This is the view from my office window.
The closer the swallows get to fledging, the less work I get done!
This is the view from my office window.
The closer the swallows get to fledging, the less work I get done!
While others celebrate July 4th as a national holiday, for me it marks a much more personal anniversary. July 4 is truly Independence Day for me.
July 4, 2011 is the day I moved my horses out of the boarding barn to their very own home.
I spent the better part of yesterday going through photos. Things have changed so much for the horses. The first nine months living in a construction site was hard, but now they have what I wanted for them, a good life.
Enjoy the photos.
Peregrine was born at 11:35 pm on April 26, 1985. Arriving into the world so close to midnight, it always seemed unfair to celebrate just on the 26th. So I have always marked both Peregrine’s Birthday and his First Day.
Those first few hours were filled with such joy and also so much worry. His mother had fallen down during the foaling and become trapped against the stall wall. In her panic she had thrashed about, hitting her head against the cement corner stone of the old dairy barn. It took a long time for her to recover. Peregrine was up considerably before she was. He staggered about on wobbly legs while she lay resting in the deep straw. I spent the night with them, making sure that she was all right, helping him to nurse for the first time, and just watching in wonder as he gained his “land legs”.
I didn’t go home for the next two days. I continued to camp out at the barn. I didn’t want to miss anything. Foals grow so fast. They change so fast. In the morning we took Peregrine out with his mother to see the world for the first time. He cantered beside her while I snapped picture after picture. But alas, there was no film in the camera! So much for sleepy heads. So I cannot show you pictures of his first venture out onto grass, or share with you his foal’s delight in being able to canter and buck beside his mother. You will, like me, simply have to imagine it.
Peregrine has always been a lucky horse. He wasn’t one of the thousands of thoroughbreds who were bred that year for sale into the racing industry. He has never been a throw away horse. He was what you wish for everyone – horses and people alike. He was a much wished for, much desired, much loved individual.
So many horses change hands over and over again. The lucky ones find kind people who fall in love with them and keep them forever. Peregrine has always been loved. We have moved barns many times, but he has always had me as a constant in his life. And now, thirty years later I am celebrating his birthday and remembering those first days. I have enjoyed sharing his stories with you. Thank you for reading them, and thank you to our many good friends for all the wonderful comments you have been leaving on my Facebook pages. They have been much appreciated.
Thank you again to everyone who joined me yesterday for Peregrine’s Birthday Celebrations. What a great way to spend a the day! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. I loved all the stories you shared. Now that we know the on-line technology is up to the task, we will have to come up with more reasons to meet on line. It was great fun!
Peregrine has been especially cuddly these last few days. I think he is very much aware of all the well wishes and love that people have been sending his way. So thank you on his behalf. And thank you to Peregrine for bringing us all together.
And now I think it is time to send you off to your own horses to celebrate their lives. I may from time to time add to this series of stories, but for now I will simple say:
Happy First Day Peregrine! And here’s to many more to come.
Your person, Alexandra Kurland
Happy 30th Birthday Peregrine!
One of the great advantages of being 30 and a horse is you get to enjoy, not one, but four birthday cakes. And you get to eat the whole cake – guilt free. No sharing with anyone else, though I did pick grass for everybody.
And now that the morning chores are done and Peregrine is taking a nap after the first of his many Birthday surprises, I have a party to get ready for! Remember, everyone is invited. Even if you can’t join us via the internet, I hope you will share in the celebration by giving your own horses a Birthday treat from Peregrine.
At 11:35 pm thirty years ago today, I welcomed my beloved Peregrine into the world. I greeted him with his name – his full name that only the two of us know. Tonight at 11:35 I will speak his name again. I will thank him for staying with me for these thirty years. I will thank him for all the gifts he has given me, and all the amazing journeys he has sent me on. And I will read to him all the messages that people have been sending us. Thank you everyone for letting me share my Peregrine stories with you, and for taking his gifts to your own horses.
It is 5 am. I have just begun my day by switching on the computer. Peregrine and Robin are asleep in the indoor arena. That’s where they hang out at night. I peeked in a few minutes ago. They are both still lying down so I tiptoed past the arena door.
Some mornings I like to go in and sit with them, but today it is too cold. Two days ago we had snow! It didn’t stick, but even so! This winter just does not want to let go. I’m looking forward to the warm spring weather when I can take my computer out and sit with the horses while I work.
Peregrine and Robin have free range of the barn. They can wander in from the barnyard, through their open stalls into the barn aisle and the arena beyond. My current task is getting them adjusted to spring grass so they can also go back out onto the fields to graze. To that end tomorrow’s birthday cake will be “iced” with fresh picked grass.
I’ve just heard them come in from the arena. Peregrine has gone down to the wash stall, probably to get a drink, and Robin has gone into the end stall and is eating hay from the hay bag that hangs in there. He’ll come get me soon to tell me that he wants fresh hay – none of this already picked over stuff!
When I fill the hay bag, Peregrine and Robin stand on either side of the stall wall and share the hay that pokes out the top like a giant scoop of ice cream on a cone. It is good to see that Robin can share his hay so peacefully. That wasn’t how their relationship began. Robin was a fierce companion who shared his hay and his person with no one!
One of the main reasons I brought Robin into the family was to be a companion for Peregrine. When you board, you have no control over what happens to the other horses that live there. If your horse’s best friend belongs to someone else, and they decide to leave, your horse is out of luck. He’s just lost friend, and there’s nothing you can do about it. I didn’t want that to happen to Peregrine, so I got him Robin.
There’s no guarantee that two horses are going to like one another – or even tolerate one another. As a young horse, Robin was both very independent and very fierce. What Robin wanted, Robin took. The other horses all gave him a wide berth. They knew better than to mess with him. So that was Peregrine’s main turnout companion.
If I hadn’t formed the third partner in the relationship, I’m not sure they would ever have become friends, but through training I could mediate the relationship. Robin learned that he got reinforced when he let Peregrine into his space. If he backed up and made room for Peregrine at the gate, he got reinforced. If he maintained his place and let Peregrine get his own treat, he got a treat as well. But if he snapped at Peregrine, if he tried to drive him away, all the focus and attention went to Peregrine. Peregrine learned that I would protect him. I would always keep him safe from fierce Robin.
One of my favorite videos from the on-line course shows me working on color discrimination with Peregrine and Robin. I start out with two cones hidden behind my back. I ask one of them to target the blue cone or the green cone, or it might be the one that is bigger, or smaller. When people watch the video, they tend to focus on this task. What I see is how well the two horses are taking turns.
When we moved to the new barn, Peregrine had a hard time adjusting. He’s never been a good traveler, and this marked a huge change for him. He’d lived at the boarding barn since 1993. While the construction on the new barn went on around them, the horses lived in the indoor arena. Peregrine latched onto Robin. Wherever Robin went, there was Peregrine. I’m not sure Robin really wanted a shadow, but Peregrine didn’t give him much choice.
Gradually Robin became accustomed to having Peregrine share in everything he did. Afternoon naps were taken together on the big pile of shavings I had put down for that purpose. I often joined them, sitting beside Robin while Peregrine stood over both of us.
When we moved into the new barn, I left their stall doors open and let them wander about as they pleased. I often found both horses sharing one stall. When I wanted to work with Robin in the arena, Peregrine always accompanied us, tagging along beside us and getting reinforced together with Robin.
– I have to interrupt myself here. Robin is trying to tell me that it is time for breakfast! –
The morning chores are done. I’m back at the computer. Peregrine and Robin are out in the barnyard having sun bathes. It’s cold. According to the thermometer it’s just above freezing, but the sun feels warm on their backs. They’ll doze out there most of the morning while I get work done in the tack room.
I was away this past week teaching at the home farm of Cavalia. When I got back to the barn on Thursday, Peregrine had decided that Spanish walk was the “flavor of the month”. He followed me up and down the barn aisle, lifting his front legs up in the exaggerated extension that is Spanish walk. This morning has been no exception. As he “helped” me with the morning chores, he marched around the wheel barrow in his thirty year old’s version of Spanish walk.
I like seeing that he has the balance and the strength to make this the behavior he offers. I use these offered behaviors as a barometer to gauge how well he is doing. It’s not a great Spanish walk, but the fact that he wants to offer it at all pleases me.
When I built the barn, I said I wasn’t sure how we would use it. I would let it evolve, and evolve it has. The barn has very much become Peregrine’s retirement home. The footing in the arena is the same deep shavings that we use to bed the stalls. The arena has become one giant stall in which Peregrine and Robin can take naps. Many old horses have trouble getting up, especially in the cramped quarters of a stall. Peregrine has plenty of room to roll, to take naps, to stand with his friend and doze. They can move from one area of the barn into another. In another couple of days, the fields will be dry enough, and they’ll be able to go out and graze.
The barn has become a shared space for all of us. I can work in the tack room and watch the horses through the big window that looks out into the barn aisle and the barnyard beyond. Whenever I go out into the aisle, Peregrine and Robin come to see me. They are always eager for a visit and a game.
They have just come in from outside. Robin led the way into the arena. If I go out now, I’ll find them in the near corner catching the last bit of early morning sun. It’s a good life for them. Later today I’ll trim their feet. They are a bit overdue because of all my traveling. And then they’ll get a good grooming. They have to look presentable for tomorrow’s birthday party.
And speaking of that – remember you are all invited. There is still room in my virtual tack room for a few more guests.
The times are 1 pm, 5 pm and 9 pm (eastern standard time). I’ll be hosting an on-line party at those times. If you send me an email with the time you can join us, I’ll send you the log in information for the gathering.
I look forward to welcoming you to my barn and sharing Peregrine’s 30th Birthday celebration with you.
Happy 30th Birthday Peregrine. Thirty years tomorrow!
Thirty years ago today I was doing what everybody who has a mare that’s close to foaling does, I was guessing. Will it be today? Has she bagged up? Is she waxing? Will it be a colt or a filly? It’s an exciting time full of anticipation and expectation.
And now thirty years on I have something else to look forward to. I am preparing for a party, and you are all invited! This coming Sunday, April 26, is Peregrine’s 30th birthday. Normally I don’t pay much attention to birthday’s and other holiday celebrations, but this is a milestone that I didn’t want to let just slip by. For the past two weeks I’ve been sharing stories about Peregrine. This coming Sunday I want to celebrate his birthday by hearing YOUR stories. I want to celebrate ALL the horses in our lives. So I hope you’ll join me for this very special event.
I know it’s hard with time zones to pick a time that let’s everybody attend at once. So here’s how I’m going to handle this. Peregrine gets fed four mashes every day which means he’s going to get not one, but four birthday cakes on Sunday. So it seems appropriate that he should also have four birthday celebrations.
So here are the times for each of the Celebrations. These are all eastern standard time. You can find time zone converters on line if you aren’t sure what time this makes it for you. If you would like to attend, please send me an email indicating which party you will be joining, and I’ll send you a link to the Celebration.
Email me at: email@example.com to get your party invitation.
My virtual “tack room” is small, so it will be very much on a first come first served basis. If you aren’t able to attend, I hope you’ll share your horse’s story in the comments section of this blog.
Peregrine’s Birthday Party is being hosted by GoToMeeting.com. Please plan on using a headset for best audio quality. The best meetings are those where we can see each other, so the preferred platform is a computer with a web cam.
During the party I’ll be sharing more stories about Peregrine and the horses who have played an important role in the development of clicker training. But mostly I want to hear about YOUR horses.
I look forward to welcoming you to my barn this coming Sunday.
Let me know which party you will be attending by emailing me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
And if you are coming in late to this conversation, you can read the series of “Today’s Peregrine Story” in my blog: theclickercenterblog.com The first one was posted on April 12, 2015.
When I started Peregrine under saddle, my trainer said to me that he didn’t have the back strength to perform all the movements of upper level dressage, but he could still carry himself in the equilibrium of a high school horse. She didn’t mean in a few years. She meant now, as a young horse, we could expect him to lift up and carry himself in an engaged equilibrium.
That became the training criterion. When Peregrine was engaged, his stifles didn’t lock. I was learning to manage him so our rides no longer felt quite so on a knife’s edge of control. When I first started riding him, his stifles would lock up without warning. He would release them by catapulting me forward in a hard, rolling buck. As long as he was engaged, I could keep him from locking up, and he was a lot of fun to ride. But as soon as I got off and left him to manage his own balance, his stifles would be locking again.
He was eight years old. Clearly he was not going to outgrow this condition. And then he got Potomac horse fever. And then he was laid up for seven weeks with foot abscesses. And then we started exploring clicker training.
There had certainly been lots of people before me who used clicker training with their horses. So why did it stick with me? Why was I the one who buried herself in a computer for two years writing that first book on clicker training horses? And why have I continued to be so fascinated by it? The answer lies with Peregrine.
He was an interesting mix. He was a well trained horse, but he was also a horse with a lot of issues – all stemming from his locking stifles. I also had a huge repertoire to work with, both on the ground and under saddle.
Ground work for me meant a lot more than lunging. It also meant classical work in-hand and a huge liberty repertoire. As Peregrine recovered from his hoof abscesses, I began to add the clicker into all of this other work. Before his lay up we’d been working on Spanish walk. I reshaped the leg lifts using the clicker. He was so elegant, and he clearly enjoyed the new way this lesson was being taught.
Spanish walk required a huge shift in his balance. In order to lift up into the front leg extensions, he had to engage his hind end to free up his shoulders. This was taught in conjunction with all of his other in-hand work. It was not presented as a separate “trick” behavior. I was asking Peregrine to carry himself forward in engagement – something the guidance of the marker signal helped him to figure out.
I was a month or two into this work when it occurred to me that I hadn’t seen Peregrine lock in his stifles in quite a while. I started paying more attention. I was right. His stifles weren’t locking – not under saddle and, even more telling, not on the ground, either.
For eight years we had been battling his stifles. After just a few months of clicker training, they had stopped locking. That’s when I knew that clicker training wasn’t simply another way to teach behavior. Yes, it’s great that we have a kinder way to teach horses to pick up their feet for cleaning, or to load into a trailer. That’s important, but clicker training goes deeper than that. It awakens our horses’ intelligence. I say it in this way because so much of training teaches horses only to follow, not to take any initiative. Clicker training lets them to be full partners in the learning process. They truly own what we are teaching them. The lessons aren’t simply things you do when someone directs you. Peregrine was learning how to manage his own body to keep himself more comfortable – all of the time – not just when I was around.
If clicker training had simply been another way to teach standard behavior, it would have been an interesting stepping stone, but it would not have held my attention in the way that it has for over twenty years. Peregrine showed me that it is so much more.
Happy 30th Birthday Peregrine. What a wise horse you are. Thank you for being my teacher.