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Alberta Guest Ranches Reveal The Secrets Of Horse Whisperers
Robert Redford's 1998 movie The Horse Whisperer strengthened the belief of many that there is magic in some people's silent communication with a horse. But according to Margie Moore of the Lazy M Ranch near Innisfail, Alberta, there is no magic involved, just plain old good communication. And here's the good news - you can learn how to do it yourself.
Get the Whole Package
Set in the small North Raven River valley, about two hours northwest of the City of Calgary, Lazy M started as a working cattle ranch in 1980. Ten years later, and with no regrets, Lane and Margie Moore turned the property into a guest ranch. Lazy M now welcomes up to 20 guests (double occupancy) at one time, and the Moores also run about 50 horses on the lush, 600-acre property.
Lane and Margie already had the peace and serenity of the valley, fishing in the clear waters of the North Raven, plus bird watching opportunities in the aspen groves, but they wanted to provide even more. "We wanted something different, something new," Margie says - a desire that led to 'Traditions with a Twist.' being offered to the general public.
Honing in on the drum, a universal instrument for ceremonies and communication, the Moores stepped outside the box by developing a dual experience day: drumming and horse communication. The drumming segment is a group icebreaker, very social, very fun. The work comes in the round penning session, where guests learn how to communicate without words.
Joining Up For Something New
In round penning, participants step into a corral with only Lane and an unbridled horse for company. Following Lane's guidance (he won't hold your hand, but he will hold your shoulders to point you in the right direction), guests learn the basic rules of "talking" to a horse.
Horses are herd animals - when they're in groups, there's a pecking order. Herds require a strong leader who will be alert for danger, know where to go to get away from danger and where to find food, water and salt.
"It's not a superior, 'I'm better than you are' attitude," says Margie, "but rather a need to know who is dominant."
"Horses read people by where the core is," says Margie. "Guests learn to be centered, to concentrate and to clearly lead by explaining in simple, easy terms what it is they want the horse to do."
It sometimes surprises people to learn that horses don't want you to be submissive. On the other hand, if you walk into the pen with your shoulders back and chest out, horses don't like that, either. You need to find a balance.
"We call it the ABC's of communication," says Margie, "awareness, boundaries, and consistency."
It's all about reading the horse's signals, being aware of their body posture and stance, of setting rules that you expect to be followed (not unlike raising a child) and following through with consistent behaviour.
And what if you're afraid of horses? Margie laughs. "In one session, Lane was in the pen with a girl who was quite nervous. The horse snorted and the girl jumped right into Lane's arms." She persevered though and came away with a new level of awareness and understanding.
Even though each horse responds differently and each person communicates differently, the end result is the same. When you turn your back, and the horse follows you, it's a pinnacle moment of success. It's called "joining up."
Discover a Magical Experience
Teaming up with drummer Shannon Powell from Olds, 'Traditions With a Twist' uses the drumming segment to help break down barriers. You don't have to have any musical talent to enjoy the drum. It's a relaxing activity that provides a sense of community as the group follows Shannon's lead, drumming slow and soft, harder and louder.
Whether drawn in by the rhythm of the music or on a natural high after joining up, the communal, cowboy themed lunch is a joyous celebration.
While the techniques of "horse whispering" are not magic, the 'Traditions With a Twist' experience at Lazy M definitely is, allowing guests (aged 12 and up) to come away with an awareness and appreciation of their own communication and leadership skills - and having fun while doing it.
Women and Horses
This Spring, the well-known Homeplace Ranch near Priddis is offering a unique opportunity for women to connect with horses and enjoy horseback riding in a tranquil, idyllic setting in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies. 'Horses and You, a Retreat for Women with a Passion for the Equine' is a new program designed to help women learn to communicate with horses through energy, feelings and body language.
Homeplace Ranch owner Mac MaKenny says participants will come away with knowledge that they can apply in their family and work lives.
MaKenny notes that in communication in general, how a message is received relies 7% on what is said, 38% on how it is said, and 55% on the body language of the person relaying the message. The last two elements are the most critical with horses, too.
Running May 1, 2 and 3, Horses and You is being facilitated by Nancy Lowery, a recognized leader in instinctive leadership development.
Lazy M Ranch
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