“The whole idea of struggle brings you to a point of conflict, the antithesis of horsemanship.” If things seem to be going wrong in your training, first look to the possibility of confusion. The horse wants to please. It is his nature to yield and to avoid conflict. If he seems unwilling to comply with your wishes/requests/demands, consider the possibility that he is confused and does not understand your aids. First look to fixing yourself. Make your language clearer, your communication more basic. Go to a simpler task, a slower gait, a smaller jump, use a milder bit, remove force, and concentrate upon influence. If your hose is acting out of character, consider that he feels poorly or that something is hurting him. Check your equipment, his body, his hooves. Give your horse a chance to tell you why he is not cooperating before you decide to attack him.
Consider how often he is ridden. If you work him hard every day, be sure to vary your routine. Drilling him over and over with the same patterns of schooling will either bore him into quiet, dull submission or drive him to rebellion. Neither is appealing. If you can only get to him once a week, the excitement and newness of your contact with him many be overly stimulating. He may have trouble concentrating for the first hour you are together, so do not make any demands upon him in the beginning of your time together beyond simple safety. After the freshness has worn off, begin a schooling session that takes into account the time that has passed since your last contact. Much improvement can be had with a review of old skills, a lesson on new, logical movements, finishing with a session of easy, well-honed skills that allows the horse to feel successful.
This building of successes for both of you can eliminate the use of pain as a training tool. Equipment that inflicts pain is unnecessary if you take the time to school every small detail consistently from the most basic to the most complex. It is important that your horse feels successful and be rewarded for his cooperation. His desire to repeat the experience will be increased. If he feels that he can never please you or that he is never quite food enough, he will lose all desire to participate with you either under saddle or in the stable.
I saw that on a jar of ointment yesterday. It is a blend of Chinese herbs in beeswax and oils to use on burns and wounds. It got me thinking about scars. I have a few! So have most of my horses.
The funny thing about scars, they are made of tissue that is stronger (after they are set) than the original skin, muscle or bone. Physical scars make the body stronger if allowed to “do their thing”. Emotional scars can be strengthening if we see them through the eyes of a student. A student of Life.
There is no way we get through this unscathed. Life is a full spectrum. It is gentle and rough. It is great fun and it is scary. It holds us up and it knocks us down… but we have to get up again. Each time. The wound to our bum or our ego or our soul will form a scar. That scar will make us stronger if we see that spectrum of experiences through eyes of compassion. We become empathetic and compassionate when we experience this life fully. If you have never stubbed your toe, you do not wince in awareness when a friend tells you that she ran her little toe into the corner of a cabinet in the dark last night. Without experiences, we have no empathy. And paper cuts… well, just thinking about them and I can hear the sizzle of sheets through skin (I used to run printing presses!!).
If we look deeply into our pain as it is on us, we can sense the way through it. Scars will be physical and emotional and mental, but they will always make us stronger if we accept them, even honor them. Dear friends, be compassionate with yourselves!
Love is what matters.
A “Win – Win” situation… I hear that often. It is a truly profound statement when it is used. Most times our society is equating winning with being higher, better, stronger, smarter than others who must, therefor, lose
And it is dramatic when a rider is told to “show him who’s boss”; “you must win the battle with your horse”; etc.
Battle? If a battle ensues within a relationship with a horse, the human is 99% of the time the instigator. A battle can demoralize one of the parties and it invariably ends up being the horse.
So, this “Win – Win” situation sounds like the best way to approach relationships and dialog with horses… heck, with all beings! I have personally found my way there through decades of experience and relationships with Appaloosas. Oh, I have owned and schooled Arabians, Thoroughbreds, Warmbloods, Mules, Quarter Horses… you name it! But the time I have spent with Appaloosas has honed my skills as a proponent of “The Middle Way” and brought me to a place of thoughtful consideration of the other party in each relationship. Appaloosas have an acute sense of what is fair and the ability to know if you are honest and mean what you “say”. They will hold you to task. And I appreciate that.
If we seek that “Middle Way” of partnership with our horses (and family and coworkers and neighbors, etc.), with respect for the other’s feelings – knowing that there are always reasons for how we all respond to life – we will All Be Winners. No One has to lose!
I once was told that my ideas were too “simplistic”; that the way I lived was “idealistic”. How COOL! I will gladly fly the SIMPLE flag and hold myself to the idealistic standards of compassion and trust. If we all just cave in to the idea that struggle, brutality and force are the normal aspects of life and relationships… well, what sort of life and relationships will we experience?
A long while back we harnessed our pony, Andy, hooked him up to the cart and taught some driving lessons at Dharmahorse. It was a great day for doing this since our earliest student could not make her lesson and it gave me the chance to take our late morning student on a brief drive around the property just for fun.
The lessons on driving went well and when my young student arrived early, we just popped on her helmet and sat her beside me in the cart. What happened next was so interesting to me! She had never ridden in a pony cart. She was thrilled to do so, but she talked the entire time. I realized that she would never remember the look of Andy’s cute little bottom swinging with his stride as we rolled along. She will not someday think, “wow, I know what breeching and a crupper look like” or “the pony wears blinkers to keep his attention forward” – No, she was never fully present in that cart and I’m certain that years in the future, should someone ask if she has ever ridden in a horse drawn cart, her answer will be “no”.
It really was that disconnected. Now, sometimes we disconnect out of fear or anxiety about a situation. That is me on a roller coaster; just hurry and get me off of the bloody thing. Sometimes our mind is chattering so much that our focus is unclear or distorted. Often, we are just in the habit of being scattered.
So, like my young student, I know that I can hold myself separate from my experiences if I forget to focus and be fully present in the moment. Often, I have too many things on my mind. I have to know how each horse is feeling and what each student needs and match riders to horses for the benefit of both – while remembering to check on my brother and soak the food for the dogs and pay the water bill and move hay up for supper and get the dumpster out for the truck, and, and, and… you get the picture. It is something we all do.
I think of this series of mind checks and balances as a kind of lack of trust. As if I do not trust myself to remember what needs to be done, I constantly review and often chastise myself for any daydreaming or simple useless conversations. My, my… it is harder to release yourself from your own authority than it is to slip away from the domination of another. Just to relax is priceless and it is the foundation of being fully present in the moment. One must relax.
One of our most edifying things is taking a girl on her first trail ride!! After many lessons at the stable, in the little arena; then to the large arena – to head out into the high desert beneath the beautiful Organ mountains is a unique accomplishment!
The horses love it, too!
Years back, I took a course in Equine Chiropractic techniques in Albuquerque. At the same time, I took a soap making class. I loved both experiences! At the hotel in Albuquerque, I made notes as fast as I could, watched demonstrations, felt my perspectives open and my ideas expand. I learned the simple “Logan Basic” adjustment that continuously saved my Arabian gelding who continuously pulled his hamstrings. I learned about the tilting or “subluxation” of spinous processes and gentle ways to heal them.
I learned stretching techniques for the horses and dogs. I stayed in a motel with a dear friend and we set our fingernails against the floor to ceiling mirror, trying to remember if the fingernail touching its reflection or having a gap between them meant the mirror was “two way”! We went to “Cracker Barrel” where I ordered plates of vegetables and coffee and iced tea. I won an Equissage video and watched it for hours, even though my hands (from injuries) were not strong enough to do massage.
At the Dona Ana Branch of NMSU, I took the class for soapmaking. With rich oils and lye, we set into motion the “saponification” that created, weeks later, the most awesome soap I’ve ever used. We melted the oils in large pots on the stove while our water-activated lye cooled – bringing the two ingredients to the same temperature when they were combined and stirred until the magic occurred.The liquid pre-soap was poured into waxed milk cartons, wrapped in layers of paper and thick towels; then taken home and kept warm until ready for the cutting into bars. The soap bars were lined up to cure on cookie sheets… I made frankincense soap and used my bars for over a year.
There was something so satisfying about making and using my own soap – which I have continued to do ever since. The goggles and scary lye mixing; keeping vinegar near by in case of skin contact; the process of streaking and shininess as the soponification happens under the constant stirring by wooden spoon and the unmistakable smell of soap happening are exciting to me.
AND, to be able to immediately help my horses with safe adjustments and knowing how to protect them (by mounting them from each side equally and from mounting blocks to protect their spines) is a most valuable thing learned. Subluxation and saponification were indeed great additions to my life.