Thursday, September 19, 2013

Part Three - Enabling and its Pitfalls

You can read Part One and Part Two if you missed them by clicking on those links.

I think it is important to know your horses limitations and which battles to avoid with your horse. There are things that you may chose to avoid confronting with your horse, due to a variety of issues that may not come under the heading of enabling.
For example, Pippi can not be clipped. We tried for a year to desensitize her to clippers, and made some headway on her legs, but a bridle path or her face was out of the question. When she had some teeth work done, we decided to take advantage of her drugged state and try to clip her bridle path and muzzle. She walked two people out of her stall, and just about came unglued. It was at that point that I said "enough!" We can use scissors, and bikini shavers and I was no longer willing to fight this battle, potentially hurting her and us. (I could go into all the ways that we tried to work with her on this, suffice it so say we tried it all (daily) for over a year.)

What I mean when using the term "enabling," is when someone allows their horse to not handle routine things. Things that they should, and quite frankly has to in order to be a safe horse, handle, but their human shelter them from. Pippi not clipping does not affect anyone but her and I, and it puts no one in danger. (Clipping her does!)
When you take your horse to a show, or a clinic, trail ride, whatever, there are certain things that your horse should be able to handle. Routine things like another horse being lunged (with a lunge whip), trucks and trailers being moved around, horses coming out of those trailers, music, announcements, horses being worked in arenas or running in a field, people yelling and making noises, horses being hosed off, water buckets being filled and dumped, wheel barrows, etc etc. This is all routine horse show stuff. If you have a young horse, they will be nervous and perhaps a jumpy mess, but sheltering them does not help in the long run. Instead, it is important to stay calm, and let your horse get used to it.


If you go on a trail ride, your horse must cross water more than likely, so if you don't want to tackle that, don't go.

When it rains the arena will be sloppy, make your horse deal with it, or go home. Do not ask that the clinic/show/whatever be moved inside because your horse doesn't like to get dirty. (Pippi is a Princess, so this would be a battle for me)

They will announce you at a show, deal with it! Do not ask the show not to announce you and your horse because it bothers the horse, you are not the Queen of the Universe, and your horse will never get over it unless you deal. Stand close to speakers leading up to your ride, and your horse will get the drift. Or not, either way, you decided to go to a show and they announce stuff there.

Do not ask other riders to stop clipping their horse in their stall next to yours because your horse (Pippi) is afraid of the sound. Instead, ask that they stop for just a moment so that you can remove your horse. Go for a walk perhaps? It is your horse that has a problem, so your horse has to go, not theirs.

If your horse kicks out at other horses when they come close, put a BIG red ribbon on its tail. Sure, people should always keep their distance, but since your horse is the "aggressor", how about you give a reminder to the other riders? It doesn't mean that your horse is mean, it means you are a considerate and responsible equestrian. I am considering one even though Pippi has not kicked out (she pins her ears a bit), just because I think people ride too close and I would hate to get anyone hurt.

Do not expect horses stalled near you not to be fed whenever. Sure, your horse may have a conniption because their neighbor is eating. Throw yours some hay and teach your horse to deal.

Other people will lunge their horse with a whip, and they may even crack that whip. I don't mean, Indiana Jones style, whipping it around like a lunatic, or hurting their horse, but just your every day average lunge whip style. You know: Trot! 1-2-3 and Swoosh/crack whip, to get desired reaction from horse. Your horse is out in public, and should be able to handle seeing another horse being lunged with the accompanying whip. If it doesn't, you need to go home and desensitize this. Another option is to ask the other rider to stop "cracking their whip," which will at some point or another result in you pissing off a person who has shown admirable skill with a whip. I wouldn't advice it!

By not insisting that your horse deal with these type of things, you are enabling your horse to not learn and grow. Dealing with these issues is not just better for you, but it helps grow your horses self confidence. A horse needs to learn to do its job regardless of what average stuff is happening around them.
Pippi, for example, needs to stay on the bit even when a fly is buzzing around her face. She needs to learn to keep her attention on me, even when a trailer is being unloaded directly beside the arena (with great parking nearby I might add - aaargghhh). She needs to pick up her cues, even when a horse is running at a gallop on a lunge line in the next arena.

 And if I for some reason chose to enable my horse, like with the clipping, it is MY problem. You should NEVER EVER EVER ask another rider to help you enable your horse by asking them to cease doing their normal behavior. You are in fact not the Queen of the Universe, and the world does not revolve around you and your horse. If your horse can't play ball, or needs the rules changed to accommodate their issues, go home and start your own league. Or go home, work on your issues, and try again another day. "Bomb proof" horses became bomb proof not by running for shelter, or asking the bomber to stop, but by learning that the sound was not in fact an explosion.

Just sayin'......

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Part Two - Enabling and its Pitfalls!

It may be helpful to read Part One first, you can do that by clicking here.

I'd like to give an example of what I am talking about, by fessing up to my own mistake. When I first started working with Pippi by myself, she made me nervous on the lunge line. She would pull rather hard, and hop about, tossing her head, and coming closer to me. It made me nervous, and I felt as though she was being aggressive towards me. One day my Trainer happened to be in the barn as we were warming up on the lunge, and I asked her about this behavior. Trainer offered to lunge her, and gave me a "how to lunge" lesson. Pippi acted just the same with her initially, and I asked if it was aggressive behavior. Oh no, she said, Pippi is just full of herself and playing around a bit. "This is normal, does not bother me." She showed me to how to be more effective, and after that our lunge line warm ups were a breeze. Pippi still throws her head, hops a bit, and puts on her "I'm a Bad Ass" face when we first start, but now I know that it is just playful and it does not scare me. I even laugh and tease her about her "Bad Ass self."
Without that instruction two things could have happened; I could have lunged with no objective as I was scared to contain Pippi due to her perceived anger, or I could have become very heavy handed in trying to contain the anger. The anger that was not even present!

So that is one example of how we think we "read" our partners so well, but may in fact see it all wrong. Someone with a broader experience, and whose heart and soul is not tied into this horse, may just have the objective eye we need.

Next time I will give an example of how this may play out in a public setting, such as a horse show or clinic.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Part One of "Enabling and its pitfalls"

As a "professional show mom", new rider, I think it is invaluable to have Trainers and Clinicians that have a true understanding of the horse. One that tells you that your assessment of what happens with your horse may be faulty. Sometimes we get trapped in all the "knowing our horses" and the "partnership," that we read the signals way wrong.
You may know your horse, and think you know its motivations, but someone with broader experience of horses in general may be able to point out the flaws in your reasoning. Maybe your horse seems angry to you, but is in fact just showing off a bit. Or maybe you should be more stern, instead of backing off because you have read the signals wrong. Each horse is an individual, and yes, you know your horse better than anyone, but sometimes that relationship can become one of enabling. The horse is allowed to not be able to handle something, because that is just "how he is."
There is a difference between knowing ones limitations and quitting, and sometimes it takes a professional to point out the difference.

More thoughts on this to come......

Monday, September 9, 2013

Saddle shopping woes!

I am in need of a new saddle, as the old one is just too small and does not fit my long legs at all. It is fine for now, meaning I can ride in it, I just need to consider a new one for the future. Now that we are trying to make the canter look good, it is just becoming apparent that my saddle may be part of my issue with my legs.

And so I started to do some research, and holy smokes Batman, I am already dismayed and exhausted. The many brands are dizzying, and the cost is just gross. I am cheap, plus I have two kids in college; the day I spend thousands of dollars on a saddle is the day after I win the lottery.


Pippi is a wide QH body style horse. I am tall, 5'10" with a 33" inseam. Please give me advice, and let me know what you know as all I know is that I don't know anything.

Thanks guys.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Exercising my Option

According to the USDF rules, braiding your horse for shows is "optional." That means that you may do so, or you may not, it is up to you. A judge can not deduct points for an unbraided mane or tail. The unwritten rule, according to those "in the know", is that you should always braid your horse. A real DQ (Dressage Queen) braids!

I am not a real DQ apparently, as I have no plans on braiding Pippi for any show. She was blessed with the thickest, longest, shiniest most beautiful mane and tail, and I consider it sacrilege to cut, pull, or in any way constrict that gift.
Oh-we did, for years! When Pippi was Miranda's partner, her mane was kept short, and braided for shows, and I grumbled. The moment Pippi and I were sent lose together, she became a long haired Hippie and together we are rejecting conventional values and letting that hair flow.

Although I have all kinds of reasons for why this is a stand that I am choosing to take, it really comes down to what I like, what Pippi likes and what I think is a valuable use of our time. I have had a range of reactions, but most of them are "that's just how its done." "There is a standard that one must agree to, and braiding is part of the deal in showing your horse." Or something to that effect.
Or I hear that it shows the horses neck better when braided. Or that is shows respect for the judge. Most times I am met with incredulity, like "why even show your horse if you refuse to play by the rules?" (The rule is that it is "optional.")

Sure, I will admit it, I am very much the non-conformist when it comes to arbitrary societal pressure. When I think something is a waste of energy and time, I will not comply. I would much rather spend my time (of which we all have way too little) giving Pippi a massage, playing a game with her, and/or grazing around the showgrounds getting used to the sights and sounds of our new surroundings. I'd much rather that she and I get a bit more rest, and feel calm, happy and excited.

So many times I hear from fellow riders "Omg - I still have to braid! Eeek!" and watch them scurry off to tug, pull and tie away. Sure, many of them seem to like it, and most of horses just stand around munching hay and taking it all in stride. It's all part of the sacred showtime rituals they enjoy, and that gets them ready to tackle the day.
But for me, all that jazz just makes me feel constricted, and stressed. I don't like it. Maybe not braiding is a reminder for me to take it easy. This is for fun, not to be taken too seriously. It reminds me that Pippi and I are doing our own thing, and that this is for the two of us. We want to do our best, we ride and practice hard and often, but our best is only achieved through us being free flowing, and us.
Anyone who knows me knows that I have no barriers, no screen for the words that fall out of my mouth. I am rude, crude, but socially acceptable. Often I shock myself, but I am always Me; free flowing, off the charts, happy-go-lucky, get it done, no frills me!