Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Search For My Next Horse is Over

Tonight I ended my search for my next horse.

Yes, TR and I drove, along with my ever suffering husband (ESH) an hour and a half to see this horse.

10 yr Old Palomino Gelding

Grade horse, calm disposition, had been sitting for 3 years. This trainer, Dave, took on this horse and in the last month has spent time putting a handle back on it. Chester was a handsome horse and as I saw Dave ride him I was pretty sure he wasn't the kind of horse I needed.

First of all, watching Dave ride was amazing. This man rides like the rancher I wrote about at the Kathleen Lindley clinic (you can read about him here and here). I love watching a good rider.

He said that when he first got this horse he was worried how bad it would be because it had been with women. He noted that women make a real mess of horses, at least from the area these women were from (which shall go nameless since I don't want Dave dive bombed).

"They're all 'oh poor horse' when the horse is stepping all over them. Tell you what, your horse won't be calling 911 when he breaks your foot" (Note: this is not an exact quote. I was a little surprised and wasn't taking copious notes at that point.)

Of course it reminded me of the session in the clinic where Kathleen discussed all the dangerous "natural horsemanship trained" horses. Lousy ground manners always shock me. Heck ground manners are the easy part.

Dave cruised around the round pen in the saddle and described how he had worked the horse, what he liked about him. He admitted the horse needs finishing. Some head tossing, some holes here and there. The palomino was incredibly bright though, and has a great disposition, and I liked his nature once I got in with him.

TR rode him for me and put him through the paces. He could see the diamond in the rough on this horse, saying later - that is going to be one heck of a horse. TR got him to lower his head a little better, showed that nice slow canter.

Then I got in. I worked the palomino on the ground for a moment and then stepped into a saddle that Dave had won this year that looks like it's been ridden in for 10 years, not 5 months.

Up in the gallery area around the round pen Dave made a few comments about a guy that was out who didn't know what he was doing and how he didn't tell him anything because the guy said he knew everything.

As the palomino and I started our first few strides, I struggled with the split reins. I never ride in them and had no clue what to do. "Listen, you tell me what I'm doing wrong, because I need to hear it."

Hoo boy. Did I hear it.


Way back, in the Canyon days I wrote this:

As good as Canyon is on the ground, and as good as we seem to connect, he's not all the way there. This horse seems connected with me, but it's not there in the saddle. I can lead him into anything and he'll follow me around the arena, back, turn, everything without a touch on the lead line. But it's not translating when I get on his back.

And I keep feeling this way. It was precisely the same with Cibolo. Things didn't come apart on the ground. They came apart in the saddle. And I know that I am doing something wrong.

Over and over and over.

And it's not about softness, per se.

Clinton Anderson talks about the three things it takes to keep a horse broke: wet saddle blankets, training, and speed. If you only have one, you have a mess. (For example, race horses have plenty of speed, but never get the miles of wet saddle blankets or the training time in ground work or body carriage)

I'd say for me I'm looking at a similar dynamic. I have one thing down : ground work. But ground work you can learn from a magazine, and a book. It's mostly a brain thing. Riding in a saddle is something that you can't learn, or at least I can't, from reading and watching videos. You have to build a sense of your self in the saddle, of how to work your legs, your split reins, your body. It takes the combo of lessons and miles. Of which I have far too little of both.


Based on the barrage I got from Dave (all done bluntly but not unkindly), I knew that I had driven an hour and a half to hear this. This man, who I'd met on the phone, who could actually text on his phone while he was riding a cantering horse, who rode in a 5 month old saddle so much that it was completely broken in, this man was telling me what I needed to hear.

As I stroked the Palomino's face afterwards, the same face that kept deciding he could look outside the pen because I wasn't in charge in that saddle, Dave looked me in the eye. "You can have a broke horse, but you can unbreak a horse if you don't know what you're doing. If you can't give him the signals he's been trained with."

And at that moment I knew my search for my horse was over.

Because I have to learn how to ride first. Otherwise I will unwind another horse.

So instead of paying board on a second horse, I'm taking TRs advice. Lessons. For at least 3 months. Maybe by then I'll be ready.

As I search for a trainer I hope I can find someone as blunt as Dave. He's a little too far for me to travel to for lessons and I don't know if he even does that. But I'm staying away from people/trainers who will tell me only what I want to hear.

Because I'm on this journey to make some progress. Trust me, my ego can handle the bruising.

And I'll be damned if I don't turn this around.


AareneX said...

WOW! This is an awesome thing!

I don't think that Dave is too far away, if he'll agree to work with you, unless he's on a different continent.


Good luck! And Good for YOU!

the7msn said...

That sure makes sense. Dave is a very wise man, and you a wise woman for figuring all this out.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Sounds like you've got a good game plan. We all can use lessons at times...even those with years of experience, as there is always something new to learn.

Before I found and bought Apache, taking lessons for several months made a world of difference for me. Riding different horses, learning how to balance, how to trot and canter properly, and how to help my horse move easier, too.
And of course, there was that thing I had to work through:.....fear and also rebuilding my self-confidence.

I'm sure I would have made another huge mistake if I had just bought another horse after I was finally strong enough and healed from my injuries.

The benefit of taking lessons and riding differnt horses, is that you also start to learn exactly the type of horse you'd like to have and what type would be the best match for you, too.

You're going to have so much fun growing and learning while you take lessons. You're inspiring me to sign up for some more lessons now, too.


Paint Girl said...

That is wonderful! I am so glad that you are going to take it slow on the horse shopping and get it all figured out. Lessons will be a great thing. I sure wish I could afford them again.
You are the second person today mentioning that you don't ride with split reins, I grew up riding with splits, and that is all we do at the barn I work at (unless during a class at a horse show.) The other person was a woman that was looking at horses to buy at work. She wasn't comfortable in splits, because she never rode with them before.
Good luck to you in your lessons! I can't wait to hear all about them!

Crystal said...

I think that is a smart idea to take lessons, it really seems to help not just with the riding part, but with the confidence, because if something goes wrong, even if its not a big thing, there is someone there to help you through it.
They can help you get the skills you need (or maybe already have somewhere)out and being used, not just for groundwork, which it sounds like you are good at, but translate it into under saddle work.

KK said...

Excellent! You have really thought this through...good idea to feel more confident learning more about your skills and meeting, maybe more than one trainer, along the way. . . And morr than one horse too. KK

Carol said...

Wow - what an amazing insight! Good for you for recognizing an issue and dealing with it, without ego. Very few people would do that.
I'm constantly learning, and on-going lessons are part of my life.
Keep us posted on how it goes.

Anonymous said...

Good choice - you may want to travel that distance to at least work with him some, even if you work with someone else closer to home. You're one smart lady, and your desire to be with horses will get you all the way home in time.

Gail said...

I shall take my lead from you.

Mrs Mom said...

Ask Dave if he knows of an instructor closer to you. He sounds "connected" in more ways than one.

One thing to keep in mind- you can learn the book stuff from the books-- you're bang on right there.


The FEEL and TIMING come from hands on sweating it out with/ on the horse. You can have all the book smarts in the Universe. But with out the proper FEEL and TIMING, you've pretty much got bupkiss.

Kick ass in your lessons. You've got drive, and most of all, the "WANT TO". ;)

Cactus Jack Splash said...

Very insightful post. Dave is a wise man and you have come up with a good plan.

Shirley said...

A wise old man once told me that horses have people problems, and realizing that we are part of their problem takes honesty and courage; fixing ourselves takes the same thing, plus determination. You are on the road to becoming a good rider, and you'll know when you are ready for horse ownership again.
If you find lessons in your area, it probably wouldn't hurt to book a lesson with Dave once a month or so; so that he can evaluate your progress.

JJ said...

Wow - it's almost serendipitous! Congratulations on the horse, but most of all, congratulations on finding a great teacher - those are hard to come by, you know?!?!

morningbrayfarm said...

Good - no, GREAT - for you! I seriously can't wait to follow along with your lessons. You are going to blog about your progress, right? :) Have a great weekend!

BrownEyed Cowgirls said...

Ohhh...I LIKE Dave!

It is unfortunately true that very often good training can be undone in a very short amount of time. When I was buying horses for re-sale, I spent a lot of time doing all kinds of things on them to make them as bombproof as possible, but I never bothered to put a 'finish' on them because the vast majority of people looking to buy horses couldn't have rode them if I did.

It's kind of a weird phenomina in that good ground manners does not always carry over to a good riding horse, but poor ground manners almost always carries over into how a horse rides.

Good luck finding an instructor that will get you to where you want to be. Becoming 'aware' of what you need is 1/2 the battle.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

I could send my old equitation trainer your way. He'll yell and scream at you until you're more scared of him than the horse. He motivates you to be in complete control of the horse. Okay, maybe you don't need someone that intense, but the teaching method is effective.

jill said...

You said you have the ground work down, so think of the lessons as your "wet saddle blankets". Ride as many horses, different horses as possible, you will learn a ton.
I rode lesson and other peoples horses for 15 yrs before I could afford my own horse.
Thank goodness. I knew exactly what kind of horse I wanted and could handle and I had skills to call on when the moments arose.
You are doing the right thing. When you feel confident in your abilities so will the horses.
You need to wear out a few pairs of riding pants, or jeans, or whatever you wear to ride!
Good Luck! Oh and work with this guy once in a while, he sounds like a straight shooter!

ms martyr said...

Yes, work with Dave (if he's available) once or twice a month. I'm having to do the same thing with a trainer I like but is an hour away. I take lessons locally and travel to her barn every other week or so. Lessons really help to build your confidence and skill levels. Your dream horse will be waiting when you're ready.

Melanie said...

I am so happy for you, and for your next horse. And, I think that you are a humble woman to sit there, listen to Dave's advice, and learn from it. : )

I totally know his type too, because that is the type of trainer that I learned from years ago. He would say that it didn't matter what happened on the ground (between you and your horse) because ultimately, when you are on their back, you are a 140 pound human, and they are a 1200 pound animal of prey. Who do you think is going to win if you do not know what you are doing up there???

Tough words to hear for sure, but wise ones….Good luck in finding a great trainer to help you through your journey. : )

And..thanks for opening up and sharing with us...

Fragrant Liar said...

I read every word, but I am most impressed with your candid self assessment. Not everybody can do that. You serve a greater good for horse riders who get the opportunity to read your blog, but a greater good to yourself for recognizing where you can stand improvement. That's how we learn and grow, and you are a model of that process. Good on ya, and big hugs from the stormy sunshine state.

Maia said...

You are absolutely doing the right thing. I'm going back for lessons, myself in September. When your confidence is back, your horse will be waiting.

Chelsi said...

Lessons RULE!! LOL It is so awesome that you have figured out what you need to do and I'll bet you'll be amazed at how quickly you progress.... which is why I wish someone had given me this bit of advice. Record your lessons! Even if you dont watch them at first. If you cant record them then right down a little about what you worked on and what you struggled with. Riding is like golf... there is always room to get better and better and sometimes it is hard to recognize how far you've come....kinda like watching a puppy grow, it is not until you look back at a picture that you can see how much they have grown.

Wolfie said...

Wonderful! Taking lessons may also help fine tune what you are looking for in your new horse. Good for you.

Once Upon an Equine said...

I love your attitude! Oh my, how I can relate to this post. I recently began taking riding lessons from a professional cowboy/team roper and like Dave did with you, he doesn't hold back or sugar coat his comments, but he's also very encouraging. His wife said he needs to be more politically correct and gentler with his students, but he said "If I see something is broken, we gotta fix it right now!" He also said, "I'm warning you now, if I hurt your feelings, its your fault." And I just switched to split reins on his advice and I really like them. I'll be posting my experiences soon. I look forward to hearing about your future lessons and how you are progressing. Oh...and I have to drive 1 hour to get to my lesson. It's worth it!

Lisa Paul said...

Wow! I'll need a Dave when I get around to getting a horse. Because I've forgotten more than I ever knew about horses at this point.