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Into the Herd

pip-foreheadThere are times when life takes you up in its active arms and hurries you along, depriving you of moments for reflection, as humans, horses or other creatures pass you by in ever-changing situations and new ones take their place until, in the midst of this wild whirl, this audio-visual kaleidoscope of jumbled colours, shapes and sounds, an almost irrepressible moment comes when you call the merry-go-round to a halt and jump off. The seemingly haphazard array of creatures and circumstances retreats leaving a ripple of what has been, which gradually spreads and flattens into a pool of silence. And in that welcome quiet I take stock of all that has passed and realise that, however hectic it may have been, it has probably been nowhere nearly as immense and challenging as what Pip and Anaïs have just experienced, for they are gone … to another country … and into the herd.


Horses and humans in the Antipodes

Kelly and Glenn during the Corroboree Equus

Kelly and Glenn during the Corroboree Equus

Our month in the Antipodes probably represents the most active trip that Vicki and I have ever taken anywhere. As I mentioned in my post dealing with the first part of our trip to Australia (Becoming the Kind of Human a Horse Seeks to be With: Part 2 ), we met so many wonderful people at the Corroboree Equus in Tallangatta, Victoria, and were privileged to stay with. Kelly and Glenn, a wonderful couple whom we got to know through this blog and two of the three organisers of the corroboree, at their beautiful 150-acre (60.7 hectares) property at Waterfall Creek, where we met their herd of horses. From Tallangatta we headed north to a 300-acre (121 hectares) property in the Southern Highlands in New South Wales belonging to two writer friends, Anne and Susan. Although Susan was not at home, we got to admire their impressive collection of Aboriginal art and to meet their horses, view their cattle and sheep, and spy on some wild kangaroos.

Horses and kangaroos in Tamworth

Horses and kangaroos in Tamworth

Our next stop was Tamworth, one of Australia’s top horse centres and the Aussie capital of country and western music, where we caught up with Jody and Jeff on their 150-acre spread, where their herd of twenty-odd horses mingled with the local kangaroos at dusk and dawn. Vicki met Jody at Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling’s Compact Schooling 1 course in 2010. In Tamworth we got to sleep in an old shearing shed with enough cracks and dark corners in which to accommodate all of the 11 most poisonous snakes in the world to which Australia is home. Our hosts assured us that it was still too cold at night for them to go on slither-about, so we stoically got into bed, which was a mattress on the floor (very comfortable I might add), and went about the business of sleeping. My morning shower took place outside behind a wooden door extending from shoulder to knee, which enabled me to view the horses in the fields while washing the suds off.

Vicki in the Promised Land, Bellingen

Vicki in the Promised Land, Bellingen

Heading north-east we arrived in Bellingen, the last place we lived before we left Australia in 2011. There we caught up with Joan and Lyndon on exactly the same chairs at precisely the same table at the outdoor cafe, where we had left them two and a half years ago. It is amazing how you can just pick up where you left off and carry on as though you have never been away.

The next couple of days we spent with Peggy and Heather, and their respective herds of horses a little further north just outside Coffs Harbour. Both women attended the body awareness weekends which we hosted in Bellingen in 2010 and 2011 (where Hempfling’s then senior body awareness coach, Jo Ross, presided over the physical exercise sessions) and are Hempfling Compact Schooling veterans, Heather having notched up a total of five courses. I find it interesting to note that most of what they are doing with their horses occurs in spite and not because of what they learned with Hempfling. What has definitely remained though, is the focus on being present and in the moment while spending time with horses.

Heather and Ducati. A well-known guru who dances with horses advised her to shoot the horse.

Heather and Ducati. A well-known guru who dances with horses advised her to shoot the horse.

A little less than three hours north we caught up with many of the people whom we had befriended while living on our horse property in Byron Shire. There we shared meals and spent precious time with most of those whom we had hoped to see and also managed to catch up with Susan at her holiday home in Brunswick Heads. It a great to see all the old faces again. Bellingen and Byron shires are also what I like to think of as oases of sanity in a crazy world. There is a very pronounced, almost palpable,

Vicki with new friends, Penka and Laila

Vicki with new friends, Penka and Laila

generally accepted concern for the earth and all of the creatures who inhabit it. This is reflected in a critical but healthy embrace of life and its challenges, and a commitment to the use and consumption of earth-friendly products. The icing on the cake is the natural beauty to be found in both areas.

From Byron we edged north across the Queensland border for a flying emotional visit to our geldings before spending a pleasant evening with our former pet sitter, Marie. The following day we headed for Brisbane, where we spent another pleasant evening, this time in a Nepalese restaurant (a first for me) with Penka and Laila, two lovely women whom we befriended at the Corroboree Equus. The next morning we flew to New Zealand to spend just under a week with friends.



If there is a country that should change its name immediately, it is New Zealand. The Maori have a very apt name for the country which rolls off the tongue like a song: Aotearoa (land of the long, white cloud). Aesthetically it would be a definite improvement and would boost the islands’ image as an exotic destination in much the same way that Australia has avoided being called New Holland, the name originally given to it by the first European explorers to encounter it (the Dutch).

Lidewij and Hedda, friends we have known since they were 6 and 9

Lidewij and Hedda, friends we have known since they were 6 and 9

Kiwi country was home to us for the first three and a half years following our emigration from the Netherlands in 1992, the same year in which our friends, Wim, Marga and their two daughters, Hedda and Lidewij, crossed to the other side of the world to start a new life. It was good to see them again, more so, because we could spend time with them in their own home living at their own pace. As in Australia, much of our time was spent reminiscing as we roamed the spaces that we had shared with our animals in the past, and admiring the natural beauty that passes for countryside in that part of the world. Unfortunately, our time in Aotearoa was confined to two places – Nelson and Wellington – but you could do far worse to miss them on any visit to the country.


Kaimanawa wild horses

While in Nelson Vicki and I had the opportunity to visit a relocated herd of Kaimanawa wild horses confined to a section of hilly slopes to the south-west of the city. The Kaimanawa are feral horses that normally roam in the desert area around the volcanoes in the centre of the North Island of New Zealand. For various reasons the authorities have decided to limit the number of Kaimanawa horses in that area to about 300. Any in excess of that number are culled.

Kaimanawa wild horses in Nelson, New Zealand

Kaimanawa wild horses in Nelson, New Zealand

Not too long ago a Spanish immigrant bought some land at the top of the South Island and resettled about 25 of those horses. The number has swelled to 34 but the stallion has since been gelded. We visited that herd and were amazed to see how well the horses had adapted from the poor pasture and undulating to rough countryside of their original habitat to the steep heights and relatively rich, grassy slopes of their new home. However, this has not occurred without any effects on the horses’ health. You can find out more about Kaimanawa horses at Wikipedia.

A video impression of the Kaimanawa wild horses of New Zealand


The boys

To me the absolute highlight of our trip to the Antipodes was being reunited with our geldings, Gulliver and Farinelli. Following our return from New Zealand we spent a week oscillating between visits to them and the people we still wanted to see in Byron Shire, where we were fortunate to be able to stay in Anne and Susan’s holiday home. The boys are doing much better than we had expected. Being thoroughbreds, Vicki and I knew that it would be difficult to keep weight on them as they aged. Although this is largely true for Gulliver (and was already the case before we left Australia), we were pleasantly surprised to note Farinelli’s condition. He has kept his weight and is moving relatively well for a 20-year-old. At 24, Gulliver is showing his age. However, both horses have shiny coats and look relatively content.

Catching up with Gulliver and Farinelli in Queensland, Australia

I had not expected the horses to miss us and this seemed to be confirmed by their response to our arrival. We barely merited a raised eyebrow. Yet in our interaction with the boys all of us slipped easily into familiar behaviour. Gulliver turned to us for head scratches, while Farinelli took to nuzzling our hands as he had been wont to do in the past. It was clear that, although they may not have missed us, they did appreciate our presence, although there was the odd misunderstanding on the part of both species too when we misread each other’s body language. This I put down to the difficulty of trying to match old ways with new insights. Seeing the boys with all the space at their disposal also led me to give serious thought to the conditions in which our mares are required to live in the Netherlands. At the time they were on holiday at a natural horsemanship facility in Belgium. Perhaps we needed to leave them there for the time being.


Into a Belgian herd

Which is what we decided to do. Just before we left for Australia, we were told that the horses in our livery yard would only be allowed out of their stables during the winter if the weather permitted (which means, no rain or snow) and then only into the dressage arena, which would be cordoned off into tiny sections. This came hard on the heels of a rather traumatic accident involving a 10-year-old gelding belonging to the owner of the yard, which was accompanied by a great deal of suffering on the horse’s part. The gelding had suffered an injury requiring major, costly surgery. The owner decided to have the horse killed (I am deliberately avoiding euphemisms such as “put him down”). It was decided not to bring a vet in to do the deed there and then (early evening) but to wait until the morning when he could be taken to the local abattoir. I offered to cross the border into Belgium to pick up easily available, cheap painkillers outlawed in the Netherlands to help the gelding get through the night but my offer was turned down. The horse went to his death the next morning. By the time we heard about the winter regime a few days later we felt we had reason enough to consider not returning to that livery yard, so four months after we moved in we left.

Horses are kept very differently in our new livery yard just across the border in Belgium. There they live as part of a herd of 20 in an enclosed area of what must be about one acre and a bit (about 0.5 hectares), which has both indoor and outdoor sections. The horses are fed hay twice a day and have permanent access to straw. In addition, we give ours some hard feed and additives once a day. All of the horses are barefoot and none of them wear rugs. For six months of the year they also have access to various fields for grazing. The way I see it, our horses will not only be able to move when they like, they will also be living in more natural albeit not ideal conditions.


The spiritual nature of horses

Becoming part of the herd following their introductory holiday in a small, adjacent field with a walk-in shelter has been a pretty trying experience for our mares. Neither Pip nor Anaïs has experienced anything quite like it, although Anaïs has lived outdoors 24/7 with two other horses in the past. The video shows the first few minutes of their introduction into the herd. In it you can see what passes for the local herd’s version of a stallion (a dark, tank-like gelding) chasing the mares away from the feed. This went on for a couple of days but there were too many feeding posts for him to patrol, so our mares did not starve.

 Pip and Anaïs: into the herd in another country

However, they have picked up a few cuts and bruises. During the first week Pip was befriended by a small, black Belgian warmblood called Billitis, who decided to protect her new friend against anyone. For her pains Billitis suffered a massive kick to the left hind leg, which has temporarily taken her out of the herd, and Pip suffered a manageable injury to her right hind leg. This has since healed but today when I last counted, Pip had three bite marks (one of them still open) on her right hindquarters, two on the right shoulder, one on the left-hand side of her neck, one on the left shoulder, two on the right hindquarters and a new one at the top of her right foreleg. For anyone who is floating around on a cloud contemplating the spiritual nature of horses, this is a reminder that nature can also be quite ruthless at times. Having said that, the New Zealand equine ethologist, Andy Beck, makes the point that horses usually only resort to violence with each other, if they feel a need to compete for available resources. We can see a few things in the yard in respect of which this would be the case, especially now during the colder months when the horses have less space available.

During the past week Pip has also started walking unevenly, if she is not downright lame to begin with when I get her out of the enclosure. The owner of the yard tells us that it could have something to do with the fact that she is moving around on a harder surface than what she is accustomed to. There could be some truth to this, as Pip walks much more evenly on the grass, when I take her into the forest. Vicki and I are not too sure if the hardness of the surface is the only reason for her pain. It has been pretty wet here over the past month and we suspect that the mud and the water may be playing a role as well. Returning Pip to the enclosure this afternoon seemed to confirm this, for she immediately started walking as though she was trying to balance on bottle caps. For the time being I am playing it by ear. The rain has stopped and a dry patch has been forecast. We shall wait and see. In the meantime we are administering Equine Touch to both horses to help their bodies cope.


The next step

If you have been following this blog for the past couple of months, you will probably be aware that Vicki and I are contemplating our next step. We feel a need to reinvent ourselves and had been contemplating a move to another country as part of that step. This has been part of the reason for our trips to Spain and Australia in recent months (see also my post entitled Becoming the Kind of Human a Horse Seeks to be With: Part 1).

While our mares have made a move with the result that we now have four horses in two different countries with ourselves in a third (a rather curious situation in anyone’s book, I would imagine), Vicki and I have still not worked out where we should be heading, if at all. With its raw beauty, wide open spaces and pockets of sanity, such as Byron and Bellingen, Australia carries great appeal. I am mindful though that the last time we based a decision purely on the heart, it was to leave Australia to attend Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling’s one year schooling course, a move which took a curious twist. Everything that had anything to do with travelling to Europe and settling there seemed to work out well, while anything that had anything to do with Hempfling’s course started falling apart within two days after our arrival in the Netherlands.

I am mindful too that, as I have mentioned in this blog, one of the most important lessons which I have learned from that experience is to try and live more intuitively. By this I mean that I feel a need to be alive to what life (call it “destiny”, the “universe” or whatever) is suggesting as it unfolds, rather than to ignore that and to try and run counter to it, as I have too often done in the past. There is a temptation to rely on analyses and comparisons, a trap that Vicki and I fell into when we emigrated to New Zealand in 1992 and ended up spending only three and a half of our 19 years abroad in that country. Ultimately, analyses and comparisons may confirm or deny the sensibility of a course of action but the choice in favour of the latter needs to come from the gut. It has to be instinctive, acknowledging a force in our lives about which we understand so little because we are too intent on paying homage to the gods of rationalism, objectivism and empiricism, and dismiss everything outside their domain as unfit for intelligent beings.


Moving meditation

A little over a fortnight following our return from the Antipodes and our mares’ entry into the herd, I find that I derive considerable strength from my daily moving meditation, be it my morning Tai Chi sessions or afternoon interaction with Pip. Whatever the challenges that changing circumstances may bring, those sessions help me to achieve a sense of quiet contentment and acceptance that whatever will be will be, and it will be fine, however challenging.

Body awareness (here Tai Chi Chuan) is best done in harmony with nature.

Body awareness (here Tai Chi Chuan) is best done in harmony with nature.

For those of you who are also using Yang, Jwing-Ming’s Tai Chi Chuan and Qigong DVD and printed learning materials, I can tell you that my morning sessions now start off with the warm-up exercises followed by the primary qigong set and then the fundamental eight stances. I now follow this up with Hempfling’s three riding body awareness exercises (walk, trot and canter) as taught to me by his then senior body awareness coach, Jo Ross, and end with the Masai jump (which serves as a great release). In the future I will probably be heading more in the direction of Qigong than the classical Tai Chi sequence, because I find that it places me more effectively in the moment and helps to develop presence, which I then try to replicate when I am with the horses. I honestly believe that Pip has to contend with a more aware, observant, empathetic and empowering human as a result, one who is capable of giving her the support that she requires during one of the most challenging experiences of her life following her entry into the herd.

18 Responses to “Into the Herd”

  1. Kelly Bick says:

    Hello Andrew,
    Good to here you and Vicki’s travels were full of friends and good memories, and glad that although the reunion with Gulliver and Farinelli found them content and in good health.

    As I was reading your description of Pip and Anais’s new living arrangements, I could not help thinking two things – firstly, how lovely that you have found a way to improve them, and secondly how small it still is at 20 horses in one acre (especially compared to the luxury we are blessed with here – as you described in your post – 150 acres and 11 horses) and in the end is this really an improvement?

    As you listed the litany of wounds both Pip and Anais are now carrying, my thoughts were that it is in such contrast to new Guest Horses entering our herd here, as well as members of the established herd. There might be the odd small nick of skin from a bite, but in general there is very very little damage inflicted – even with quite a lot of chasing, physical displays and hierarchy establishment as new horses enter the herd.

    I am quite sure that that is because there is so much room available for horses get out of each others way, and to also avoid higher ranking herd members in their general moving around. Which from the sounds of Pip and Anais’s new living arrangements does not allow much scope for.

    It is an interesting pondering, from afar without the day to day understanding and detail; “are the new arrangements better for Pip and Anais’s physical and emotional well being, or is it destructive in a different way?” What do you see/feel Andrew? I have no opinion either way as I am not there, but it is an interesting thing to wonder. I certainly imagine it is a happier arrangement for them than one where they would be locked in all winter! but is it really a good arrangement?

    How lucky and blessed I, and my horses are, to live in Australia, and in the piece of Australia that I call home, with its vast open space conducive to creating a better environment for horses to live more naturally.

    (Noticed you can add an image, so thought I would try out that feature just for fun 🙂 A picture of the herd in the winter of 2011)

    • Andrew says:

      Dear Kelly

      Thank you for your thoughts and the pic (lovely!).

      Yes, circumstances are rather different over here than back in Australia, where space is so bountiful while it is such a scarce commodity here in the Benelux.

      On paper I honestly thought that, although the situation is far from perfect in the new livery yard, it would be an improvement on the last one. True the space is terribly confined for such a large herd but I assumed that, as the horses do not rely on grazing but have something to eat all the time spread over sufficient feeding stations to cater for all (in theory), they would not require anywhere nearly as much land as in Australia, where they rely on pasture for feed.

      A little over three weeks after the mares joined the herd, I am now beginning to have serious doubts about whether this was a good move, however better it may have been compared with the previous livery yard.

      I am near the end of my patience with livery yards. Perhaps Vicki and I need to come up with a more radical solution.

      A bear-hug for the big fella.

      Be well!

      • Kelly Bick says:

        Perhaps it is time to purchase some land in some country? Perhaps you and Vicki could start your own livery yard modelled around your/our values and philosophies on horse keeping? Perhaps land is far too expensive over there to even begin to contemplate something like that? Perhaps it is not….but it fits with the “radical” notion 🙂

        Or fly 2 horses and yourselves back to Australia and re-settle here….now that too could be considered a radical notion!


        PS Glenn also suggested that perhaps Pip might be suffering from thrush/bugs deep in the central sulcus of the frog – which can make them tender footed, especially on hard ground – but is quite a sutle problem as in general the hoof looks fine, with just a slightly deeper CS groove.

        We have had that happen to a couple of ours – especially in winter with damper/wet conditions, and took a long time to realise what it was. Our remedy was to syringe either honey or copper sulphate mixed in a water based cream deep into the crack of the CS. It quickly resolved and both of us were quite surprised at how big full and healthy the frogs quickly started looking compared to how they were. Just a thought for you. No idea if it will help Pip.

        • Andrew says:

          Dear Kelly

          Your suggestions are very tempting. Right now though we are focusing on the immediate issues, the most pressing being a very lame Pip.

          Thanks to Glenn for his advice. I have checked the frog of the lame foot (right fore) and it is the healthiest one Pip has, without any sign of thrush or other impairment or soreness. The bulbs are also healthy.

          We did find signs suggesting an abscess but this has not led anywhere, although I am continuing to bathe it in the local equivalent of epsom salt. The vet will be taking X-rays on Friday. I personally suspect navicular because of Pip’s conformation. The right fore is the odd foot out when compared with the others: long in the toe, flat heels, little concavity and a thin sole. The sudden change from soft to hard surface coupled with the need to dodge other horses during the herd integration process may have just put that foot under too much pressure.

          Alternatively, it could just be the equine equivalent of a sprain (pastern and/or fetlock), although there is no sign of swelling and just a wee bit of fluid above the fetlock to the back. For the moment she is out of the herd in a small walk-in, walk-out affair, so she has time to convalesce without having to deal with all of the stress.

          Hopefully I will have better news to report in my next post.

          Be well, both of you!

  2. Total Dissappointment.

    I agree with the common sense comments of Kelly Bick concerning the new home for your horses.
    In generally animal unfriendly Spain, I never saw 20 horses on just half a hectare.

    Your blog Andrew is nothing else than just a sea of beautiful words where your passion for horses lies on a far away down dark bottom.

    To keep a horse means that this helpless animal is in your hands, under your responsibility, we horsefriends all agree on that. HorsesandHumans blog has been always focusing on relationship and balance between horses and humans.
    Great horse master´s like Hempfling, Nevzorov and others were critized by your own words Andrew.
    Those great Masters have actually made world wide changes by teaching us how humans can be with horses in a different relationship and balance. Your contribution to this Andrew were just words, often very negative.
    You just have showed that you did not even understand your own words.
    Now let me try to explain again:
    Relationship means responsibility.
    One can escape a relationship but one cannot walk away from the responsibility.

    • Andrew says:

      Dear Rita

      Naturally, you are right: relationship means responsibility. Actually, though, it is possible to escape a relationship and walk away from the responsibility. Many humans do so and many horses suffer as a result. I choose to do neither.

      You may be right that the “great masters”, Hempfling and Nevzorov, “have actually made world wide changes by teaching us how humans can be with horses in a different relationship and balance”. Yet you are rather quiet about the responsibility that goes with that relationship when you refer to them.

      Perhaps you have an explanation for the fact that a few years ago almost the entire foreign section of the Nevzorov Haute Ecole online school abandoned their training with the Russian master (leaving a handful behind), because they believed that they had evidence which seriously questioned how he kept his horses. You too are a former student, I am reliably informed.

      Perhaps you can also explain why so many of the relationships which Hempfling has developed with the many different horses which feature in his YouTube videos and publications in the past 10 years are nowhere to be seen anymore and that they have never been accompanied by any ongoing responsibility for the health and care of those horses. Perhaps you can also explain why Hempfling does not advocate holistic horse care, choosing instead to insist on shoeing and stabling. Perhaps you can also explain why his accommodation for some of the horses that accompanied his one-year students was not up my standards (I have seen sufficient photographic evidence) and, given that yours are clearly superior to mine, not up to yours either.

      To return to my own relationship with my horses, together with Vicki, I made a judgement with regard to our mares’ accommodation, while we were on the other side of the world based on all of the information that we had at our disposal. Unfortunately, life does not come with guarantees. If my choice turns out to be a mistake, and this may indeed be the case, then I simply have to accept that it is and to start finding a solution. This is what I am doing now. As you say, “relationship means responsibility”. I accept it. Choosing to be open about my choices on this blog, however mistaken they may be, should not be interpreted as an abdication of that responsibility, however far short of your level of perfection I may seem to be.

      Be well!

  3. Dear Andrew

    Nice to hear again from you after quite some time ….and good to read your travel journal…..

    Of course I had a look at the clip of the two mares from my energetic point of view…
    What struck me most was that there seems to be quite some tension ‘floating around’ in the area the horses are housed in …. not necessarily coming from the horses, although the horses do show or reflect, if you wish to call it, that tension…

    I somehow sense the tension is coming from the place itself ….. perhaps even the people running the place though the people themselves might not be aware of that at all….

    Perhaps it would be possible for you to not only apply the ET to Pip and Anaïs, but to give the herd as a whole several ET sessions ….. I can hear you thinking…… OMG how are we going to do that …..
    Very easily ….. visualize a kind of Troyan Horse statue wherein you invite all the horses to join ….explain to the horses that they will all benefit from this experience…… once every single horse has joined you apply the ET to this large horse statue…..when the ET session is finished you express and communicate your gratitude to the horses for their trust, their love and if they wish they can go back to what they had been doing before gathering inside the statue….
    Inform them when you will have another ET session for the herd and that all are welcome to join again….
    Perhaps all the horses will surprise you by being present ……..

    Of course in the meantime you are free to continue with the sessions for both Pip and Anaïs…. perhaps you can ask the mares if they wish to be ET-ed separately as well….

    If there are horses that definitely do not wish to take part in this ET experience that will be respected ….. perhaps the second or third time you give the herd an ET session they have heard such good stories from their horse buddies that they love and wish to take part as well after all…….

    You understand this is all part of animal communication….
    A wonderful person that knows all about this as well is Anna Breytenbach …… Accompanying link will tell you more about her…..I am sure you will be tremendously inspired….. enjoy…..



    • Andrew says:

      Dear Geerteke

      Thank you for your insights.

      There is indeed some tension in the yard. In part this pay be due to the fact that Pip and Anaïs are two of three new horses that have joined the herd in the past few weeks. I suspect that there are now too many horses in the yard, with the result that there is more competition for available resources.

      Your suggestion to offer Equine Touch to the herd coincides with our own efforts. Apart from treating our mares, we have also offered free ET sessions to all of our fellow boarders. Some are interested, so we hope to start soon.

      Thank you so much for referring the video. It is inspiring.

      Be well!

  4. Hi Andrew
    What an amazing journey! Yes, the boys looked to be doing well, especially given their age. Obviously, circumstances leading to the present situation with the mares have been exacting. How open and honest of you to show and describe it to us it so clearly. I hope you can come up with a real solution as quickly as possible. What a situation to come back to!

    Best wishes


    • Andrew says:

      Dear Ian

      Yes, it was an amazing journey, one I recall with a great deal of pleasure, although it is difficult to leave everyone behind again, especially our boys.

      You have hit the nail on the head: we need to come up with a “real solution as quickly as possible” for our mares. I had hoped that this might be an appropriate fix in what were pretty tight circumstances (it is difficult to line up something new when you are on the point of heading off to the other side of the world) but it is far from perfect.

      The beginning of winter is not the best time to look for a longer term fix. I know of no livery yard which does not severely restrict access to the fields during the colder months and none of the outdoor, herd-based offerings that I have investigated here in or reasonably close to our region of the Netherlands is suitable for some reason or another.

      Something will come up. It has to.

      Be well!

      • Dear Andrew
        Life is always so much in the balance in terms of what you have and what you might have. And so I can understand Geerteke’s advice about working with what you have although it may seem beyond your energy capacities, initially – but what faith she has in them. The truth is there must be a reason for other horses to be beating up on yours; their own loss of connection, maybe. In a very simple form, frustration leading to aggression. Of course, limited space might be a factor but it may not be the only one, given the readily available feed. In short, the horses may provide you with insights with respect to improving the situation.

        I don’t know whether it helps but I remember a situation with children and bullying. The new child gets bullied by a group led by a dominant leader. In terms of the group, individuals may understand the unfairness of the situation but feel powerless to react differently. The solution remove the bully for a time so that they have a chance to regroup and address the situation. When the bully is re-introduced he now has to re-integrate himself in a cohesive group with re-newed social norms. He will need to negotiate his position and is likely to be much more conciliatory.

        Anyway, whatever your course of action, lots of horse beams to you:-)


        • Andrew says:

          Dear Ian

          Thank you for your empathy and suggestion.

          Coincidentally, a few days ago the livery yard owner informed us that one of the “bullies” is being removed from the herd every night, because he is overweight. We suspect that one of the reasons for his condition (being overweight and a “bully”) may lie in the fact that his owner does not spend much time with him and he may therefore be feeling very neglected.

          It will all work itself out one way or another I suspect.

          Be well!

  5. Hi Andrew,
    Great to hear about the rest of your trip.
    So good to see Fari & Gulliver looking so good.
    Not so sure about your mares situation!!!!!
    Just a few word in reply to a comment you made re. my “being with horses”………I can’t really give Klaus credit for that………. I have been that way with all horses for many years, ……….what I did learn from him, was about myself……For which I am do give him credit and am grateful.
    Hugs to you and yours,

    • Andrew says:

      Dear Peggy

      Thank you for putting the record straight.

      Yes, I am not so sure about our mares’ situation either. Please see my replies to Kelly and Ian for more detail.

      Be well and take care!

  6. Anne-Marie says:

    I have watched the documentary about Anna Breytenbach; I got the link from Carolyn Resnick. A video NOT TO BE MISSED! The best I have ever seen.


  7. Cyndi says:

    Dear Andrew and Vicki, I totally understand your dilemma with boarding your mares!! If I could, I would LOVE to have my own property where I was able to care for my mare (of course, I’d have to get some company for her so she wasn’t alone!) the way I believe is best. But alas, that is not possible at the moment. I have had to change barns because I was concerned for my mare’s well-being, and it’s not fun. You find a place that you think is finally “it” and then a few weeks or months into your stay you see that it’s not right. Last summer I thought I found the perfect place, but when the horses started to spend their days (free choice) inside an old barn with concrete floors, my mare’s feet became horribly sore. She walked around like a laminitic horse! A couple of barns later (friends took her for a couple of months until I found something more permanent for her) I have her at a place that I thought was ideal, but even now I am doubting myself.

    I do my best to keep my mare at a barn that is the best for her…but sometimes it’s not the best for me. Like your “ice queen” livery manager in the past, I have come across some very difficult people in the past who really like to be in control of every little thing…and it seems they like to make up the rules as they go along. So what are we to do in these situations? Do we ‘suck it up’ and keep focused on our horses’ well-being? But we want to enjoy going to the barn as well, so it’s sometimes hard to balance all that. I have “issues” with one of the barn owners (husband and wife team) where I have my mare now. I am being tested in my faith, humility, and kindness, so perhaps I am right where I need to be so that I can grow into a better person. My mare is enjoying quite a nice life at this barn. There are eight other mares with her and they spend their days either out in the hilly pastures or in a large paddock (depends on the weather). I am doing my best to live in harmony with the one barn owner in particular, because I think my mare will be happy here (we’ve been at this barn since October), but it is not always easy.

    Thank you for “taking” me to Australia with you through your wonderful photos and words. I do wish you all the best for you and your horses.


    • Andrew says:

      Dear Cyndi

      Thank you for your good wishes for us and our horses.

      Your experience with livery yards sounds very similar to ours. If it is any comfort, I can understand exactly what you are going through and am sensitive to the difficulty that you have trying to balance your mare’s well-being with other concerns.

      It sounds as though your present livery yard is good for your mare. With regard to the difficulties you have with one of the owners, perhaps you may wish to have another read of Eckhart Tolle, sleep on it and then work out what to do once you have had a chance to reflect on matters. A non-threatening chat with the owner might be the way to go or perhaps something else, such as a small gift to show your appreciation for the fact that your mare is enjoying her stay. I am sure you will come up with something that may work.

      It was my pleasure to “take” you to Australia. Lovely to hear that you enjoyed it.

      Be well!