Saturday, November 6, 2010

Working WITH the Horse

Dusk was falling as Royal, the young tobiano Pinto/Arabian I have been riding, nervously bobbled his head against the reins, much like a big fish tests the bait right before he strikes. Sure enough, that Arab head starts flying around in what I call the "crazy 8's", I keep my fingers loose and sensitive (thanks, Jose) tightening as he goes away, responding and releasing when he comes back into view. Power gathers in the hindquarters and Royal prepares to leave. He pushes off into a sideways jump, again I remember to breathe, stay loose and go with him, rather than fighting him to a standstill. I don't just let him carry me off, no way, but I have learned that even 1000 lbs (as opposed to a bigger horse) of frustrated energy can turn into a real problem if my answer is SHUT IT DOWN and do it NOW.

We sail past some unwary guests at the ranch. "Look out, folks," I grunt, as I attempt to control the leaps to not carry us into their midst. He's losing steam now, not as committed to leaving as I am to staying.

I thank my teachers this summer, Brenda M, Brenda H, and Jose, all who have given me invaluable tips and training to get me the closest to a velcro seat that I have had, yet. I thank all the horses I have ridden that have helped me practice. With a little finesse, I bring my horse back under control and go back to doing my job, parking cars for the hayrack rides at Shady Lanes.

Yesterday, teaching a clinic, I watch the big dark bay Thoroughbred mare nervously circle around me. The last two passes as she's come by, that big shoulder of hers said in no uncertain terms I should get the heck out of her way, and maybe even be done with this foolishness of trying to tell her what she should be doing, where and at what speed. Silly human! A snap of the lead rope, reprimanding her rudeness, sends her screaming back out, you hit me! I will amp up! How about THAT for a response??!!

Well, it's not the one I was looking for, so I kept trying. Took half the day, and another venue to find the quiet mind I knew could be in there, 'cause there's one in every horse I have ever seen, even the ones that couldn't hang on to it long enough. This horse can. I had to find a different way to let her figure out things and try the answers she wanted to present until she could listen to me and try some of mine.

A guy named Dennis Reis who is a hand I admire did a tour a couple of years ago called the "No Dust" tour. I really like that concept. Good horse training looks kind of like paint drying to those that don't care much about this kind of thing, and while it might raise some dust, it's as little as possible for as short a time as possible. At least, that's the way I choose to interpret that.

Another guy who I haven't had the opportunity to meet or observe yet, Mark Rashid, has written a series a books that are very high on my recommended reading list. The last one of his I have read "Horsemanship Through Life" discusses, among a LOT of other worthwhile topics, three principles he learned from his childhood mentor.

Work WITH the horse, not against him.

Listen to what the horse is trying to say to you.

Use your own mind.

Those principles have struck deep chords within me. None of them are strange ideas to me, it's just apparently time for me to examine them once again, peel off the layers of what I think I know, and discover what's next in this journey with horses, and life, and loved ones.

Good horsemanship (again, from Mark's book) doesn't start at the barn. It's the mental attitude I carry with me, my ability to clarify and focus thought, prioritize where my attention is going to be given. It's my commitment to give 100% to whatever I am doing, while I am doing it, rather than woolgather, and think of a half a dozen other things, instead of paying full attention right where my hands happen to be, right this very minute. I used to call that multi-tasking, now I am not so sure, as I don't seem to get too many multi a task accomplished while I am doing it!

How can I ride the horse that shows up if I can't pay attention enough to see who it is, don't have the awareness or perhaps even the ability to read what the horse is telling me? How do I stay on if my will to ride fails in the middle? Both of the times I came off my colt this summer, that is exactly what happened. My will to ride failed in the middle.

I have heard from more than one good teacher, do what you need to do to get things right before you get on, once you are there, be committed to staying there. I have to use my own mind to figure out what works for me, where my timing needs to be, when it's safe for me to ride and when it is not. I can teach my ideas and techniques to others, but it is absolutely up to them (you) to take it home, work with it and make it yours. I can't give you 35 years experience in day, a week, or any amount of time. I can't get someone else's experience, either. no matter how hard I study or want to be like them. Better served, maybe, me and my horses, when I take what I can, apply as best I can, observe the results and go forward from there.

So, working WITH the horse, rather than against him. I am finding some new ideas about what that means to me and some refinements of the old ones that still work. Curious to know, what does it mean to you?

Hope you guys had a great riding season, and that winter treats us well and sees a LOT more hours in the saddle than the last one did!!

I am offering some different ride/lesson packages at Shady Lanes Ranch, just north of Council Bluffs. We offer indoor and outdoor riding facilities, and I'll be out on the trails til I can't find them anymore. Working on a couple of group lesson times, one Tuesday evening, one maybe Saturday morning. Let me know if you have a horse you'd like kept ridden this winter, some interest in lessons, or maybe a "Beat The Winter Blues" clinc that I am cooking up in my little beany brain box.

See you soon! (no new photos, posting from the Calvin Center in Hampton, Georgia, my second favorite home away from home! :-)))


Anonymous said...

Nice stuff - it's always good to hear from you.

I've had the great pleasure of riding in a number of clinics with Mark Rashid, including two week-longs in Colorado. If you ever get the chance to see him work, do it - he's absolutely of the paint-drying school and it just goes to show how much can be accomplished with calm, quiet direction.

Good Hands said...

Thanks, Kate! Good to know about Mark. I think I am going to make it a priority to make his acquaintance. I sure do love his books, and it's good to know it plays out that way in real life too. Figured it would.

Horses Are Our Lives said...

I love Mark's philosophies also. It's great to listen to the horse.

Rising Rainbow said...

I don't know much about Reis. Have hard people say nice things but no specifics on his methods. Mark Rashid has been a clinician a couple of times at events I have worked so I know more about him. From the sounds of it, they have much in common.