Hurricane of a Week. . .

Natural disasters sure know how to show up at the worst possible times, don’t they?  I’ve been dreading this week since far before the talk of this Frankenstorm came about. You see, we’ve got our biggest event of the year, The Love Ball, coming up this Saturday and, as the event planner, that means I’ve basically sold my soul to Love Ball until it’s over.  The week before a major event always consists of last minute detail tweaking, perfecting, modifying and finalizing – not to mention crisis management. Add a record breaking hurricane to that and you’ve got quite the “perfect storm” (har har) for an event planner’s worst nightmare. So yeah, this is going to be quite an interesting five days.

Last year’s Love Ball, a gala where you can mix, mingle, dance and dine – all with your dog! Photo by Joseph Allen Images.

The Love Ball 2011 – we are looking forward to this year! Photo by Joseph Allen Images.

Everyone on the East Coast being effected by Sandy, please stay safe!  Many local emergency response teams are setting up evacuation shelters for both animals and pets – so if you have to evacuate, please don’t leave the critters behind! Be sure to have an emergency plan for ALL members in your family, pets included.

In the same vein, many shelters will need extra help this week if they lose power or evacuate! The Baltimore shelter, BARCS, is evacuating 200+ animals probably as you’re reading this. If you’re able, look up if your local shelter needs help!

Stay safe and dry, everyone!


Guest Post: Training Horses, Training Dogs

My mom is my role model, and growing up as an equestrian I remember her looking at our relationship with horses differently than I did. To me, my horse was my competition partner. I loved him and we worked hard together, but I didn’t take the time to learn how to communicate the way he did. My mom always had a gentle and understanding approach to figuring out what my horse was trying to say. If he was being fussy one day, my mom would question his comfort whereas I would brush it off as him having attitude. See what I mean? So as I learn about behavior and communicating with animals, I realize my mom’s had it right all along. Here is what she has to say about working with her horse – it’s amazing how much her observations match mine when I work with dogs.

Juliana and I often find ourselves talking about subjects like behavior modification, positive reinforcement, and T-Touch training. Juliana is talking about canines, and I am talking about equines. We find that many of the methods used to train dogs also apply to training horses. “Training is Training,” I tell Juliana.  “You’re right. How about doing a Guest Blog?” she replies. What – me?

Since you are a PL&F follower, you are probably already well educated in training methods, and you know there are no shortcuts or miracle cures. So, what can this Guest Blogger offer? How about a reminder of some principles of training that can be adapted to whatever methods you employ?  Here are four primary principles that Juliana and I both agree on: Knowledge is Power, Establish Leadership, Be Consistent, and End on a Success.

Knowledge is Power. I am not a professional trainer, but I have access to a lot of professional information. There are great resources on the Internet, TV, and in books. Find a trainer or method that you like and learn as much as you can. It took some investigating before I found an Equine trainer I liked; one who is clear, concise, and I can understand.  I first found him in a book, and I have since discovered that he has a TV Program.  I DVR every program, then I watch at my convenience – sometimes over and over.

A tip that my riding instructor tells me is, “write it down.” Keep a journal of goals and training sessions.  It’s easy to get discouraged when I think I haven’t gotten very far or that there is so much more left to do. Having our journey on paper makes a big difference. When I look back, its amazing how much I have actually learned and how far the training has come.

Establish Leadership.  My Vet once told me, “An insecure horse is a dangerous horse.” “Yeah,” I replied, but I wondered whose horse she was talking about? Surely not mine – my guy is sweet, and cuddly, and funny, and he LOVES me! Well, he is also a bit skittish, and sometimes a little pushy, and he doesn’t always listen to me….  An insecure horse may be dangerous because of its size, but an insecure dog can also be aggressive, ill-mannered, and annoying. Establish yourself as the leader, the head of the herd. Leading in a positive and consistent way creates a secure, calm, and happy animal that looks to you for direction, reassurance, and comfort.

Be Consistent. Be black and white, keep is simple, repeat, and follow the same rules. “He’s been so good, I’ll let just this one go,” can set you back sessions. Changing strategies can be confusing, and changing the rules can lead to insecurity. Be consistent – 100 percent of the time. It’s a huge challenge, and it makes all the difference.

I have also heard, “Repetition to Automaticity.”  If you repeat an exercise until it becomes automatic, then you can communicate with a whisper, a gesture, or even body language. When a training session is structured, consistent, and repeated, success will follow.

End on a Positive. End before the session gets frustrating. Don’t be tempted to “do it one more time,” to get it perfect. Or, if the session isn’t going the way you hoped, find one small success, celebrate it, and end on it. Keep the sessions short, positive, and fun. After a great session, have a special play time or rewarding activity. My guy’s favorite activity and reward is grazing in a patch of clover. This time is quiet and relaxing, and it’s a luxury that is part of the schedule.

What has become of my insecure Gelding? People at the barn, and my vet, tell me he’s a “different horse.” When Juliana rode him recently, she noticed the difference. I told her that I had found a training method that is positive and that I agree with, and we work at it regularly and consistently.  My guy is now relaxed and confident. He doesn’t look for his buddies in the field, because I am his herd leader. He stands quietly wherever I drop his lead, he respects my space, and we are developing a wonderful understanding. He whispers to me with his body language, and I understand. Our unspoken communication is amazing and a gift that I treasure. This is the reward.

So, training is training. These principles apply to training a horse or a dog, and you can also apply these principles when modifying the behavior of a child, peer, or co-worker :-). Remember the basics, and you’ll discover success!


One Year in Photos

To continue the celebration of our One Year Blog-a-versary, here are lots (and I mean lots) of photos that I feel portray some of our most outstanding moments (or that I think are just really cute). They have all been featured on this blog, and, to the best of my ability, they tell the story of the last twelve months. Enjoy :)

August 2011

September 2011

October 2011

November 2011

December 2011

January 2012

February 2012

March 2012

April 2012

May 2012

June 2011

July 2012

August 2012

It sure makes ya miss the little stinkers, doesn’t it!? I love going back and remembering all the silly things about each dog – the things that get lost as time goes on and as new ones come into your life. I still can’t express in words what this blog means to me and what I’ve gotten out of the last year, which is why I am so grateful to have the journey documented in photos.  I hope you enjoyed that recap as much as I did. Thank you all so much for your congratulations at this milestone – it means the world to me!


And They’re Off!

Lots of horse talk this week, but I can’t help it – tomorrow is the Belmont Stakes! Race horse I’ll Have Another has won both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, and tomorrow will race to win the first Triple Crown title since 1978. For those of us who have yet to witness a Triple Crown win in our lifetime, this is super exciting. We’ve had our hearts broken before by Funny Cide, Smarty Jones, Big Brown, and four others who won the first two legs but couldn’t pull through in the third race.

We’re all hoping this year will be different. The Belmont Stakes is the longest of the three races, which is why even though a horse can finish extremely well in the first two, the third race is always the toughest. I love Triple Crown season, but those 3 minutes are the most nerve-racking minutes of my life! Ahh!

Anyway, back to the point. Otie ran his own Belmont Stakes race this week and would like me to report to everyone that he won. He is quite the Thoroughbred.

For more information on adopting Honey Bunches of Otis, go to his Adopt Me page to learn more about him and how to get in touch.


How I’m Sensitive: My Concern for FosterAunt

Fostermama has talked a few times about how much she loves horses. She fell in love with horses before she liked big square headed dogs like me. But she went to college and her horse, Marley, stayed at home, and then her sister went to college and Marley went with her. Fostermama misses Marley, but knows that my FosterAunt is taking good care of her.

Last weekend, my FosterAunt had a big horse show. I don’t know why anyone would want to stand around and stare at horses all day, but I guess I’m a dog so I don’t understand that stuff. Saturday afternoon, fostermama showed me these photos.

photo from facebook.com

UH OH!? To me, a dog, that does not look good. Why does she have grass on her pants? Is that what they do at horse shows? Did something go wrong? I got worried, so I started drooling. I only drool when I’m nervous about something. Look at how concerned I am.

Turns out, FosterAunt knew what she was doing at that show, for the most part . . .

Yeah, that didn’t look right to me either. I asked FosterMom if this was a new style of riding and she said no, that FosterAunt had a little mess up. Oops!

I stayed very concerned until FosterMama told me that everyone was fine. These things happen, and thanks to an athletic and amazing Marley, FosterAunt came out with just a little grass on her pants. Crazy!

Then the next day she showed us all that she remembers how to ride, and that Marley still kicks butt – and looks gorgeous doing it (goodness, if I was as fearless as that horse…. I can’t even imagine what my life would be like!). Pheeeew!

I’m very happy I can rest easy that everyone is okay. I’m still going to do some extra drooling for good measure though!

For more information on adopting Honey Bunches of Otis, go to his Adopt Me page to learn more about him and how to get in touch.