Friday, November 5, 2010

Day four - Third day in the saddle part 1

By the end of the afternoon, Smokey and I were turning well and it was taking less and less tilt to get the turn to connect. I was relieved. Already I felt like Smokey was stepping up to these dramatic changes and we were actually moving together as a team with me as the (gasp) leader, not heading off in our own directions.

In fact I wasn't sure if there was much left for me to work on. I felt Smokey had come such a long way I didn't want to overwhelm him. My support crew (Donna and Trail Rider) came up to me, clearly brimming with ideas. I could see that they had that fever in their eyes - auditor fever. The fever that had them thinking of what they'd want to ask if they were in the arena.

Both of them had the same suggestion. Collection.

"Do I even do that at this stage with a baby?" I asked. Heck, I just got my horse to stop and turn. Now we were getting all dressagey all of a sudden. I tried to ignore the panic in my stomach. I wasn't a good enough rider to start trying that!

"It'll be a good question," they said, smiling.

"I'll think about it."


That evening several people gathered for dinner at the home of E & J with Mark and Crissie. You know how you think you like someone who is teaching you, but you wonder if in real life they are really, actually, not so great to be around?

This was not like that. Not at all.

It was a great dinner, Mark played guitar, the group sang along, food was great, we shared stories about our trials on trails. Mark and Crissie were as easy going and accessible just as they were in the arena. I felt I had grown an entire group of friends that night. I didn't want the night to end. Donna and I headed out for the long drive back to the East Mountains, songs still soaring in our heads.

But the many late nights and early mornings caught up with us and we opted to sleep in a bit.

(Thanks to Val at Fantastyk Voyage for these photos)

When we arrived, things were well underway. The palomino was back, still in too much discomfort to do saddle work, but working on ground work.

K was tearing around the barrels in a collected fashion on her sorrel. I wasn't sure exactly what they were working on - I got the idea that it was shoulder control and getting off on the correct lead after the first turn. But there was much cheering going on.

But here's the last team I wanted to talk about. Patricia and her mare.

Patricia had come to the first day of the clinic a big fan of Mark. She didn’t have anything in particular she wanted to work on, but rather was just thrilled to be there. Still, even though she was possibly Mark’s biggest fan, it was ironic that they had the hardest time communicating at first. He was trying to get her to see that her focus was on the things that upset her horse, she was trying to finish telling him about that, he was moving past it and trying to get her to work differently, she was really unable to hear him.

Then, on the last day, it all came together.

One thing Mark says that really resonated with me is that someone has to be the adult. Maybe because this applies to my workplace too (frankly every workplace I’ve ever been in), but I found this to be a nice clear way of summing up all this work and talk about leadership.

Pat’s mare would get worried about something – the fire extinguisher. “It’s like the 500 pound gorilla in the room. You decide you aren’t going to worry about it,” said Mark. “Then you say ‘I’m not worried about that 500 pound gorilla. No, sir, that 500 pound gorilla is no big deal. We are just riding past that 500 pound gorilla. Nothing to be scared of a 500 pound gorilla. Yep. We are not worried about that 500 pound gorilla!’ and pretty soon that the only thing in the room.”

Instead you acknowledge and move past. Oh yeah, I see that, but we are on our way over here, so let’s just get that done.

That’s being the grown up.

But Pat also made a mistake I’ve made on many of my other horses. Not being understanding. It’s as if the pendulum swings in our mind and we decide if we just have them confront the darn thing they will get over it. Well, you don’t get someone over their fear of tarantulas by dumping a bucket of them on their head.

So much of our mistakes with horses, or at least mine, come from seeing the goal and presuming we can get there by merely going from A to B. But for the horse we are really going from A to Q. We either don’t handle the situation in a way that builds confidence (dumping tarantulas on the person’s head while others hold them in place is just force and probably increases fear of the next thing – including those who took this approach in the first place), or we handle it through subtle and ongoing avoidance (can’t go outside because I saw a tarantula there last week and she freaked out, remember?).

Confidence building takes time and patience mixed with firmness and kindness.

On this, the last day of the clinic, things clicked for this team. Mark got Pat to stop over thinking and just DO. She had never cantered on her horse. So he did a game with her, sending her to different areas of the arena. She had to just respond and go. At first they were off at a trot, since that’s generally what she’s asked from her mare, but he pushed them to pick it up an GO.

When it was over, Pat was breathless and beaming. I was beyond thrilled for her. She had gone from being disenchanted the day before to having he entire experience exceed what she thought was possible. In three days they had worked on collection, confidence, and cantering.

And they had been transformed.


I was really looking forward to the afternoon. Especially since Val and Lisa were there to watch and provide moral support.

Lisa, Smokey, me, and Val


Anonymous said...

Very cool stuff about the lady and her mare - I've seen stuff like that happen at other clinics of Mark's. I think too often that mental chatter and focussing on what's wrong instead of what we want to do gets us (at least me) in trouble. The either/or of confrontation/avoidance with scary stuff or problem areas is also a big trap. Really fun to read - can't wait for the next post.

shadowlake said...

I feel like I'm there, reading your account! I have wanted so much to see & work w/ Mark Rashid since I stumbled on Considering the Horse several years ago. However, lack of funds & geography looked like preventing it forever... Imagine my excitement & delight to find out he's coming to NC, & not only that, but only 2-3 hours from me! I'm afraid to ask my wonderful old 91 GMC to haul too far, the old tranny just isn't what it used to be & my trailer's an 85 (but in very good shape for its age-- Rices last forever). This clinic is better than Christmas (except for the religous aspect of course) for me, and all I want from my wonderful husband is to come w/me since I don't know anyone. I can't wait to see his face when he ASKs me what I want **grin**.

Breathe said...

Hi Kate,
Yes, that's it exactly - mental chatter!

Shadowlake, this will be the best gift you ever give yourself.

lytha said...

i've really enjoyed your posts about this and hope you write more: )

i am right there with you on the turning thing. those schooling horses liked to just blow me off and try as i might to get them to circle/turn, they'd have their mind set to go in the opposite direction and i didn't know how to get the turn.

the riding instructor was shouting for me to raise up my inside hand and then it came back to me, i'd done that in the past for some reason with baasha when he resisted turning. so up goes the hand and then the horse turns. it's also really hard for me in this situation to keep my outside hand actually outside. i tend to bring both hands in the directino i want to go, and that is wrong.

you explained it so well. i look forward to more of your stories.


Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Oh yes! I forgot about Pat. There were so many amazing moments going on on Sunday.

You know what? I've been to Clinton Anderson's "clinics" er...shows and all I take away from them are his showmanship tricks and cliches. I don't come away feeling like I can use what he's showed, because he doesn't really 'teach' the details. There's just not any 'connections', just flash and drama.....oh and lots of products to pawn every 30 minutes. bleh.

It was easy to feel a big part of Mark's clinics, even if you were just an auditor. And you couldn't help but feel excited for and happy to watch rider and horse find that 'happy place' together.

Truly inspirational and motivational.

Oh and I doubt if you'd ever be invited to join any of those other clinicians for dinner and music (with them playing guitar no less) after a full day of instruction.

Mark Rashid is one of a kind, for sure.


Susan said...

Making the decision to act as if the scary thing is no big deal, or allowing my horse to check it out can be a big decision for me. I But if my horse trusts me as the fearless leader, s/he should just go by because it's no big deal.

Carol said...

He sounds like an amazing clinician. I'm really enjoying reading about it.

Jeni said...

Great post thank you !! I love your writing about this.

Lisa ~ THANK YOU ... I was temped to do a Clinton Anderson or Parelli type thing with Rosie. But based on your comments, Kate's posts about her clinic visits and Breathe's posts now I'll wait until I can get to Mark's clinics. For now though I'm going to see if I can find books.. lots of books!

allhorsestuff said...

I really am enjoying reading about how Mark interacts with his students. Really down to earth about things.

What book would you refer me to?
AND- WHAT is the make of your saddle? I love the small rounded skirt.

Dan and Betty Cooksey said...

Great post. Betty and I were happy for Patricia too. It was interesting to watch her and Mark try to communicate because they are so different. She's very much an extrovert -- processing her thoughts out loud -- while Mark in an introvert who processes internally before speaking. Eventually they seemed to get on the same page.


Shirley said...

You kind of left us hanging! I'm enjoying your journey- Smokey is really coming along but better still, you are really profiting from this clinic, and you are going to have so much fun on him now.

morningbrayfarm said...

Great post, Winter! I loved reading it, but lord have mercy... the mention of a bucket of tarantulas totally freaked me out. ;)