Deep Thoughts; AKA Tiny's silly journal
I decided to start a "member journal". seems like everyone's got one. I couldn't think what to title it, so jokingly, I decided to use the title: "Deep thoughts". I am not sure if any of you remember the very old SNL skit with Al Franken (now a Senator, btw) who was this nerdy little guy named Stuart, who would look in the mirror and say all these self affirmations, that were "deep thoughts".
Well, I am kind of making fun of myself for being too much in my own head at times, busy with those "deep thoughts".
And nothing brings out deep thoughts like being around and working with horses.
But before today's deep thought, my personal disclosure:
I am not a trainer of horses or humans.
I have never bred a horse, raised a foal, broke a green horse or really even trained one, other than what passes for training but is really daily handling
I almost never show. Currently do not take lessons.
I am so far from a hotshot rider it isn't funny.
I cannot rider through any kind of serious bucking.
Can't jump worth beans.
Never roped a cow.
Never done a sliding stop
heck, never even owned a horse!
So, I have absolutely NO ground to really offer an advice on how to ride or handle horses. I only have my own limited experience and those crazy deep thoughts that keep coming up in my head. You might get some fun out of them.
Ok, So today's deep thought:
Don't MAKE your horse do something. CONVINCE him to do it.
Huh? What's the big deal difference between those two words? Well, semantics DO matter. If you say in your head, "I'm going to MAKE my horse go up this trail", you may be feeling as if you are driving a car or a wheelbarrow. You MAKE a wheelbarrow go somewhere. However, YOU do all the work because to make it move, you have to MAKE it move, and when you stop making it move, it stops.
If you CONVINCE a horse to move, you cause him to decide to move. Once he's made that decision, you stop working and he takes over and does the work. you aren't holding the handles of the wheelbarrow, pushing it forward each step. you have got him thinking in alignment with you, "ok, i think the thing to do is go up this trail", and he commits and walks forward.
I offer his as a tidbit that might help someone who gets stuck in a rut of negative behavior with their horse. For example, the horse doesn't want to do something, they want it to do that, they have almost a tradition of fighting each other about it, the human getting annoyed and angry, the horse becoming tense and resistant and learning to really dislike going out with that human.
If we can stop in the middle of that loop of frustration and change the way we talk to ourselves in our brains (I am assuming that like me, you have a practiacally non-stop narrative in your head), we can possible change our whole approach. And if you've been doing the same old thing and getting the same old results, then only a change will get a change.
So, Say this to yourself when you want your horse to take a canter and he wont' "I am going to convince you to take that canter"
When he won't leave the barn, when he won't stop and stay stopped.
It's not that you'll necessarily change your actions, but if you keep focussed on your mission being to get the horse to think on doing what you want him to do, he likely carry it out better, and more on his own, and that's got to lighten things. So, it's a matter of perspective. Do you have to MAKE that darn , ornery stubborn critter do those things, or do you have to CONVINCE him to go do them himself.
This should turn into an interesting discussion. I tend to agree with the "convincing' idea although I think there are horses that can be forced into doing things, mine is not one of them. He will do just about anything as long as I approach it right. Sometimes we'll try something new and he'll really argue about it, if I back up... Give him a few moments to process it, and come back... He'll do it, willingly.... If I force him, we hit a brick wall and things end up with us both angry and disgruntled.... I like the slower agreeable approach better....
Well, convincing usually requires strategy. If I were to convince a human, I'd pick the strategy that works best for that person. Same wih the horse.
I just love watching the horse's ears and eyes to see if I actually have convinced them to change their mind about something. Sometimes, I think I really got through, others, well, it's a temporary convinceing, which really isn't a convinceing at all. My trainer can convince a horse to just LOVE being ridden by her. Now, that is cool!
ok, I got mixed up. Deep Thoughts was not the skit that Al Franken did.
IT's this one:
Hulu - Playlist: The 50 Best Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey
and this take off on it:
and this is the guy who did the "Daily Affirmations with Stuart Smalley"
I mixed the two up in my head. Too much yakking going on in there.
Back to those Deep Thoughts.
Ok. my silly thread, so I can post whatever I want, right?
this is a reminder to me to write about the
riding with the hand brake on
taking a snapshot.
Will explain later.
Ok, since this is my journal, i think I'd better write about those things I made a note to myself to write on, now, before I forget what those notes even mean.
Ya see, all these "deep thoughts" came from today's very easy ride on Z. we walked the most of it 'cause my back and knee are troubling me too much for a lot of posting or cantering.
Continuing on from what we'd been workin on from our last ride, I wanted to use every opportunity that arose, and create some myself, to test Z's obedience to stop, and stay stopped. I had had a bit of a battle with him earlier where I'd stop, drop the reins on his neck and he'd then just leak forward and start walking for home. I'd pick up the reins, stop him back him up to where he had been being sure that he rocked back on his haunches, then released the rein completely so that he can choose to make the same mistake, or choose to stand.
My goal is to have him stand long enough that he gives up his thought to move forward. You know how when a horse wants to go home, his body is revving for home, and so is his brain. So, yes, you stop him but he is almost leaning forward with so much intention in his brain to move forward as soon as he can. He may be stopped by he is oblivious to his rider and is focussed on that first step forward. I wait for a change in that mental focus. How do I know it's changed? Well, I look for him to look back at me, or to take a deep breath and exhale loosly, to rock back on his haunche, to look at the ferns for a yummy nibble, . I look for him to cock an ear back on me AND an eye, such that he is asking" NOw?".
BECAUSE, I want to be the one that says, "ok, go now".
So, I have to have him stopped before it is ME who says go, and not just him pausing in his forward motion, engine still revving but momentarily in nuetral til I let off the brake and he can surge forward.
If he never stopped, then he is just leaning into the brakes and wearing them out.
It's essential that he stop long enough, and with enough release of that thought, that when he goes forward, the forward motion be MY idea, not just him carrying out the thought that he never let go of..
AND essential to that is that the cue to going forward NOT be just a loosening of the rein. That's like driving your care along , stopping by the brake and then taking the brake off and expecting your car to surge forward on it's own. A car that did that would be in constant foward push, including whenever you had the brake on, so it would wear down the brake in no time.
If you let your horse go forward just by releaseing the rein (no signal from either seat or leg) then your horse will not recognize a dropped rein as meaning "stand here". He will think that a release in the rein means speed up. What it means is "you did the right thing". (I ask horse to stop. he stops, I drop rein. that's his reward)
So , by allowing horse to move forward only by dropping your rein, you are expecting him to be leaning against the rein, pushing forward, and held in check only when the rein is engaged. he is running against your brake all the time, and "wearing it out" , meaning , "making it less meaningful"
So, my thing to work on is that I will not allow Z to move off only by lowering/looseing the rein. He moves off when I ask with seat or leg, and only then. If I drop the rein, I expect him to do nothing.
Now, let's see how conisistant I can be about that one!
and here is "taking a snap shot"
Ok, so since I was mostly only able to walk I decided to try and focus on my seat as we walked down the forested trail. I would do this thing where I would just anywhere I thought of it, "take a snapshop" of my body. I would pretend to take a freeze frame image of my whole body at THAT moment (randomly selected) and see waht I could tell about my position.
Ok, my left seatbone is into the saddle harder than my right, i have a bit too much curl in my lower back, my left knee is out again to the side. I am doing that silly thing where I crook my head to the right to see Z's right eye, and I am slumping again.
Only a pro can keep extreme body awareness at every moment. but, I can be extremely aware for very short snapshots in time.
Try it. ride along and randomly surprise yourself and take a snapshot of your position and see what you feel .
So, today I took Z out with a friend on Mac and we did some urban riding. We went through some neighborhoods, riding in the street or on the sidewalk, then down through some condo developments with the guys pressure washing, past the elementary school with the kids out screaming and playing on the playground, past the costruction site where they had one of those giant concrete pouring thingys, crossed two four lane boulevards, past the golf course, over the 8 lane interstate freeway and down some trails to where they dead end on a busy road. We did not try to cross it and go into the park on the other side beacuse of time and because techinically speaking, horses aren't allowed in that park.
It was quite the ride, and the hroses did so incredibly well, all in all . It was very stressful to Z and he worried quite a bit and had a few spooks, but nothing bad happened. That's important to remember when you go through a lot of places where something bad COULD happen. it's important to say,
"Nothing bad happened". Like, at one point there was some kind of sewer opening where we could see and hear rushing water, but only when you get really close to it. passing it the first time, Z jumped forward in a panic . coming back he was upset trying to pass it. He wanted to get past , wanted to go home, but the water was there , and kind of pinching him against a trail marker and a high tension wire used to keep a telephone pole upright. He needed to face the scarey thing, but he also could not swing his butt over too far or he'd bump into that wire , and THAT could have been bad. So, I was kind of riding a fine line between allowing him to move forward, but not allowing him to run away from the scary thing. Making him turn toward the scary thing but not totally (so his butt would not hit the wire). It was a bit touch and go, but we got past it. and I walked him forawrd a bit, then encouraged him to canter up the hill so he could dispell the pent up energy from all the stress.
Coming back, when we hit the turn around point, Z wanted to just charge up the hill. I started at a trot, them with my body let him know it was ok to go up a gait and he was off! galloping up that hill and jumping over the small rain diversion boards they put in the trails. He doest just time his stride to stride right over them, he jumps them! So, I felt a bit challenged at times to be guaranteed safe in the saddle. (which is what you want when you get older; a guarantee)
anyway, when we got back to the place where it was crossing the freeway (on an overpass), the noise reverberating was intense. Z was THIS close to totally losing it! I have not ever been on him where I felt that he was going to loose it. I had to let him move forward, but not allow him to committ to bolting, and disengage him a bit, but not make his so frustrated that he though about bucking. It was this kind of balancing act. Riding a steam engine; got to let off just enough that it won't blow, but not start the train running .
Anyway, a more confident rider would have had fewer such incidents, but a less confident rider could have had a runaway horse. I am somewhere in the middle, balancing the release of that steam.
I've been out twice now on Z lately where I felt that he was becoming resistant to me and I was responding by becoming harsh in my hands. Basically, getting MAD at him. I think it's because I've felt threatened a couple of times when he decided to take a trot to a cnater and then to ignore my hands, and start to get hard. it's that feeling of him going away mentally that I find a bit scary.
He has been less in tune with me on the rides, more just wanting to hurry up and get it over with and go home. it's silly, in know, but I want him to want to be out, as much as I do.
I will get a lesson on Z in late March, and boy do I need it! I feel that my seat is all over the place, I am riding too much off my hands and struggling to keep my lower leg stable. It's partly from my back being painful sometimes, so I end up riding defensively with my lower back, which means stiff, which means it's hard for me to allow Z to move under me.
I wonder what it's like for him to carry me. I hope it's not something that he really hates. I know that when his owner rides, he gets to go for long canters and she can two point nicley and he likes that. Sorry Z.
I was helping my friend to learn how to do a good disengagement of the hind, followed by having the horse step the front on through. I just barely have a good grasp on how it should feel myself. But she liked how I described it and she said, "you should be a riding teacher".
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