Friday, September 12, 2014


Yet another Horse Discussion! 

Yes, we repeat the horse theme quite often, don’t we?  Quite honestly, I learn as much about people by observing horses as I learn about working with horses.

Last weekend we did a horse training clinic at our house.  There were four of us attending, two neighbors, my partner and me.  Our trainer follows a method of training developed by Clinton Anderson who is the current rock star of horse training.  It involves a lot of training at ground level and while not unique, it is my current favorite method.  Horses are generally safer to ride and more compliant after doing lots of groundwork.

All four of us have made unscheduled dismounts.  For the uninitiated, that means we’ve been bucked off or fallen off our horses at one point or another.  One neighbor was bounced off her horse this summer while we were riding together.  Her fall resulted in seven cracked or broken ribs, a punctured lung and a torn rotator cuff.  The other has been trying to get his horse to canter and has been summarily dismissed several times.  His horse has quit taking him seriously.  Both neighbors were afraid.  The one with the broken ribs has been afraid of actually riding her horse.  The other was understandably nervous about cantering.

We worked hard through the morning on Saturday, doing a lot of groundwork, getting corrected by our trainer over methods and techniques and generally preparing the horses for the main event.  By midday, all of our horses were calm enough to be ridden.  After lunch, we saddled them all up and one by one we mounted. 

Our Broken Rib neighbor was last.  She took her time getting her horse to move to a mounting block, messed with his hair and saddle for quite some time and then, took a deep breath and climbed onto him.  It was an anticlimax.  Her horse dropped his head and stood quietly while she went through her riding checks.  Then she moved off and went around the arena several times before it occurred to her that she really ought to get a picture or two for posterity.  It finally occurred to her that this was almost as exciting as her first ride!

The cantering was equally as exciting.  All four of us rode the outside track in the arena for awhile and then grouped ourselves at the center.  The cantering lad started out by trotting his horse for a few minutes.  As he rode, our trainer suggested that he move his horse to a canter ‘when he felt comfortable’.  Not long after, he was making circuit after circuit without a single buck, hop or side step.

The thing about learning is that it is rarely exciting.  Oh, our Broken Rib friend learned a really painful lesson about warming up her horse and actually working with him from the ground, which is why she attended the clinic.  That sort of lesson is not terribly desirable.  The better types are ones that aren’t accompanied by pain, danger, near death or broken bones.  The best lessons don’t even come with fanfare, they just get absorbed right into our lives without so much as a bruise.  That was the case last weekend.

Fear.  It locates us and paralyzes us.  We spend sleepless nights wondering what monster is lurking under the mattress, inside the closet or outside the window.  We start to believe that our horse hates us, that the world is against us or that the unfamiliar crowd at a party is all watching just us.  Fear. 

We learn, if we survive, that facing our fear is not necessarily a scary thing in and of itself.  Most of the time, nearly all of the time, we have made the fearsome thing so large in our own minds that it looks insurmountable.  Once we finally think our way through it, do a little bit of prep work and actually start to overcome the object, it becomes a non-event.  As often as television tries to make us believe that there should be a full orchestra and victory music at the successful conclusion, we discover that it really wasn’t worth being afraid in the first place. 

I am going to ride Sam some more this weekend.  He has launched me a couple of times now.  The last time really hurt.  I really hope I can get up the nerve to canter again.  The thought is frightening.  Oh wait, it’s a matter of preparing my horse.  Got it.  Sigh of relief in progress.  Sorry for the scare there. 
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