Monday, November 30, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Monday, November 23, 2009
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Monday, November 16, 2009
There is no doubt that the immortal words by Mr. Murphy about his overwhelming pessimism about how things never go as planned, were written because he had a farm to run and I bet he had horses. My husband, Mark and I were laughing recently with a visitor to our farm, that on any given day to begin any project, chore, or activity it would be absolute certainty that things weren't going to get going in a smooth, straight forward way to easy completion. There are no straight lines to being productive on a farm. Each intended move requires multiple precursory moves to even begin the said project. The tire will need inflating, which will require rewiring of the air compressor plug because it shorts out, which requires finding the screw driver, wire cutter, and the new plug which we bought and put in a safe place, which we have forgotten, to be able to find it latter when we got around to needing it. The screw driver can't be found because it got used and left at the site of the last project, which we can't remember what it was and where either. The battery will need to be jumped off, if we can find the cables. The list of hurdles to complete, or begin, any project are so daunting that most don't get started. So life on a farm mostly is a continuum of making lists of things to do, losing the list, and not getting everything done.
One way to deal with this cycle of frustration is to bang your head on the wall. The other is to accept the idea that everything is going to take longer than expected, will not turn out exactly like you planned, and might lead you down a totally different rabbit trail altogether. You just have to accept Mr Murphy's Laws and be content in its uncertainty of outcome.
Dealing with and training horses is a prime lesson in the value of this pessimistic philosophy. If you think you have absolute control over what you plan to train that horse for today, you are living in a fantasy land and are going to be disappointed. Hardly any day at the barn goes as I think it might or should. There can be goals to aim for, for sure, but the best laid plans tend to have a mind of their own. It seems best to have rough ideas of what you want to play with. Then if the wind is blowing gale force and your horse is a bit fresh, or there is a herd of cows (not yours) coming up your driveway, or any other distraction that will impede your initial plan , you try to roll with it, using a healthy dose of self preservation instincts, and use the moment to teach the horse something new about how to deal with these strange happenings and get on with their work. I might, for example, get off the horse and use this opportunity to practice ground driving and basic manners to get the horse to approach this horror, or at least accept it. This just might show you where in your training you have a gap that needs to be addressed, ie. the horse has less respect for you telling him to get in front of you than he has fear of that scary thing. Not a safe relationship.
Such is the way it was this morning, the winds having blown in a new batch of cool air. A fact, that with each decrease in temperature comes a doubled proportional decrease in the momentary IQ of a horse. Normally feeding time comes with a bit of excitement but today there were many tails lifted high and many snorts and blows and some truly spectacular movements shown by all of them. Even Tony, the ancient Shetland stallion, was passaging around his quarters, tossing his locks and looking quite spritely. The dragon head that guards the broodmares and which is totally ignored most of the other 364 days du year, was being snorted, kicked at, and run away from with great bucks and head throws... and this was by my 18 yr old broodmare Joline and her normally laid back side kick Robijn. So it was no surprise when I brought the silly two year old fillies in to their stalls that suddenly the towel laying over the rail outside Cupcake's stall was a sudden source of terror. To that she decided she needed to leave and was considering going over my head and body to do so. Taking advantage of this situation we then schooled "better be more afraid of Margaret than the towel". That was about respect for my space and a focus on me. I can't expect for her to not have fear of things, but I do expect that I don't get trampled because of it.
When things don't go as we planned then we have to address the change and break our pattern. Pattern breakers and moments like this morning are great ways to see other perspectives and to notice gaps, and to learn and teach. It is so easy to get stuck in a safe little rut of repetition and think you can avoid the unknown results of change. You have to use the tests and take advantage of the things you don't expect. The only thing constant is that there will be change. It is how we deal with, adapt and modify that allows us to progress. It does make life, and dealing with horses, more interesting to look at it with Mr Murphy's perspective.
Friday, November 13, 2009
evolution of humanoids and it showed the usual bits about
when tools were first used and made etc. all the
basic national geographic blah blah about what
was the reason for our ancestry's success and subsequently our being here. What was not mentioned was that somewhere along the line of this evolutionary changes one of these humanoids must have blown a fuse and decided they were sick and tired of carrying their mate's stuff around on their backs and started to use their newly increased brain size to figure a way to make their lives easier. They must've looked at that herd of early horses and said "how hard could it be to domesticate that horse over there and make it work for you." Right. That's a kind of the screwy logic ... the part about the horse being scared of everything with a strong tendency to leave, or fight with its hard hooves and some sharp teeth, must've been a small point to them. And like I wrote yesterday about those defensive tools to survive.... who the heck first got one of these animals to stand still long enough to get a rope on,, oh wait was rope even invented yet. Probably not. Then how do you communicate with an animal with a brain of grossly smaller capacity than homo erectus and no rational thought patterns that could bite, kick, buck and turn your day into pure misery, if not kill you? It amazes me that anyone ever got horses domesticated without the entire group attempting it dieing and not being able to pass along techniques that make it possible today to continue this madness.
Today I rode my young gelding, Atlas, who is doing remarkably well with his training. He is biddable and sweet and fairly uncomplicated. That being said he is where he is in his training because I have spent an enormous amount of my time and adrenalin to get his brain to run in a slow mode where his thought patterns now move at a snails pace instead of light speed, which is where it was when I first began work with him. He was scared of things , imagined or real, and he left. Fast. Not good for my neck but good business for my bone cracking chiropractor.
It is such a long road to train a horse for our uses, farm, dressage, pleasure. It is the first months which are critical to it becoming a "good" horse or a "bad" one, or totally useless. The folks who ride who have never started a young one from scratch have zero idea of what has to happen to make this creature safe enough so they can buy this nice young prospect and then take it to a show and come away with a blue ribbon.
Every time I start a new one down that road to being a useful animal in my world, it takes such an enormous amount of my physical and mental energy to just try and get it right. I try to limit mistakes that will set the training back or doom it. How did our ancestors do it with no books nor instructors.. and bigger question is why try. I suppose the mate breathing down their necks with lots of stuff to get carried around was high enough motivation. I am glad they did and were successful. I do have to admit there is nothing like the communication between with an engaged horse that has learned to learn and is relaxed and comfortable in sharing the job with you. That is sublime.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
in working with horses it is a fact that they are wired for their survival. first and foremost. and to deal with that wiring we must understand that even tho they show affection to us at times, love has nothing to do with their wanting to avoid being potentially eaten by something. to this end they will run away, bite, kick, buck, rear, and do whatever needed to fulfill the defense mode. does this make them evil, flawed, or imperfect. no. they are here because one or more of their ancestors was perfect at self defense, thus passing on the gene pool that got this creature here. the problem comes in where this defense mode tends to get us riders hurt. i don't like that part. so it becomes our job as riders and trainers to understand this about them and to help them learn that all that is not familiar is not necessarily a threat and doesn't require that behavior to survive. it is also about purposely using the unfamiliar and scarey things to teach them to have trust in us and do what we say despite the scarey thing. and if they trust us and learn to bypass that survival behavior, then we judge them as "good" horses. a "bad" horse is one that has learned that these defense tactics for survival work to make ineffective riders scared and go away. oh do they quickly learn which buttons to push. we all do.