Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Wall of "I Can't"

(Date of June 9, 2010) Have you ever been faced with a mental wall about your riding, that you can’t get over or under or around? Maybe it is fear. Maybe it is skill-related. Maybe it is horse-specific. But try as you may, you can’t get beyond it. Recently I had a similar experience, and it has a happy ending, so I wanted to share it with you.

I am not great at the canter. It is a hard gait for me, and Buckshot’s canter is a bit bumpy and at times too fast, almost explosive. I have contented myself with the thought that eventually, I would get better at it. And I was taking my time. We have great rides at various speeds of the walk and trot, and for our riding purposes, that was fine. I could afford to take my time developing my skills at the canter. There was no wall in front of me and I didn’t have any sense of urgency about it.

And then it all changed.

Our instructor brought in a regional professional reining trainer for occasional lessons. Buckshot and I participated in his lessons. In the first lesson with him, my mental wall of “I can’t really canter well” both materialized before me and dissolved all in the same lesson. The instructor is very kind and encouraging, has a great sense of humor and is very discerning about a rider’s skill and limitations. He challenged me, in the best sense of the word. He guided and gave tips for riding the canter. He instructed each of us differently and effectively. I felt on top of the world – that I could, really could, learn to canter better on Buckshot.

So I have practiced, and taken private lessons on the canter from my regular instructor. I have learned, little by little, to keep my butt in contact with the saddle, and keep soft, responsive hands, and use my leg aids, and steer, and circle, and sense a slowing so I can give more leg. Slowly I am learning to steer better. And ask for a particular lead. And lesson after lesson, with my instructor, and with the reining trainer, I have gotten better than I ever thought possible at the canter! I am thrilled with my progress! (Yes, I still have a long ways to go to look like the floaty-gentle-rocking-chair riding of others.) But I have progressed quite a ways for me. And I am so proud of myself and Buckshot.

Slowly I realized that I had indeed had a “mental wall” about the canter. I guess I doubted my skills and abilities to ever become noticeably better at it. During the clinics, I have seen that wall come crumbling down and my confidence grow. I’m not even sure why. I have had the attitude in each session that I would try my hardest, even if I looked ridiculous, to improve my skills. And at times I have felt discombobulated while actually doing the riding. But slowly, my skills have gotten better. How wonderful! I look forward to the reining lessons because they are making me a better rider in many ways. I don’t plan to ever compete in reining. But the benefits of better riding skills will help both me and my horse.

Do you have a “mental wall” preventing you from developing a skill, or handling a particular horse situation? I think that they are not uncommon, but I don’t think we talk about them much. If you have one, I hope you are inspired by my story, that we can get past them, and achieve thrilling results. Thanks for listening!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Another Attempt at a Photo

I am going to try again to post a paint-enhanced photo on the blog. This is a summertime photo of Buckshot - what a handsome face! Notice the tongue barely sticking out - what a character he is!

Designing a Blog is Hard Work!!

I have newfound respect and appreciation for all of the great blogs I have found and read. In working on setting up my first blog, I have learned a great deal, and most of all, I have learned that is it much harder to do than I ever thought! I will persevere and continue to improve my blog, and I appreciate your patience, dear reader, as I do so.

I have been learning how to use Paint software to improve my photos for the blog, so today I am going to attach a Paint-improved photo to this post. It is a shot of Buckshot from last winter, so his coat is a tad long. But when the cold days of winter roll by,I am glad he has a thick, warm coat. Although last winter I bought him a blanket for the first time, to help him through a mild case of colic or digestive upset. He was a real trouper with wearing a blanket, I think for the first time ever. He kept it as clean as a horse can! And buying a blanket was a learning experience as well, so many choices, options, prices, etc. Ah, the things we go through for our dear horses! (smile)

Thanks for listening, and for reading!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Horse at Rest

Tonight I went out to the barn straight from work to see Buckshot. It was hot and humid, a sunny evening with a lovely azure blue sky, dotted with a few fluffy, innocent clouds. After a few minutes of chatting with the barn owner and her husband, I gathered some brushes, carrots, and my water bottle and headed up to Buckshot’s pasture. His pasture mate, Lucky, was calmly eating from his hay pile. Buckshot was farther out, nibbling on the recently-cut grasses of his pasture. As I walked out to him, he surprisingly walked toward me. Greeting him and rubbing him, I chatted and asked how he was doing. I always talk to him. I think he can understand some words, the tone of voice, maybe intention, maybe emotion. In the quiet pasture, without other people around, and with Buckshot in his post-dinner relaxation mood, I sometimes think I can hear his thoughts, “Are we going to ride?” “Did you bring treats?” These are the two things I think he asks the most. So I said, no we won’t be riding tonight, and yes, I brought treats, they are by the gate.
I removed his fly mask and checked his eye. (I had put it on him a few days ago after one eye became a bit goopy, possibly from a piece of dust.) His eye looked good, but one line of tear ran down from it. I decided to put to fly mask back on him. Then I brushed and curry combed him for a bit, until he slowly walked away. After a few feet, he stopped and angled his strong neck around to look at me. I followed, and brushed him some more. This was a casual brushing, not a full-fledged grooming.

This was also horse-time, when I let him be a horse (that sounds strange, of course, he is a horse, it is not something I let him be!). What I mean is, it is a time to be with him during his time. A quiet time of talking, some brushing, finding itchy spots to scratch, and of course, because I can’t help it, a time of checking him over for any boo-boos or small things on him. Tonight I noticed a line of bumps along the base of his mane. What are these? I wondered, picking at them slightly. Another thing to research on the internet. But as his owner, I think about all these things and have all sorts of creams and ointments for various little things. Swat for the bug bites especially if they are on his sheath. Fly spray for the ubiquitous flies. Equi spot for the flies and ticks. Vaseline for this, MTG for that, hoof dressing for dry spells, Vetrolin for sunscreen since as an Appaloosa, he has a lot of white skin.

And yet, I love looking out for him and taking care of him with these small, ordinary things. Perhaps if I had children, I would know what this is. Maybe it is just one of the ways you show love for someone who is dependent on you for all their bumps and bruises. Anyway, it was a nice, peaceful time with my horse, enjoying a short time of his normal evening routine, sharing a light helping of love.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Welcome to my blog!

Welcome to my world of horses (my passion and interest), writing (my hobby), accounting (my job), and the resulting adventures and misadventures, from mundane to spectacular. I am starting this blog to share my thoughts about the top areas of interest to me: horses and writing.

On horses! I have been involved with horses – riding, owning and boarding – for over seven years. I have had my own horse for two years (not long in the horse world). I have a 20-something Appaloosa gelding named Buckshot (his photo is at the top of the blog, he is on the left, the horse on the right is his pasture-mate). He is my first horse! And he is a wonderful horse. I feel privileged that I am his person. We do pleasure and trail riding, in the arena and trails at the farm. We also do a variety of groundwork exercises and fun things. I read extensively about horses. And I follow a number of interesting, entertaining and touching horse blogs. I have also written a book about my journey with horses and my special horse. Getting it published is difficult to figure out and pursue, but pursue it I am. So I will share about this writing experience as well as about my horse, riding and training adventures.

On writing! Writing my book about my journey with horses has been a wonderful labor of love. I began writing about my experiences seven years ago. A year ago, I compiled it into chapters and typed it up. I have added chapters continuously, as the adventures continue to unfold. Also in the past year, I began doing more formal organization of the book as well as editing it. I have also begun learning about publishing a book. This has been quite an education. It has caused me to be interested in the publishing world and keeping up with issues. Today at Barnes & Noble – where I went during lunch to dream about some future placement of my book there – an older woman - much older than I am (tsk, tsk to self - she was in her sixties and I am in my fifties, not so old) told me about several things she liked about the Nook. I was amazed – this new fangled thingy has some great features that older readers will benefit from much more than younger readers! And even though I am an “I like paper books I can feel with my hands” type of reader, she even got me thinking about trying the Nook.

On books I bought recently.. I went window-shopping at a Barnes & Noble bookstore. I wanted to scout out the competition and learn more about memoir-biography-nonfiction books in the horse world. Instead I ended up buying two books! Here I am supporting my competition! And doing so willingly (I justified the $45 purchase partly as a) a cost of research on my book; and b) financially supporting another author.) Both sound like very good justifications! Ha! Of course, I also really, really want to read the books! They are, after all, about horses, and women. The books I bought are: Saddled by Susan Richards, and Why We Ride by Verna Dreisbach. I’ll let you know how I like them.

Again, welcome to my blog! Share your thoughts and adventures! I'll share as well! Since I am a new blogger, I apologize in advance for any mistakes and mishaps I may make. I will try to make this an informative, interesting and enjoyable blog to visit!