Yearly Archives: 2013

Show Days…

All the hard work, all the dedication,  the frustration,  and the hopes,  come down to this event.  It is a test of sorts.  If you study for a math test for a month,  the day that test arrives can be stressful.   Looking at a horse show from the outside it is often easy to forget the purpose of such an unusual event.   Dress up in clean clothes adorned with as much “bling” as you can cram onto every allowed article of clothing or leather.   Spending hours achieving a spectacular shine on your horses coat, or perfecting the French braided tail.  All to splash around in the rain and mud, covering your fabulous work with horse sweat and dirt.   And then,  kids and horses  moving quietly around in a circle, while some mysterious person, who is revered with both  awe and fear,  decides if you pass the test.   Unlike math there are no red checks on the part that was wrong.  Imagine walking out of a math test with a grade at the top of the page and not having any marks on the rest of the work that indicates where you mastered the skills needed and where you fell short.   Some children walk out of the test with a big colored ribbon, others are left empty-handed and wondering why they did not measure up.

The 4H venue that I spent last weekend coaching at is better than many at filling this gap.   The classes that are judge on the riders skill refinement are awarded a second round of ribbons where everyone gets on.   Not just the top 8 riders out f 20+.   These second ribbons are coded in 3 colors, similar to getting the grade on the test.   A red ribbon means you met the basic requirements asked for,   a white means you did not, blue is those that exceeded or were exceptional.   That being said the kids can get all white and someone will still be in first pace.    I have yet to see that happen, but it is possible.     And a third ribbon at play is the “high point”.  Each of the 1-8 placing’s is awarded a certain number of points, with 1st place being more and 8th being less.    At the end of the day the totals are tallied in each category of rider ( divided by age, and riding level)  And The rider with the most points gets an award that is much larger than the rest.

To watch these kids you might think it silly that they work so hard for a piece of colored ribbon.    But unlike your math grade, the ribbon will be paraded for all to see, and is awarded in font of  family, friends, and  all.     It has a different sense of glory.   Imagine what would happen if you were watching your child take every math test and be awarded a grade that everyone would see.    A small percentage would bask in glory,  some would accept an average title,   some would drop out of school.

Part of my goal is to create perseverance in the face of defeat, and show them the path to success is not  “shiny object”   you can buy.   I can put a child on the most highly trained horse, they can go out and win all the ribbons,  but that does not make them riders.   Only mastery of the subject will bring true success.    And the feeling it leaves you with is beyond anything that a ribbon can bring.   This is such a hard life lesson.   And I am so humbled and proud to watch the group of athletes I coached, show growth, and maturity, and sportsmanship, and leadership, and teamwork.    They help each other,  they cheer for each other,  they hold each other up through the tough moments,  and they shine…

So I want to take a moment to share and honor these young athletes, and amazing humans.

Ciera,  you are a leader, a role model,  dedicated and strong and beautiful,  not to mention High Point, and Reserve High Point queen.    Your constant drive to know more, to know why, to challenge your self,  and to share your talent and knowledge with our younger  herd members who look at you with stars in their eyes.  So well deserved.

Nicole,   your quiet determination is unmatched.   The loyalty and dedication to perfecting your craft with compassion and respect for the horses.    I honor and respect you took a complicated path (Sammy)  and have created a beautiful combination of horse and rider that brings compliments from all who are lucky enough to see you and your beautiful horse “dance”.     Truly a beautiful thing to watch.

Kaitlin,  A Bold and bright star that has risen this year.    The tears and frustration are just growing, because they build character.    And boy have you grown this year.   You have what I call momentum….on ward and upward,  the world is your oyster.   Yet kind and sincere,  an uncommon combination.

Jennifer,   your commitment to seeing and knowing the how and why,  and implementing it when you understand is such a joy to watch.    I have seen you change the life of a pony, and now she understands as you do.    Your sportsmanship, and supporting your friends and competitors, your work ethic, and always done with a smile,  are a  model to so many and don’t know it yet.    You have such a bright future.

Sam,  You bring the attitude of confidence and happiness to all  you touch.   What a gift!   Tenacious and determined,  you have the talent and drive.  And will fly…Of that I have no doubt.    Thank you for sharing your wonderful nature with me and the others, we all learn and pull from your strength.

Alex,   My brave child.   Everyone you touch loves you.    Watching you grow and thrive is such a pleasure.   She who can literally get backed  into a corner and come out a winner.  She who does not have a mean bone and is a perfect example of pure joy.    Who makes me smile every day.   ….And now the recipient of a ribbon almost as big as she.

Ava,  I feed you a crumb and you bake bread!  Amazing.

Our new members

Phoebe and Emily,  welcome to the family.    It has been so great to have sweet new faces in the mix.   Our first venture together,  and the first of so many great memories you are making.


A different kind of music…

Listening is an interesting concept when you are referring to a silent language.   My horse speaks to me without words in a language that flows like a dance of energy and elegance.   The delicate and subtle voices are sensitive to my breathing, my every internal shift of muscle holding, moving and releasing.    My work is based on teaching people to listen.  Which is not a simple thing in todays’ world.   Life is so busy and fast, there are so many things pulling at us from all directions, it is so difficult to really be still and listen.   The language of the horse is so subtle and refined that if we do not let go of the rest of life’s demands and stresses our senses will miss the conversation completely.

I am watching a student, going round and round, repeating the same aid over and over, with no response from the horse.    It brought me to a conversation I had been having the night before.   Between myself and a friend.   I became acutely aware at one point that a question had been presented and I was staring into questioning eyes, with no Idea what had been said.  I was not present in the conversation.  My mind had wondered to faraway places, and although I nodded and without thought, gave silent signs of being in the conversation, I was absolutely not.    Where does that leave this rider and horse…Where does the listening start…Who is responsible for the lack of connection or communication?   Especially when the two do not speak the same language by nature.  Or at least it may seem that way.

Have you been there at the other end of this conversation?   Asking the question and suddenly realizing the person you were speaking to did not hear you?   How does that leave you?  What does this mean?  Does it mean they don’t care about you?  Does it mean you are not important?  Should it mean anything?   Will you respond to this person differently in the future?   How often do you do that to your horse?   How often does your horse do that to you?  Ultimately who is responsible for the quality of your horses listening skills?

YOU are…  If you are checked out how can they trust you?  If you can let go of the rest of the world for the short time you are with your horse and be 100% in the conversation, it will change your world.  If it changes your relationship with your horse, imagine what it could do for the rest of your interactions in life.

Is it possible that we humans do know this language without words?   Is it possible that we use the same language every day without cognitive awareness?  Did the person I was speaking to last evening know my mind was a million miles away?   When you are in a conversation with someone who is not actually listening can you feel the difference?  I believe you do.   People may not know exactly what it is that leaves them feeling less or more connected, when having conversations, but they sense when that something is missing.   So does your horse.

Riding is a conversation not a lecture.   A conversation is like a dance, turning and flowing, with inflections and emotions interwoven in the words or movements.  Ballet or ballroom dancing can leave you with a feeling or emotion without being attached to human language.   It is movement, energy and emotion, in a constant ebb and flow that conveys so much more than mere words can ever come close to.    Conversations take two parties that take turns listening and communicating in a way that, we hope, will end in mutual understanding and synergy.  A lecture requires one communicator and at least one listener.   Or one that is pretending to listen…

Are you lecturing to your horse?   Do they have a voice, or are they allowed to have an opinion? Can the path to the desired result be discussed in a quiet calm manner?    What is your horse telling you?    Listening requires a form of mental stillness that does not come with opinions or expectations.   If you listen without expectation you may hear something different from you thought your conversation was about.    That means not trying to make your horse wrong.  Horses are honest by nature, there is no wrong, there just is action and reaction.   They do not think in complex or vindictive patterns, they do not want to get you, or get even for something.    They do what is easier, or simpler, and that’s it.   They have not goals or aspirations other than enjoying each moment to the best of their ability.   They live in the now.   They forgive instantly, even if they don’t forget.


Exercise:  you ask for A your horse gives you B.   Pay attention to how you asked, Pay attention to where you are in your body (tense, tired, stressed from your life)   Let it go,  stop ad breath for a minute, totally relax.   Now try you request again in a softer aid, see how soft and small you can be.  Remember your horse can feel a fly on one strand of hair.  If I yelled in your ear every time I spoke how long would you be willing to listen?   Consider always starting with a whisper (and I am speaking of the silent language of horse-your aids)  but remember that if you have been yelling in their ears for a long time it may take a bit of time for them to reset their expectations.   They may be tuning you out, like background noise.    They just need to remember that there is a softer way to listen.