Choice of Riding ‘Style’

Probably the first or maybe second question out of anyone’s mouth after they find out that you are a fellow horse love is-what kind of riding do you do? Followed closely with-what kind of horse do you have? They’re really interchangeable and can be one then the other. But you will get them. Some people have yardsticks-if you aren’t into ________ and ride ________, well, you just don’t register with them as being significant in their world. I’m not going to put that down-I think it’s a bit short-sighted on their part, but it is their choice. No skin off my nose certainly.

As one man who came into my spouse’s office responded to that question: “Quarter horses! Is there any other kind? What have you got?” To which my spouse replied, “Well, I guess if that’s the case, I don’t have any!” (We have Arabian crosses and a TWH.).

Then you get into the (sorry, but it is true) snobbery of what kind of saddle your butt is parked on. Honestly,  I’ve ridden just about every type of saddle made with the exception of a jockey’s half saddle, a side saddle, and a vaquero/knight’s saddle. It isn’t the saddle that makes the equestrian. Any body can be taught how to be a passenger on a horse-that’s called being a rider. I’ve seen dogs, cats, goats, and monkeys do it. It takes dedication, hard work, willingness to learn, and the ability to admit your mistakes to be an equestrian. I see darn few who fill that bill. I see a lot who take the short cuts of tight nose bands, tie downs, harsh bits, heavy hands, and spurs. They are by no means amateurs-you can see them at the Olympics. If you see a horse with a gaping mouth even with a tight flash nose band or figure 8-something is wrong. If you see a gag bit-something is wrong. If you see a horse being yanked on, something is wrong. Not with the horse-wrong with the human.

I didn’t used to see this-but since I have seen horse do cutting, reining, roping, show jumping, trail classes, dressage, and liberty work either bitless or bridleless, it dawned on me-what have I been doing to my horses? All that must not be necessary if the necessary time is spent. All that stuff is merely shortcuts for humans and we rationalize our actions that cause pain to our horses. How dare we?



Learning the Right Way

This is something that, in my experience, 99% of people will not take the time to do. Oh, there’ll be those who will SAY they do and some of them will even do to the lengths of hanging out a shingle of being a “certified ___ level trainer of the ____ ” school of thought. I know, I know-there are a boatload of trainers out there and there are almost as many YouTube videos decrying each and every one of them because of ……….

Let me tell you my thoughts. A real professional doesn’t need to bad mouth anybody. They just don’t. It isn’t necessary. You find somebody who is trying to tear somebody down? RUN LIKE HELL. They have issues that you do not want to deal with and one of them is going to be ‘it’s my way or the highway’. They’re control freaks.

Look for somebody who takes lessons and who is humble enough to know that there is still something to learn-in equitation, horsemanship, horsekeeping, psychology, education of horses and people, nutrition, farriery, dentistry, massage therapy, etc.  Make sure that you check to make sure that the lessons have changed over time to reflect advances in knowledge. But also make sure that there is a deep respect for the ways of old that worked.

Just going with the clinician that is popular or the one that your barn favors may or may not be the best idea. I know it can be hard to be the only one who does _____ in a barn that does something else. I’ve been there. Remember this-you can teach them some new stuff-I know I did and started a number of them questioning what they were doing. It’s okay to do that.

Where did I end up? Parelli. I’m not totally on board with everything, but it comes closest to what I want. More later.

The Path of Horsemanship

I won’t lie-I thought I was pretty knowledgeable about horses. Downright cocky in fact. I’d owned and ridden horses for 20 years and read absolutely everything I could possibly get my hands on. Tried out a great deal of it and, in my arrogance, thought I was pretty good at it.

  • Then along came an invitation to go see a fellow do a demo on horsemanship nearby. He was from California at the time and rode a pretty little black Quarter mare. He started doing a bunch of things in that arena that I had never seen done with a horse. Then he worked with some horses some people had brought in-and problems just disappeared. Didn’t use all the whips, bits, and straps that I knew about. Instead there was a simple rope halter and a 12 foot lead.

He brought a black stallion into Ithe arena that he’d just gotten out of Canada. Said he’d been told the horse could buck-and the horse really put on a show doing exactly that. The man said that there once was a time when he would have ridden that horse bucking like that, but now he did things differently. He told the story of the horse-and why he had trust issues. Then he started working with him.

I still thought there had to be some sort of funny business going on. A year or so later, I got an invitation to another event of this man’s but up in North Carolina. The invitation was an email and I wrote back for some reason or other telling the person that I didn’t believe this stuff and that it had to be phony. She wrote back-and offered me free tickets if I’d just go. Since this was a two day all day thing, and I could take a friend, oh, heck why not?

Best thing I ever did-for several reasons.

  • I got a huge heaping dose of humility. (The most dangerous person in the world is the one who thinks they know it all-and they know not what they don’t know. Run from them.)
  • I met Natural Horsemanship head on-and found out that my knowledge base had huge gaping holes in it.
  • I met Pat and Linda Parelli. (Didn’t make an impression on them, but they did me.)
  • I learned about Stolen Horse International from Debi Metcalfe-who is now a friend, too!
  • I learned that taking the time that it takes takes less time.
  • I learned that the horse is never wrong-you asked the wrong question.
  • and there was much more.

I’ll never learn everything-I know that now. I’m grateful for that lesson. But I will confess to one thing-now when I see the things that I bought and used on my horses hanging in my tack room, I hang my head in shame and apologize to my horses.  I will never do those things again.


Why Work For Nothing? It Depends

Lots of people work because they have a ’cause’. I think that’s great-the world needs visionary people-for the most part, and giving of yourself is good for you and good for the rest of humanity. Compassion for your fellow humans and making their lives more bearable is laudable. I’ve done it for some things and it is highly rewarding. For those that can do it and keep it up, I have nothing but admiration. For mere mortals like me, it wears on you. I can pop in/out. Just don’t expect me for the long haul-I can’t take it.

For me, I pick things that nobody else seems to be enthused about. I suppose that makes me as contrary as Bernie Sanders, or maybe a mule (and I don’t consider either to be an insult because I think highly of both). I worked for a while for Legal Aid-they provide free legal assistance for those who cannot afford it for any number of things-disputes with their landlords (you’d be amazed at the way a landlord will treat a tenant who pays on time-it is sickening); employers who will short pay people because they know they have little to no legal recourse (and they have the time sheets to prove the work); single parents needing help getting alimony and/or child support payments garnished (you’d be astounded how many of the non-custodial parents had incomes into high six figures), people who want to pay off bills but don’t have the income to do it, might be considering bankruptcy, but either don’t know how to do that, if they should, or even if it is advisable (you can’t get out of student loans even if you die). It was endlessly fascinating, enjoyable, and frustrating.

As a teenager, I volunteered at an area hospital as a Candystriper (junior Auxiliary). I did that for two years. I delivered mail and flowers, ran some errands for the nurses (they don’t trust much to Candystripers), rocked a few babies, fed some patients when they didn’t have enough CNA’s, pushed quite a few wheelchairs, and some other things. It was enough to make me certain that nursing was not a career choice for me, but healthcare was. Then years later, I stumbled upon a group that did international work of a kind that was unusual-instead of going overseas and doing a bunch of good stuff then leaving (and I’ll elaborate later on why that’s a problem), these people go in and TRAIN THE LOCAL PHYSICIANS AND NURSES how to do stuff, take in the necessary equipment, give them contact phone numbers. With the first way, in third world countries, they frequently don’t trust our medicine-so they won’t take it-at all. Or they’ll take part of what they are given-and either save the rest for later or give it away. Another scenario is they’ll take it all at once. Plus there is no one there to follow up on them. With this method, they have their own physicians and nurses there-who know them , speak their language, and who will miss them if they miss a follow-up appointment and go look for them. It makes a difference. Especially since most of the patients that these people treat are children.

So several years ago when I ran across a lady at a Pat Parelli event in Winston Salem, NC who asked me what would I do if my horse was stolen, she had me. I talked with her a bit, but that was it at the time. Didn’t forget her or the organization though. I’d see an article of hers from time to time-and she made sense. Then I was bored and got on the Yahoo groups-joined a couple of them, and there was an ALERT for a horse that showed up on the HORSESCTR group. Intrigued, I clicked on it and guess who? Same group. So I signed up. Then Yahoo started shutting down the groups-and they started going in different directions-some got their own websites, some went to other services, some did both, and some went to that new thing-Facebook. I sort of let it slide-I was past my hairline in alligators.

Over a decade later, I was on Facebook because it was the only way to stay up with some relatives and “what to my wondering eyes should appear, but” another one of those NetPosse ALERTS. Found the Facebook page, decided to answer a post for a volunteer, and I’ve been progressively doing more for them ever since. I write, research, make phone calls, and work behind the scenes.

Why? Because this is a closely knit organization that works to help the victims-both animal and human-of some emotional devastating events. Some have been stolen outright-a criminal event documented by law enforcement. More frequently, the animal was taken to satisfy a debt, as revenge, sold behind somebody’s back, broken lease or adoption agreement, etc.  Less frequently, the owners are frantically looking for a horse that broke away from a trail ride, jumped a fence, dumped a rider, or was involved in a disaster evacuation. Whatever the reason-the result is an emotional roller coaster. They need help organizing their search. They need somebody with the right contacts. They need people who know how to get it done.

And this organization provides resources far beyond just a Facebook page and some hand holding. There’s a store, articles, testimonials, endorsements, sponsors, resources, services, full database, custom webpages, custom fliers, education, and even a page solely for law enforcement. They also use several social media sites in addition to Facebook and their website. They are impressive.

Besides-I can work from my living room, watch the baseball game, and be in my pj’s. Only thing I miss is a paycheck!