Good morning! Happy Tuesday everyone! Man, the past few weeks have been a total blur, they've been fun don't get me wrong, but very busy. I have tons of orders in right now that will be finished in the next two weeks. Mounted Shooting season has really kicked into high gear and everyone is getting ready with new holsters, chinks, and tack. I have a few other miscellaneous items on the white board as well. Also, we will be at the vendor fair at KY Cowtown Arena in Williamstown, KY on Saturday, May 12th. I'm working on having a few small leather things for sale, I'll also have some goat milk soap, and my flax seed warmers available. In addition I will be taking custom leather orders at that time. I'll have photo albums to look through and all the information for you to order your unique BCR leather stuff! We look forward to seeing lots of you out there!
One of the things that's kicked the busy up a notch in the past few weeks is a horse that has come in for some training. Despite a busy day to day or week to week schedule I think it's very important to take time to pause, breathe, and reflect on things. I know, I sound super cheesy, but the older I get the more I realize the importance of this for every aspect of our lives. This day and age is a go go go world, but without taking the time to stop and evaluate all that is going on we can't progress as efficiently or trouble shoot through problems.
Just as I've talked about music being a huge connection point for me, horses are as well. It's taken a long time to come to the mindset I have regarding horses, which means a lot of trial and error and many times, blood, sweat and tears. I truly believe when we slow down and really look, a horse becomes a mirror of a man. They say 'In wine be truth,' this certainly holds true in horses as well. Kindness and understanding goes the distance with horses. While many methods will work and get results, the horses you see as the long-term success stories, as the children's horse, or one that will give lessons for 10 hours a day, those horses have been gifted kindness and understanding and in return will give it all they've got. Don't get me wrong, there are always exceptions and we have to remember we are working with 1,000lb animals on the end of a string, but largely horses reflect who we are as people deep within. They see and feel more than humans.
Sorry, got off on a philosophical tangent, to my story for the day.
Fred is a super flashy and eye catching gelding, full of color and spots and animation when he trots. However, he is pretty green still. The previous owner didn't know how to take him beyond walk, trot, canter, turn right, turn left. His current owners adore this boy! But, they were getting frustrated with him as he was a very inconsistent ride; one day lazy, one day racey, didn't want to move out when in an arena or round pen, couldn't get him to lope, then to top it off he bucked his owner off on a trail in the blink of an eye last fall and proceeded to run home. Sound familiar? Believe it or not, I hear of this situation all the time. Green horse, green rider...they have no idea how to communicate. This stems from the horse not being solid in his cues and "the rules" (as I refer to them) and the rider knowing how to give the cues but unsure how to trouble shoot when they don't get a response they think should be getting.
My husband and I had both ridden this horse once before and we both really liked him. He's smart, he thinks and takes everything in, he's not a dead head. But if that intelligence isn't directed or fostered, a horse like him is going to get bored and annoyed and take advantage which is precisely what he was doing. He didn't know or understand the rules to the human game so he was simply making his own. For those either non-horse readers or those still new enough to not know why letting him make the rules is bad, let me explain.
1) The ultimate safety of the rider/handler (refer to 1,000lb animal with a mind of it's own on the end of a string comment above). Even the most safe, trusted horses have a mind of their own and if they decide they're not doing something or they are out of there, there's nothing 150lbs of me or you is going to do about it. So if we teach the rules and rider and horse have an understanding and can communicate the likelihood of that happening decreases greatly.
2) Getting a task done; just as with people, if all team members are not on board and communicating and working together well, the task either won't get done or it won't get done well. This is no different in a partnership with a horse. If horse and rider don't understand each other that cow at the end of the arena sure as heck won't make it in the pen and there's no way you'll be going across a creek together or be able to ride leisurely down a trail. Communication is key!
Back to the story. Tangents are just part of my life, if you know me, you know this. If you don't know me, you'll get used to this. LOL
Fred had minimal ground manners and no understanding of what is was to be worked on the ground. You could lead him, but he was pushy and wanting to nose into everything, and didn't pay attention to where you were or what you were doing. It was all about him and what he wanted to do and where he wanted to go. Leading him was a task of holding on to the clip as close to the halter as possible and pray you could catch his reach for grass before it was too late. Or it was tying him with his rope long enough to graze so he'd stand moderately still. It wasn't malicious or mean but there was a disregard for the person handling him such that it wasn't dangerous but irritating and uncooperative. A horse's attitude and manners on the ground are nearly always mimicked when you're in the saddle. If the horse won't pay any mind to you when you're standing next to him and he can see you, why in the heck is he going to pay attention when you're out of sight on his back? (side note: if anyone ever tells you, "oh he's got poor ground manners but he's great to ride" run. Run away quickly.) So, in giving a synopsis of my game plan to the owner, I stressed how important ground work is and that without it proper saddle communication can't happen. They were on board and we got to work.
Into the round pen we went. Lunging and moving away from me or around me was a foreign concept to Fred. It was exhausting to get him to trot, canter was not going to happen, what the heck is a direction change? One of the biggest take-aways I've had in horse training and I hope you utilize in horses or in life is, " Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing difficult". Horses don't understand getting their butt spanked like when a child has done wrong. They understand when they're having to move out and change directions that is difficult and it's much easier to walk along calm and amicable. They become willing to move out but even more willing to come back down and relax because that is the reward.
I think that I'm going to leave that right there for now and pick this up again later...I'd love to hear your thoughts, comments, questions on this. I will continue with the story of Fred's progressed and what we learned. I'll leave you with this; last night we had just a short 15min session of ground work. He walked, trotted, and cantered both directions on a loose lead rope, changing gaits with subtle changes in my body, also changing directions while still moving his feet and not sulling up. We are just a week and a half in to his "new" life. I'm thrilled and so is his owner. To be continued!