Meet Mikkel…

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I have been wanting to share what we do here and the profound affect it has been having on our clients lives.  The most difficult part of my job is to attempt to explain to others something that is meant to be felt. I cannot tell you the number of times I have scheduled a tour for a prospective Horsemanship client and half-way through their eyes are brimming with emotion.

Due to the nature of this work, it is very personal and sometimes painful, so protecting the privacy of our clients is of utmost importance.  I have asked a few clients for permission to share their thoughts and likenesses on our blog, to help others understand the incredible power of working with an equine teacher and skilled facilitator/therapist that is available here at Horse Haven.

Not everyone has a traumatic past or life challenging circumstances, but everyone can benefit from working with the horses…if only to step away from their busy lives, take a deep breath, and experience being present in the moment!

MikkelBeckerimageWe have recently had the great good fortune to come in contact with Mikkel Becker, a professional dog trainer, freelance writer, published author and horse enthusiast.  She is also the daughter of Marty Becker dubbed America’s Veterinarian who has written several books, including The Healing Power of Pets.  Mikkel is also passionate about the amazing ability animals have to assist people in overcoming lifes obstacles and fears and has worked with dogs and at risk youth.

Mikkel has graciously agreed to enter our program and to journal about her experience with us and the horses.  We hope you enjoy it!

Horses Just Know…

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littlegirlhorseI’ve been reminded recently of this very profound concept.  I’ve spoken of the soul connection that I had with my horse Buck when I was a young girl, and about the animal communicator that came and talked with us and our horses…

2014 is being called the year of Spiritual Growth and new websites are popping up all over with buzz words about the magical, mystical, miraculous ability that horses have to ‘mirror’ us and help us find our ‘authentic selves’, ‘inner child’, ‘woman of wisdom’ etc. etc. etc.  We use some of these same terms and words on our website, but I believe what horses have to offer us goes much deeper and can’t be described with words.  How do you describe something that is meant to be felt?

Have you ever had the experience of meeting someone and when they looked you in the eye you felt they could see right inside of you?  I have, and it made me very nervous.  What if they really could see inside… that I’m not who I pretend to be… my weaknesses…my shame…my guilt…my secrets.  What would they think of me then?  What if they couldn’t be fooled with fake smiles, a confident manner or crocodile tears?  What would that feel like?   maskimages

I’ve been told I’m just like a cactus…all prickly on the outside to keep people away, and all mush on the inside.  I think many of us are like that.  But unfortunately, in order to keep others from seeing the not so pleasant side of our humanness, we also end up covering up the good.

I have noticed horses seeming a bit ‘off’ and then find their owners were entertaining thoughts of selling them.  I have seen horses communicate to others who are more open to receiving their thoughts that they want lights off, doors closed, their teeth checked, hate their jobs, love their jobs… and mostly… I think they want what we do… to be truly known and accepted… without judgment or agenda…

The other day we did an experiment in the arena.  We all just pictured Faith taking a step up on the mounting block.  Within seconds she made an attempt – no prompting, no physical pressure, just thought…

So for me, the amazing thing about horses is that we can’t keep things hidden… all we have to do is think it or feel it and they just know…


Horses are NOT Mopeds…

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Moped blogWhen I was young, my family would go camping at the ocean.  Sometimes we would rent mopeds to ride around town and on the beach.  You could go to the rental shop, they would ask if you’d ridden before, give you a quick overview of gas and brakes and then you would climb on, push the start button and off you would go.   While I enjoyed riding the mopeds, it couldn’t hold a candle to the experience of riding one of the rental horses along the beach with the wind blowing in my hair.  I was on top of the world!
As a young women a boyfriend and I decided to take a day trip to the ocean.  Wanting to recreate those joyful memories of youth, I was looking forward to going for a ride on the beach.  When we arrived at the horse rental business, the first question asked by the wrangler was if we were experienced riders.  Wanting to impress my boyfriend, I said yes of course, even though it had been several years since I had been on the Moped blog3back of a horse.  My boyfriend not ever having been on a horse was given a solid bay who looked much like the horses I had ridden in my youth.  However, what was new to me, was that I noticed his scruffy appearance, his shut down, listless demeanor and the lack of life in his eyes.  I wondered if this had been the same condition of the beautifully envisioned horses of my youth?   In contrast, the horse they brought out for me was beautiful!  She was white, held her head high and appeared full of life.  I envisioned myself galloping down the beach on this beautiful white horse with my hair blowing in the wind, and my boyfriend (and everyone else around of course) looking on with awe and envy.  Having everyone look was certainly going to be my experience…but not with awe and envy, but fear as they scattered out of the way ….
We set out up the beach at a leisurely walk and ‘Whitey’ would begin jigging to get moving.  At first it was exhilarating to be back up on a horse, and to show off my riding skills to my boyfriend, but after about 20 minutes I became quite jealous of his ability to sit back and relax and just enjoy the experience on his solid bay.  As we turned to head back to the corral, my boyfriend feeling more comfortable urged Brownie into canter.  ‘Brownie’, now heading for home, was happy to oblige.  ‘Whitey’ it turned out only had one speed toward home…gallop!  My efforts to slow her only turned her into a leaping Lipizzaner! Moped blog4 We continued up the beach turning in bursts and starts, going in uncontrolled circles and bolting forward.  So far everyone had managed to get out of the way, but when we reached a more densely human populated area, I knew I had to somehow get off and lead her to avoid a human collision.  A woman jumping to get out of the way grabbed her red checked towel and waved it toward ‘Whitey’ which caused her to come to a brief stop and I jumped off.  It was then that I noticed the chain strap and old scarring under her chin.  My attitude continued to worsen as we walked the mile or so back to the corral, and as I handed her over to the wrangler he also got a few choice words from me about having such a horse on their rental string and a request for a refund.  His response was to jump on Whitey, spur her into a gallop, then sit back into the saddle and haul back on the reins bringing her to a sliding stop.  I will never forget the look of fear and pain in her eyes.  His parting comment was… “There’s nothing wrong with this horse…I thought you knew how to ride.”  Despite my sadness over the treatment and condition of ‘Brownie’ and ‘Whitey’, a beautiful horse once again taught me a lesson… about the arrogance and pride in my life and what I did not want my relationship with horses to look like.

052In our Horsemanship Program, it’s such a blessing to me to watch as awareness dawns on our clients.  Many come looking for riding lessons, wanting and expecting to get on, ‘push the start button’ and go for a spin.  What they find in our program and with our herd of horses is a whole new dimension… of first building relationships of mutual respect, leadership and trust.

Horses are NOT mopeds… they are living, breathing creatures with emotions and minds of their own, and can so eloquently reflect to us who we are… underneath our skin…if we’re willing to listen.


Make God laugh… tell him your plans…

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I always have plans.  I spend countless hours weighing all the pros and cons to any decision of importance.  Well, to be truthful, sometimes I spend hours weighing the pros and cons of decisions that aren’t all that important too.  Like buying a purse, or a greeting card.  I have to look at every one to be sure I find ‘just the right one’.  So once I’ve spent all that time and thought, I’m pretty sure I’ve come up with The Plan, and I fly down the path oblivious to any inklings that making a turn or two along the way might be a good idea.  I heard someone once say.. “I have a plan.  It’s Plan A.  If Plan A doesn’t work, I just go to Plan A. And if that doesn’t work, I’ve always got Plan A.”  I could relate because I rarely had a Plan B, let alone a Plan C.

One thing this world of horses has taught me is that there isn’t just a Plan A.  It’s good to have a plan, but more often than not, Plan A will make some twists and turns along the way.  If you’ve followed our blog for any length of time you know we have undergone several changes.  While my goal of having a safe, relaxed and inviting environment for our clients and horses hasn’t changed, our programs have.  We started out with a trainer who had a large lesson program.  It was very successful for all of us, but then that changed.  I began interviewing new trainers to try and re-create Plan A, but then realized, while I had enjoyed the financial benefit of a large and successful lesson program,  and all the people and horses I got to meet, I really wanted something smaller and more personal.  That led us to the creation of The Urban Herd.  It started out with me and a couple friends, but it too has undergone some structural changes in how it operates and the horses and people involved.  If as they say, history is a good indication of the future, it will continue to evolve and change.

I used to fight change.  Now I am at peace with it most of the time.  There are still things I want to stay the same and am uncomfortable for awhile if they begin to shift.  But I’m learning that no matter what… it will all be okay in the end.  And more importantly, I’m not in charge.

My husband bought me a license plate frame that was a good reminder that while having a plan is great, being open to changes in course is paramount.  It said “Make God laugh…tell him your plans…”  I planned to have that frame forever….but…. someone stole it.  So much for Plan A.

Tis The Season…

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001Depending on who you talk to, you will get a variety of responses about the holiday’s… they hate them, are indifferent to them, embrace them with gusto and all the trappings and decorations that go with them.  Spend them alone, with friends, and begrudgingly or happily with family.  I have always loved the Holiday’s.  As a young child it was a time of warmth and family, and as I got older and they started coming with a list of ‘should s’ that made them sometimes frenzied and anything but relaxing, I still loved them.  At this point in my life, my ‘should’ list is very small so there isn’t anything to not like, except that is… the time of year.  I absolutely HATE being cold.  So as long as I don’t need to go outside if the temperature drops below 40, I am happy.

This year we’ve already had quite a cold snap with temperatures dropping into the low teens.  Frozen water pipes, frozen water buckets and frozen water troughs abound, not to mention frozen feet, fingers and noses.  And while some don’t mind being out in it for an hour or two and then retreating to the warmth of their homes or cars, Nate gets up each morning and comes to take Rangercare of the horses and barn all day regardless of the weather.  As I watch Nate go about the business of mucking the paddocks, breaking the ice up in the troughs and making them ready for the horses that will occupy them for the day, I feel a little guilty being snug and warm… but not guilty enough to pull on my warmest layers and brave the cold with him.  Don’t get me wrong, when I have needed to be out there I am, but you will hear me complaining all the way to Canada.  I never hear Nate complain when it comes to caring for the horses.

So this Christmas, as I count my many blessings; our amazing family of boarders that have entrusted the care of their horses to us, our dedicated and willing horsemanship students who come each week to learn about these amazing animals, and all of the people I work and live with, I’m full of gratitude.  But I am especially thankful for Nate, who in taking such good care of our horses, is also taking good care of us.

So this one is for you Nate – the star at the top of my gratitude list!

Intuitive Communication…

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ms14We recently had Michael Sparling, a 2 star Parelli instructor, out to the farm to do a one-day clinic.  I love watching others interact with horses.  I try to decipher the conversation between the humans and the horses as they attempt new ideas and levels of communication.  It’s sort of like watching TV on mute… body language and facial expressions give huge clues to the interaction, but without the words you really don’t know for sure.  My husband says words are poor communicators and I have to agree… especially in the human world, where our words don’t necessarily match our true intent or feelings.  I think I hit home a lot of the time, but I have found that when I am ‘in it’ I can’t see it.  Which is why I need guidance from trusted mentors.  If I think I know it all, then I have cut myself off from learning anything new…  and learning something new doesn’t necessarily mean I have to throw out the old.

This journey of horses has revealed a lot to me about myself.  Being open to other’s interpretations has given me added insight.  Sometimes taking on their ideas and giving them a spin helps me clarify how I really feel or what I truly believe.  I’ve come a long way from where I was, but I still hold to some old beliefs.

I didn’t know anything really about natural horsemanship intellectually until we purchased Horse Haven at Bear Creek, but what I’ve come to learn is that I intuitively already knew it.  I had a relationship with my horse Buck that was based on leadership, mutual respect, kindness and trust.  I didn’t know all the mechanics of body language and communication the ‘natural horsemanship’ way, but somehow he knew what I wanted (or sometimes needed) and I promised to take care of him.  One time my friends horse bit me, and in jest, I whispered in Buck’s ear to bite my friend… he immediately turned and bit her!  I loved that horse to the depth of my soul and I learned a lot from him… I miss him to this day.

P1000323Our cat Callie isn’t the one we went to look at at the shelter, (Homeward Pet – a fabulous no kill shelter), but she reached her paw through the bars, snagged my shirt and pulled me close, looked me in the eyes and said “go ahead and look at that other cat, but you’re taking me home”, and we did.  20130303_152055

Our dog Sadie was in a kennel across from one of the dogs we went to look at.  When I turned around to see who was barking, she bounced up and down obviously full of energy.  I knelt down, whispered to her that we wanted a quiet less energetic dog and she immediately sat and let out a quiet little boof.  I read her bio and it said she was an ‘aggressive cat chaser’, so I again knelt down and told her sorry, we have a cat and once again, she looked me in the eyes and said “I promise I’ll be good” and she has been.

I have a new horse now… Kiera.  She isn’t the horse I set out to get… a 15hh quarterhorse gelding 10-14 years old that had been there and done that… but she’s the horse that chose me.  Kiera made no such promises of good behavior.  She looked me in the eyes and said 048“you may not know it yet, but I’m your horse.”  I told her she wasn’t and continued to weigh the pros and cons of several of the horses I had looked at.  But somehow that look stuck with me.  I’ve spent the last year working with Kiera, mostly on the ground and we have developed a pretty good relationship.  I have difficulty setting and keeping boundaries with my animals.  I want to shower them with treats, pet, groom and play with them to show them how much I love them.

We had Michael Sparling out again this week and I had several more aha moments regarding my willingness to become the confident and fair leader Kiera needs in order for her to respect and trust me.  So we will continue our journey and someday have the relationship that can’t be built on just treats and butt scratches.

Busy, Busy, Busy…

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MCF BoothHello all!  The past few weeks at the barn have been filled to the brim!  We set up a booth at Mill Creek Festival, which was fantastic!  Many people stopped by, and we had an opportunity to tell people about our newest program – Equine Facilitated Learning (EFL)!  Similar to Life Coaching, our facilitators work with individuals or groups to create positive changes.  Our program is unique in the Seattle area because we partner with horses and offer art and nature experiences.  Horses are amazing at providing immediate, non-judgmental feedback, and clients have an opportunity to practice new techniques in a safe, intimate setting.

We also have several new, amazing volunteers!  In addition to Inassa, our longtime and very hardworking volunteer, we have Hayley, Makayla, Alyssa, and Hilary!  These awesome people help us keep the barn in tip-top shape by doing routine chores and chipping away at our to-do list.  Inessa says “I love volunteering here because the barn is a safe place and a getaway for me.  I get to hang around horses, there is always a staff member around, and I get to make new friends and see new things.  If someone really wanted to learn about responsibility and to be around horses, this would be a great place.”  Thank you for all the hard work you do!  (To learn more about volunteering, please contact us.

Kathy ShazamWe are continuing to grow our horsemanship program!  We have 12 clients in our program, and we truly appreciate their diversity.  Some are interested in building a relationship with one horse, while others want to learn all they can about all the horses.  Some have previous riding experience, and some would like to learn enough so they can own a horse.  However, the common thread is that everyone that is at the barn wants to learn and is engaged in the experience of being with our horses, which makes our job rewarding and fun!  One client recently commented “I always leave here feeling more content.  I chose The Urban Herd because I could see the relationship you guys have with the horses, and I wanted that for myself.”  We are blessed that we get to teach a variety of skills, and we embrace the challenge of meeting each clients’ goals.  Our hope is that each one feels a sense of accomplishment and has a greater understanding of horse behavior and training.

Tea Party InviteFinally, we have a few upcoming events!  Mark your calendars for “High Tea, Hats and Horses”!  On Friday, August 9th at 7:00pm we are hosting a tea party!!  It should be great fun, and will include pictures with the horses, tea (of course), and light refreshments including hand cut sandwiches, scones, and cookies.  The crowning glory (pun intended) is a tea-hat decorating contest! All materials are provided, just dress in your tea party best and remember your barn boots!  RSVP by August 5th to 

Fun Day inviteWe are also planning “The Urban Herd Fun Day” which will be held on Monday September 2nd at 10:00am for our boarders and horsemanship clients with an egg and spoon race, obstacle course, musical stalls, food and yard games!

That’s it for now! As always, feel free to call us at 425-483-4600, visit our website at, and don’t forget to ‘Like’ us on Facebook!

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