's riding with a horse that wants to be there. That is healthy and sound that is choosing to participate and finding it equally as reinforcing. So it's a shared reinforcer. It's a, and that's the foundation for a good relationship with anybody, whether it's another human or a dog or a another horse. Or a horse is the shared reinforcers. That's what relationships are really built on.
[00:30:28] So yeah. So this whole episode, I really just wanted to share with you, you know, Cash's story and our time together. And this was, you know, a brief version of his story. Maybe one day I'll go into it a little bit deeper and share a little bit more. Unfortunately, you know, he passed away a couple weeks ago. He had a really severe colic and you know, when we got to him, he was. Not in good condition and it wasn't even, you know, we made the decision, the vet arrived at the same time I did, it was, oh, the decision was made really quickly because he was in excruciating pain and not doing well. That we would, he humanely euthanize him. He was already laying down. He couldn't get up and he was laying down in front of the barn under one of his favorite trees. And uh, , , it was hard for me to talk about. Candy his companion was right there with him and we say goodbye. And uh, we decided to have 'em cremated after the herd, got to say goodbye and I'm actually getting his ashes here soon and we'll be burying him with Tiger.
[00:31:37] Okay. I'm gonna stop crying now. Um, Anyway, so I really wanted to make this episode for him and to talk to you guys about just the importance of looking at horses as horses, rather than. Beings that can serve us or provide just us with a reinforcer, like their purpose is to be here, to reinforce us or to provide that, you know, enjoyment that pleasure that we're after. And to encourage you guys to really seek out specifically, what about riding is reinforcing and how can we find a way to, and change or to to improve upon that idea of riding is enjoyable. To include the horse and what they're after and what they're looking for. And then also to explore other ways that you can find reinforcement with your horse, that you guys could have that relationship together, that you could find it enjoyable and valuable.
[00:32:44] I think actually one of my favorite activities to do with horses is to take 'em on hikes. So I'm on foot and my horse is on foot too. And we'll tra we'll trailer like an hour or two down the road to different hiking places and we'll go hiking and. People all the time is everything okay? Why are you on foot? And I do, I do this with my young horses before they're able to, you know, they're not physically mature enough to start unders saddle. It's a great way to get really good exposure training, like in a positive way, get them physically fit, get them at introduction to the world. Get them socialized, et cetera taking them on hikes. I it's actually, I think my favorite activity to do with horses, my probably my second favorite activity is. Well, I do, I love like training of all kinds, but I've been, I really enjoy in hand dressage, like classical dressage stuff. And I do it mostly in hand right now. Very much enjoy that process. I'm working on that particular type of groundwork with a couple of horses right now and finding a lot of joy in that.
[00:33:40] And another really favorite activity is to just spend time with my horses. I like to just sit out in my pasture with them, watch them, groom them, have them engage with me and me them we'll do different activities. I might do a little bit of massage work on them. We might do a few stretches. We might just sit there. I might read, I might take notes from the day. There's a lot of different things I could do while I'm sitting out there or just meditate and just enjoy their company and just be out there together. Probably after that would be riding uh, I do really enjoy riding, so I'm not saying I don't . Um, But again, it's with the horse that is choosing is opting in, is choosing to be there and has that ability to consent to it. And that's a human term, but. We can operationalize it enough to be applicable here for horses without being too anthropomorphic. And also have the ability to opt out. So something I teach my horses to do is to touch my boot. So they'll turn their head around and touch my boot to ask me to get off. And I give them that option. I teach them how to do that, and then I let them do that. And there's been times where I've been out on a trail ride with the horse. Actually, this happened not too long ago. I was out trail riding with with River. We were out on our own. And we got like, I don't wanna say like half a mile in maybe. Yeah. It was about half a mile and she just stopped. She turned around and touched my boot and I was like, oh, and of course my, my brain starts kicking in a little bit. I'm like, oh, we're all the way out here. Can we just like, can you just like carry me back? And then she turned around and touched my boot again. I'm like, okay, clearly she wants me to get off. So I got off and we walked around a little bit more down, you know? Walked a little bit further. And then we walked back and I always make sure I wear wear good hiking shoes just in case that happens. And she ended up being a little bit sore after that and having some PSSM symptoms after that. So I believe her telling me to get off was related to that, that she wasn't feeling well. And maybe she thought she could do it that day, but then she got half a mile in. She realized that it wasn't a good day for me to be riding or maybe her muscles started to act. I don't know, but this is also, you know, a really good option for people with horses or any, all horses, to be honest. Particularly if you know, your horse has a chronic condition, giving them the ability to opt out is so valuable because, you know, I mean, just like with people, I can't tell you how many times I've set out on a project like today, I'm going to stack these rocks over here, or I'm gonna go on a hike or whatever. And I get part of the way in, and I'm like, Oh my gosh, I way, way overestimated what I could do today. I am not feeling well and I need to go back or go take a rest or whatever it is. It's perfectly reasonable for us to offer that option to our horses and for them to have that experience as well. I mean, their living beings too, with tissue and muscle and bone, that all, sometimes that oftentimes just like acts up in funny ways or isn't feeling they aren't feeling well that day or they didn't sleep right the night before or whatever it is.
[00:36:28] So. And, you know, there may come a day that River, as much as I put a ton of work into all of her under saddle training, I've spent years prepping for this stage. And I had lots of plans of doing trail riding and under saddle, you know, dressage and like Western dressage. And I wanna do a more classical approach and maybe was looking at even doing like some sorting or, or something. I don't know, ranch riding. I've put a lot of work into that. I've spent years prepping her for under saddle work. And then we got the PSSM stuff the diagnosis. And even without it though, I mean, if she tomorrow decided, just kept telling me, no, you can't get on no, no, we're not doing this. No, I don't want you on. Yeah, it would, it would hurt. It would be hard cuz I've put so much work into it. So it probably be the process of mourning all of that time put towards a specific training goal, but. That doesn't change our relationship. She is still River. She is still the baby that I have raised since she was four and a half months old. She's still valuable. She's still my horse, my, my River. And we would just find something else to do together. We start, she loves hikes. We'll go on hikes. I mean, I love hikes, obviously. I just said it's one of my favorite things to do with horses. So we'll just hike. I, if she wants me to ride great, if not, we'll just hike. And I think that's really just kind of the prime example, there is that sh we have a relationship. We have I've committed to her. She is my horse and I'm her human, and doesn't really matter what that looks like as long as we're spending time together. And we're both finding it mutually reinforcing.
[00:38:07] And I would love for this episode to be very encouraging to a large audience of equestrians that either. Have been going through this or looking at potentially going through this where the horse may not be wanting to be ridden anymore or doesn't seem to want to currently be ridden or maybe is getting a medical diagnosis that is like, Ugh, I don't know if we'll ever be able to ride again, or maybe you're looking at adopting a horse. Should you go the, you know, one that is supposed to be ridden because I mean, what are you doing with the horse that shouldn't be ridden? I'm also hoping this will help horses that are sitting in the foster system. Or sitting in the, at the rescues, waiting to be adopted that are not rideable. There are so many horses looking for homes that are not rideable. And I hope that there are more and more homes to come for those horses because they are valuable. They are important and Cash is a shining example of what. What those types of horses can bring is value wise to everybody around them and how important they are and what they can do as far as just changing people's lives.
[00:39:10] And yeah, I hope this episode was inspiring and I hope you didn't mind me getting choked up. I hope to share more stories about Cash and more about him and his our time together and our other horses in, you know, that are in the similar shoes. So, yeah.
[00:39:27] Thanks so much for listening. If you enjoyed this podcast episode, I would love if you left us a review on wherever you listen to your podcast, if you'd like to learn more head to our website. The willing equine.com where you'll find a bunch of links to our different social media platforms. We have Instagram TikTok, YouTube, Facebook, pretty much everything.
[00:39:52] We also have our blog, our training services and the T w academy where you can enroll in the foundation course that opens a few times a year. Thanks so much for listening. And I look forward to chatting with you in the next episode.