Sunday, October 19, 2014


On the way to the barn
Since I can't ride for a little while yet since Abbey got her shoes off, here is a little philosophy for Sunday.

I usually roll my eyes at the signs that local businesses put up with encouraging phrases, or odd phrases... but this one was pretty funny. I don't even know what the business is, a machine shop or mechanics or something? But, the sign had a definition on it that made me chuckle.

Multitasking: Fucking everything up all at once.

Okay, maybe it wasn't the explicit version on the sign, but I like the F word.

It made me laugh, but also think. Everyone is so busy trying to cram as much in every day as possible, and multitasking is an annoying buzzword that people seem to think has a positive connotation. Anyone can sit in a pile of clutter and spin in circles with all the demands constantly emailed, texted, and dropped on a desk, but it takes someone with fortitude to say, "No, not right now," and just focus on one thing at a time. I struggle with this severely.

I think riding is helping me learn to manage my time a little better, and to start putting things in phases. You don't get better by working on everything all at once in one day. It takes time, persistence, and the ability to put the building blocks together piece by piece. It's harder than it sounds to only fuck one thing up at a time.

When training on Horsemanship patterns and Trail patterns, you rarely if ever practice a pattern all the way through at actual speed before you show it. We want the horses to think, but more so to wait and listen for what we ask. That means that everything gets dismantled into individual movements. Turns on the haunches, turns on the forehand, strait lines, transitions, circles, stopping, and backing all get broken down to the fundamentals, kind of like the letters in the alphabet. That way the horse knows all the letters, but not the whole word and therefore cant read ahead and rush through the pattern and block out the rider.

My trainer will draw a pattern, and let a rider ride it once. Then she gives feedback on what was good and what could be done better. Then they ride the pattern again, but if the horse isn't listening to cues, or if the rider isn't cueing correctly, she tells them to work that particular movement, maybe a lope depart or a lead change. The most we ever ride a pattern is about three times. Otherwise the horse learns the pattern and anticipates what's coming, rather than waiting for the rider to cue. Sometimes the pattern is abandoned all together to work on something else, like counter bending to soften them in a stiff ribcage, or to work on small circles with forward movement to ask them relax through the poll and jaw to soften to the inside so the lope departs are softer, rounder, and driven from behind. Sometimes it has to do with physical resistance, but more often it is mental resistance that has to be broken down and overcome.

Shoulder in, haunches in, counter flexing, counter cantering, and lateral work have all become my friends in the quest for better lope departs. Abbey loves to throw her neck around on the left lead especially, and hates having to step through with her right hind leg to support and balance herself. We have a long way to go, but at least I know the steps I need to take to get there.

Its easy to get stuck in a rut and want to hammer it home, but to keep asking for the same thing and getting the same or worse results is counterproductive. I think that is my favorite thing that I learn from my trainer. Over the past (almost) two years, I have begun to understand that riding is a conversation, and I am finally starting to be fluent in the language. I can feel where Abbey is stuck, or off balance, or resisting, and then I can talk to her with my seat, legs, and hands to help her get unstuck. I used to understand riding as more of a learn the movements and then execute them sort of thing, because that is how most physical activities work, running, rowing, biking, and as a kid taking lessons that is sort of how you learn it when you are on a schoolmaster who knows the ropes.

As an adult rider with a green horse, I have had to learn that while there is still a place for learning the movements and executing them, it is more of dancing with a partner or talking with a friend rather than crossing some finish line or checking boxes on a list of accomplishments. It's creative problem solving with collaboration.

As for life in general, sometimes it feels like all I am doing is fucking it up all at once, but but I sure love for those moments of balance that happen from time to time.

Definitely Fall


  1. I suffer from checklist syndrome, and I suffer from doing too many things at once. Learning to say no, or prioritizing is so important and i feel like its a lesson I learn over and over and over again.

    1. I feel the same way - wonder if I will ever get to stop history repeating itself?

  2. this is great - and such a fabulous perspective! it's so easy to get lost in our own endless priorities and goals and try to do everything all at the same time... but that's just not a great recipe for horses. in any case - excellent food for thought, and kinda puts my take on 'multitasking' to shame lol... maybe i should re-title that post 'multi-procrastination' ;)

    1. I love it! multi-procrastination - consider it coined as an official phrase! I am definitely better at that, too! Next step - meme generation :)