Sunday, December 5, 2010

What does this have to do with horses?

I watched a video this morning of a lecture from a professor, Randy Pausch, that was the best advice I have ever heard.  You can see it yourself at:
Dying 47-year-old professor gives exuberant 'Last Lecture'. [VIDEO]

It moved me to send to my 20 year old new to college grandson with the stipulation he watch it.  I also sent the link to a good friend who loves to live and learn, and to another good friend who has a young daughter that will benefit from the advice.

It is about how to fulfil one's childhood dreams.  We all have them....or should.  Randy said some things that I have already discovered in my life about fulfilling one's dreams.  My dreams were not earth shattering, or will make mankind or the earth a better place; but then...maybe just passing on what I have learned is enough.

My parents and my mentors did their job well.  They cared about me; and I, in turn, care about you.   Here are a few of the quotes that came out of Randy's lecture that had particular impact.

"Brick walls are there for a reason: they let us prove how badly we want things."

"The best gift an educator can give is to be self-reflective."

"It is pretty easy to appear smart if you are parroting smart people."

"It is about leading your life...if you lead your life the right way...the Karma will take care of itself."

"When you are pissed off and angry with people, you just haven't given them enough time to surprise and impress you."

"When it comes to men: ignore everything they say and only pay attention to what they do."

"Brick walls let us show our dedication.  They are there to separate us from those who really don't want to achieve their childhood dreams." 

So...what has this got to do with horses?  It is a "head-fake".....see the video for an explanation

Friday, October 29, 2010

Never judge a book by its cover...

 I am a bit proud of myself for having a moment of "openness" and allowing a different protocol to take place regarding my horse's dental care.  In past, I have been a strong proponent of using only veterinarians with specialty in equine dentistry to take care of my horses.  I was suspect of "lay" folk having enough training, experience and knowledge of the horse to do an adequate evaluation and work.  

Yesterday, I was introduced to a man whose passion is teeth.  He came recommended by my farrier, whom I trust,  so I decided to have the man come visit and work on my horses since I missed my annual spring dental work this year.  

So here comes this big teddy bear of a cowboy from Idaho who travels the western states working on any kind of large animal but mostly horses.  Quiet and unassuming, looking you square in the eye, and as relaxed as if he had all the time in the world to be right where he was.  

Here is what impressed me...his horsemanship.  Now granted, my horses are well-trained thanks to Tom Simmons...but; one can still distinguish good horsemanship by how the horse responds to the handler.  I stood back and watched how he caught, introduced himself to the horse, put on the full mouth speculum, and began an investigation of the mouth with all the cooperation of the horse one would want.  I was told by my farrier that this happens with all the horses he works.  Then, I realized that my original thinking may have been flawed because my veterinarian equine dentists insist the horse be given sedation.  That is well and fine in some cases but I see now, it is not necessary in every case.  The reason for sedation is for the horse to endure a procedure without a reaction that could cause injury to the vet or technician in the process.  Ok...we all want to be safe but it got me to thinking about veterinarians in general.  All of the vets I have used have been excellent in helping me with problems, but could I classify them horsemen or horsewomen?  No...I don't think they have many courses in school about horse handling...without restraint or the use of drugs.  The vets I have known are great scientists, diagnosticians, and they practice with medications.  

Do they know the horse like the horse is in nature?  Not many.  I watched this cowboy with his passion for teeth take each horse and perform a thorough exam with full cooperation and trust from the horse.  

Since my horses have had annual work for most of their lives, there was nothing for the cowboy to do except give me a good report that they are fine to eat their way through winter.  Good!  I asked to be put on the list for spring.  

Now I know that yesterday's exam did not require any work, but I don't doubt that if anything were needed, it could be achieved without sedation.  I was reminded of a story Tom Simmons told me of being at a kurring where approved horses were branded.  He was handling a Dutch Harness Horse; who, when it came time for branding with a hot iron, stood perfectly still and allowed the obviously painful procedure simply by having trust in the handler.  So I deduce that a horse, if conveyed by a leader that "all is well" will endure pain or discomfort simply on trust. 

I call this equine dentist a "cowboy" because that's what he looks like.  He is so much more.  The horses see him as a leader and a friend; and, go along with him and he with them. easy yet so hard for most of us.  

So I guess the moral of my story is not to judge a person by how he may look.  Anyone can dress the part and even talk the part.  But the horse isn't fooled and doesn't lie.  The horse knows who to follow willingly. 


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

World Equestrian Games online

I really want to thank USEF and: 
 for allowing anyone and everyone in the USA to watch all of the driving (and other disciplines) free online. 
The expert, live commentary was by the driving FEI  judge from Belgium, Mark Wentein who kept a continual dialog on the finer points of dressage, strategy in marathon, and skill in the cones.  Each of the dressage test's 20 movements explained, camera close-ups of rein handling, facial expressions, and hearing drivers speak to their horses.....simply exhilarating!  Can't get that anywhere but online.  I didn't feel bad about not attending for the better spot listening and watching. 

The American team was at their peak and a thrill to watch.  I spent over 4 hours watching each and every competitor go through each of the eight wonderful hazards with Mark's commentary.  At the end, I was exhausted yet exhilarated, as if I had just completed the course myself!  Richard Nicoll, Susan Gilliland, and the countless others who worked so hard to make this happen in Kentucky should be proud of a job well done.  

Fred and I were able to see the record breaking score in Dressage put in by Australia's Boyd Exell.  A lovely thing of beauty and unity.  The Flying Dutchman, Ijsbrand Chardon and his team were smooth and fluid in the marathon to win that phase.  Chester Weber redeemed himself from his heartbreaking elimination at the last WEG, in the cones, to win this course clean and fast.  Overall, individually, the gold went to Boyd Exell, silver to Ijsbrand Chardon, and bronze to Tucker Johnson, in his farewell to FEI competition by retiring at this event.   I felt emotion when at the end of the last hazard, he stood, looked back and waved to all farewell.  No doubt he will continue in Coaching.  
What I watched from the top 10 drivers was a lesson in what is best about any kind of relationship with a horse.  It was the unity, communication and willingness that can take place between human and animal when all has been done to make it "all about the horse."  If the horse is not numero uno, one cannot have the relationship exhibited.  
One can pick apart any endeavor with a horse and find cruelty.  I feel one has to know what is possible with a horse; and, with the level of horsemanship at WEG, it may inspire folks to seek the way of the horse.  The hope is we get this at home with our own animals in our own chosen way.  
I learned a lot in my horse journey and saw much that was not good...but those things have a way of being short-lived and fall away leaving the best to continue onwards.  Yes, horses suffer and so do people.  A fact of life.  I respect anyone's work to bring to light pain and suffering so it can be thought about and hopefully corrected.  One person can only control what they themselves do.
Nancy, whose husband says: "There is no horsemanship if all you are concerned about is winning"- Fred Rojo

Saturday, June 19, 2010

learning Horsemanship

Another Tom Simmons clinic is on the horizon for me to put together at Noble Beasts Ranch in Grass Valley.  You won't find a fancy website full of illusion, and you won't get any tools for illusion at one of Tom's clinics either.  All you can get is the truth as a horseman of almost 60 years can give from his lifetime experience of horses.  What a deal!  Here is a person who does not have the illusion of being anything more than someone who loves working with a horse's mind to facilitate our goals with our horses. 

Personally, I have taken clinic from many big names in my competitive sport, so I have a fair idea of what is being presented out there; and, I have met a few good horsemen and women.  What is lacking though, for the beginner as well as the more advanced participant, is a real understanding of what makes a horse tick and how to get on the horse's side of how things should be asked for and given.  Technique and formula is not where it is at.  It is only when one can focus on the horse first, that amazing things can happen.  Then, you can begin the other stuff.  Nothing comes before it is time.

So, here I sit, with a different attitude than the beginning of my journey.  I give the opportunity to listen and learn from Tom, but know now that the individuals who come to these clinics are at different stages of learning and will receive only what they are capable of retaining at this particular time.  The mind will take it in and put it in the subconscious, and it may or may not come out again until something in their work with their horse jogs the memory to bring it out to try and use.  We may not ever remember who gave us the thought, and may even take it as our own.....but does that really matter who from, or how it came? 

To all the great horsemen and women who have affected better horse communication through their passion....Thanks  

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Tom Simmons clinic review

The Tom Simmons clinic at Woodland Stallion Station this past weekend was a big success. I am still digesting what I saw and heard, but I want to tell you that it was a wonderful clinic and well attended.

Tom worked with 10 different horses and ponies in various stages of training. One of the 10 was a three year old Morgan gelding owned by Ann Taylor who had no training except for halter and lead. Tom gave an hour long round pen session that was a great illustration of how easy a horse can learn the basics. These are the same basics that one needs at the high levels of any horse discipline. Tom's work with Rampart involved "herding up", gaining leadership and respect from the horse using a lunge line with a chain to prepare him for what would come next. Auditors were able to watch the horse being prepared to willingly accept wearing a bridle with a simple snaffle bit, a surcingle complete with crupper, side rein use to teach the horse to follow his head to the left and right. Tom then progressed to long lining and in hardly any time, Rampart showed the fundamentals of traveling on the correct bend and opening up his circle while on that bend. Tom taught Rampart to discern the difference between a halt and backing. This horse has a wonderful disposition and took to each step with no resistance and an openness to learn what was expected. Tom showed us that it is much easier to teach a horse that has had no incorrect handling than to have to undo previous bad habits. If anyone is looking for a nice minded Morgan gelding, with good body, to make their next driving horse, Rampart is for sale.

There were many illustrations throughout the weekend of where issues or advanced problems can be resolved simply by returning to working on the basics. This results in the resolution of problems such as counter bending, anxiety, and restriction of the horse's free movement. For the human, Tom worked in simplifying rein handling, creating expectation and intention. He showed how to drive your horse at home to train and refine communication working towards finish.

Tom stressed that horses do not want a "buddy" in our handling of them, they want a leader who will direct them and give the horse a sense of security and confidence.

Thanks to Ann Taylor for the wonderful facility that was perfect for winter even though the weekend was rain free. A few drivers went out on the roads to drive and practice what they learned. Shelley Chavoor was a great organizer and we had great food for lunches and dinner. It was so great to see old friends, hear stories from the past and meet new folk interested in driving. Tom had a wonderful time and we look forward to bringing him back to Woodland as well as Grass Valley to learn more from his over 50 years of horse knowledge. One last thing... Tom talked of wanting to write a book about training a horse "the old man's way". His thoughts are that age and experience makes for simplicity. He has become efficient and does what counts and is easy for the horse and himself. I hope he writes the book so we can have a view of his experience to help our own.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

"Working from the bottom up vs. from the top down"

My friend and trainer says we are an "instant" generation. We expect fast results, love to shortcut long process in our quest to gain more time...for what? We talk fast, get our news in sound bites to pass on to others without involving the thought process necessary to test the truth. Cut to the chase! That's our motto! I am guilty as the next guy, but am learning that with horses, one has to slow down and think.

I was impressed, while doing some research on Albert Einstein, about something he said. He humbly said that he wasn't that much smarter about solving problems, he just spent more time thinking about them. It is a lengthy process to train a horse and it really never ends as we continue to improve or deteriorate our relationship with them every time we have any contact with them. It is the little things that matter to a horse. It is not how good we are to them ( in human terms ), but rather how good we are with them, by understanding what they need and providing their need for leadership, security and peace of mind.

This is why I maintain a view from the horse's perspective rather than from what is expected, by humans in the upper levels of playing a sport that involves horses. One does have to know all the rules and follow them to play the best game, but one should never forget where the horse is coming from in this quest to be the best in sport.