Walk in Your Horse’s Shoes

I was in a drugstore the other day and a man asked me “Excuse me, I’m looking for a stick. Do you know where I can find one?”  Hundreds of different types of sticks ran through my head all at once. It was like spinning a card rolodex very quickly until it stopped on its own. I must have still looked very confused. He said “My wife said to get a stick. You know, the thing she uses to clean under her nails? I don’t know what that is.” Ohhhhhh….. yes, then I understood.

I responded with “you’re looking  for a 1/8” wood dowel about 4 or 5 inches long cut at a 45 degree angle at one end and sharpened to a dull point on the other.”  And he says “Oh, why didn’t she say that?” A few minutes later he passed me, held up his sticks and smiled broadly. Victory.

Good communication really just has a lot to do with understanding who you are talking to. This takes time on our parts to see through others eyes and their perception of the world around them. When a person assumes the world is only the way they see it, misunderstandings, negative feelings, and mistakes are the result.

I hear about this type of perception over and over with horses. “My horse is just naughty and doesn’t want to work.” “He bucked me off just because he doesn’t like me.” “I give my horse the best treats, so why is he so rude?” “She is sulking in the back of the stall, did I upset her?” Understanding perception is a large part of getting along with horses. Their response to their perception is called equine behavior. Behavior is addressed over and over when there is a problem. But treating them with respect to their horsie instincts daily alleviates bad behavior many times long before it can start.

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Over the years I’ve learned about horse’s perception and instincts by having great teachers, reading lots of magazines and books and participating in clinics. But none of that replaces the value of spending hours and hours of time observing and interacting with my horse.  The time I spent with my horses in every activity I could, as long as I could, was paramount to the understanding I have today. Knowing how their mind processes information is the key to understanding their behavior. As a result, communication with your horse can become much softer, lighter and easier. Go spend time with your horse! And on a rainy day, pick up a book on horse behavior and snuggle into the couch. Old books are awesome! They tend to come from those who used horses in their practical life.

By educating ourselves about the horse’s instincts and the way they perceive and respond to the world around them, we can be better communicators, caregivers and leaders to our equine friends.

Links of interest:

http://www.thehorse.com/

http://www.eclectic-horseman.com/

http://www.meredithmanor.edu/features/articles/drm/reading_horses.asp

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Crazy Barn Lady

I went on family vacation to sunny and dry Petaluma, California for Memorial weekend. It was fantabulous! It was a good change from the cloudy, rainy Washington weather.  And no, I did not focus on horses, ride any horses, go to any horse events, read any horse related material or even think about how my horses were or what my clients were doing. The vacation was just long enough to be away from my equine addiction to help me remember what I love and what I don’t love about it. It also helped to clear my perspective and improve my ability to manage my time and abilities.

Imagine me at a Horse Addicts meeting: Hello, my name is Kim (many voices: Hello Kim). I am a horse addict (cheers from the crowd). I am 5 days sober…… (sad mumbles) I miss my horses but I do not miss the pressures that come with a horse business. I am also a pleaser, want to do everything NOW, and am under the impression there are 32 hours in a day (head shakes). I must work on keeping myself from drowning in the business side of the equation. I accept that my horse addiction is for life and therefore the focus is to keep it enjoyable (standing ovation). Phew…. glad that’s off my plate.

I thought I was handling everything just great before I left for California, but I must have looked like a crazy mess. You know, you’ve all seen her, the crazy barn lady with the flyaway hair with the just-woke-up look, the eyes focused only straight ahead, mumbling horse words randomly to herself, makeup sort of applied if at all, unmatched clothing but an attempt to look barn appropriate. And if you talk to her, she either ignores you or turns suddenly, loudly and abruptly saying “WHAT?” Of course, your first thought is “Oh no, what did I do – now she is focused on me!” And then you forget what the heck you were going to say in the first place. Yep, I’m pretty sure I was her.

leaf blower attack

Being away for a few days helped me to recharge and to reprioritize. Did you know the corners of lips are supposed to curl up (not down) when smiling? Who knew?  I love my work. I love the community around it. I love the horses. That’s a lot of love to spread around. I’m not going to start handing out tie-dye flowers, even though that would be fun. I will, however, share my lesson of the week:

Send all the crazy barn ladies to California.

Wait, maybe that isn’t exactly the lesson I meant. Life does not have to be overwhelming. We have the choice. Take a break every now and then, step back and remember the great inspirations that led you to where you are currently. It happens to inspire more and has the awesome effect of curling up the corners of your mouth.

Side note: RIP Maya Angelou, April 4, 1928 – May 28th, 2014

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”

It Takes Superpowers to Play

I am already stuck with what to write and I haven’t even started yet. I call myself a recovering perfectionist but I think “closet perfectionist” is closer to the truth. I can write a manifesto on several post-it notes but a blank piece of writing paper sends me into a tense display of wide eyed short breath memories of English teachers repeating when my next writing assignment will be due. No really. That is the actual images I put myself through. Some small part of me clearly feels that I am going to mess up, fail, gain disapproval from those I respect, look like a fool, say the wrong thing, hurt someone’s feelings and such.

Funny thing, now that I stated my fears, they just seem silly! Isn’t that the way life works. What we produce in our minds tends to be much worse than what actually happens.  We have superpowers locked in our imagination. Used for bad, negative self-fulfilling prophecies are created. Used for good, and we can conquer the world! Bwahahahahahaha!!!! I see this physically reflected from horses weekly.

I have the awesome perspective of watching people ride for a living. I get to see the horse choose to respond or react to a person’s direction (or lack of direction). When a rider becomes focused on staying between the lines, they risk the danger of disconnecting from the horse. This is why we need to do our homework and practice with a healthy dose of play involved. Many times I will use play as an ending to a focused training ride. Along with my horse, I will let off the pressure, relax myself, breathe deeply and go outside or chase a big ball in the arena. So many of the horses I have ridden are willing to play with me without much provocation. It is in their nature and they love a human who can play with them as well.

Play does not mean let them walk all over you, stand in their “kick-zone”, trot or canter willy-nilly or laugh at their mean faces thrown your way. Stay realistic people. It is still a really big animal and a healthy dose of respect is required by both partners. Be safe but be willing to ride with the simple goal of seeing how long you can smile, without a pattern or set of rigid rules. And try new things that will expand the horizons for both of you. Use your super-powers for good and imagine what the two of you can do just for the heck of it.

Kim

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