WWM&MD

Remember those “WWJD”  (What would Jesus do?) bracelets that were big 10-15 years ago or so?  I never had one.  I didn’t like them so much.  No huge reason why I guess.  I simply felt that wearing a bracelet wasn’t going to be what made me behave in a given fashion.  Well.. maybe any bracelet other than a “WARNING, DIABETIC, IF FOUND IN A STATE OF MENTAL IMPAIR, PLEASE FEED DOUGHNUT ASAP”… that bracelet is going to get you somewhere…. maybe the ER, but you will be going somewhere!

 

I also don’t have a little greek fish symbol on my car.  I am a fairly … confident … driver.  I like to drive fast.  I’m a good driver, one of the few things at which I have confidence.  Neither reason is a defensible position to law enforcement and I get that.  I also realize that while I am driving, people will see any bumper stickers, little fish emblems etc., and they will make parallels or judgements based on that.   I do not like for others to take a hit because of their association with me.  The very reason that from the beginning, I wanted to make it clear that Mark and Miranda should not be judged or criticized for any tom-foolery or slips or lapses in judgement within this blog.

 

I have not written in a while.  The reasons are no good excuse, but a few things in the last couple weeks have driven home a couple important points to me.  Just a couple of weeks ago because of a few different circumstances in my life, I called both Mark and Miranda in frustration, on separate occasions.  Encouragement is powerful and without sounding like a guru or mystical swami, which I am not, encouragement is a healing art.  Both encouraged me and listened to me.  It occurred to me that we all need the encouragement of someone who has earned our trust through repeated faithfulness.  Both of those qualities is vitally important.  They follow closely on the heels of one another.

 

I hope that it can be said of me that I was giving and encouraging.  But I have not always been so…. not proud, and this little story will show you why.

 

There may have possibly been a man named Brian (I have NOT changed the names because he is not innocent… nor am I) who was a prominent dog trainer in the area where I also trained.  We did not know one another personally and I’m sure we were both mutually fine with that.  We diverged on more than a few things.  He did have amazing skill and talent for marketing himself well which is not the same thing as possessing ability in the area of training.  What irked me to no end was his opinion of others and more importantly himself.  Those opinions were at constant and polar opposites, his opinion of others abilities and worth being somewhere between dust and roaches.  I’ll let you figure out the polar opinion in which he held himself.

 

Attending a large conference on dog training one summer, there were over 900 trainers and attendees staying at an upscale classy hotel.  Brian was vocal about his lifestyle, which was pure and pristine and put the saints to shame.  He didn’t wear t-shirts, strike one.  He didn’t like to get his hands dirty, strike two.  He had no patience for “underlings”  … he actually used the term underlings!  I’m not sure he actually stooped to drive himself anywhere, cook his own meals, pour his own coffee or use the bathroom for that matter.  Well, that was pretty much it for me.  It was difficult for me to look past any skill he might have with dogs when his abhorrent lack of skills with people was smacking me in the face.  He was picky about everything.  He was … dainty….  I don’t like dainty in female friends, and I SURE don’t like it in a man!  During a meet and greet the first evening in the hotel lobby while smartly attired waiters served champagne and hors d’oeuvre, a young woman approached Brian with a question.  She had little experience but her sincerity and interest were obvious.  He laughed loudly and proclaimed that perhaps if she abstained from drinking as he always did, she would be able to learn more and ask less simplistic questions.  I was shocked and it appeared that I wasn’t alone.  There were quite a few lifted eyebrows and lowered jaws.

 

I am an underdog.  Always been one.  I am unremarkable, unmemorable, of moderate talent in everything I do.  So I am for underdogs.  I expect underdogs to step up to the plate and stand up for themselves, but if they can muster that courage, they will almost always have me in their corner.  She stood firm and responded with class and withdrew quietly to talk to other more receptive and helpful people.  Which was pretty much any and everyone.  She was gracious, and probably of far better character than the author of this blog post.

 

After a few more proud boasts about his clean living and upstanding moral standing, and more than one reminder to the rest of us dullards, that the hosts of the training seminar had put him in the Presidential suite on the 7th floor,  I had about had enough and retired to my lowly room on the 3rd floor.  As I went, I thought… which those of you who know me will realize is probably not an entirely good thing.  Pondering has gotten me into more than a little trouble on more than a few occasions and I was now pondering the information that I now I had in my possession.

 

The next morning Brian was in his element.  He really could have benefitted from a black cape.  It would have suited him.  He swept into the room to less oooh’s and aaahhh’s than he probably felt were his due, but nevertheless, his bright and shining (plastic and fake) smile radiated confidence in his subject matter.  He expected adoration from his audience, what he got was attention, but I’m not sure he truly would have understood the difference and he launched into his speech with gusto.  He was speaking about a program called Vest-a-dog, which is a not for profit organization that provides body armor Kevlar vests for police dogs as well as other protective gear for working canines.  It is a great organization.  During the course of his talk, he mentioned the concern of dogs overheating.  A new product was being tested and soon to be on the market and he, Brian, claimed that he, Brian, was “tantamount to the success of the program.”  I leaned over to the person next to me and said, “tantamount?  I think maybe he meant paramount.”  To which the stranger whispered that he had attended this seminar in 3 other states because he was a vendor and Brian was the pimple on everyone’s forehead.  You couldn’t hide him, and you couldn’t pop him!  I thought it was gracious of him, and probably only because we were strangers, that “forehead” was the anatomical location he chose….   I became disinterested and began to leaf through a pamphlet until I heard the words, “laws of thermodynamics.”  I was intrigued when Brian claimed that these new Kevlar vests, made of the strongest and lightest pure titanium alloy, were designed utilizing higher science formulations that we (stupid people) would not ever understand.  He therefore would graciously spare us the unnecessary information on the science that went into the making of the vest suffice it to say that  “This vest before you, was designed utilizing the knowledge we have gained directly from the second law of thermodynamics.”  I can hear his nasally voice.  I sat up a little straighter and leaned in to listen.  I might have been holding my breath… I might have been smiling…. It is also quite possible that I could have benefitted from a cape as well.  I was now completely immersed in the topic and wanted to hear more, so much more.  I was desperate for the Q & A session when he might ask if there were any questions from the audience, because they were stacking up in my brain.

 

I was 22 which meant that I was stupid but thought I wasn’t.  At dinner one evening my roommate began to discuss something she had heard in her physics class and the only thing that I recognized was her definition of “vacuum” because it was a good explanation for my complete lack of knowledge in the subject.  I hated not knowing stuff.  Random stuff.  Trivia and useless stuff.  I didn’t care, I wanted to know it.  I spent the next month reading textbook upon textbook on applied and theoretical physics.   It just so happens that the laws of thermodynamics featured prominently in both branches.  My roommate failed her Physics class.  That was a word that haunted my life and it caused a bit of conflict in our apartment for the next few weeks as I followed her around like a lost puppy explaining Bernoulli’s law, Kepler’s laws of planetary motion and Transverse waves.   She didn’t appreciate it.  Probably one of the myriad reasons we were roommates for only a short time.  I didn’t blame her.

 

Seminar over, and question time began.  I choked.  I disliked Brian’s grandstanding.  I disliked his condescending and pretentious treatment of the woman at the meet and greet the night before.   I disliked misinformation, no matter how inane and unrelated to the subject matter.  But I also disliked people who publicly humiliate others.  The technicalities between the difference of what he had done to that woman in the lobby and what I was considering doing at the moment began to needle me.  Semantics.  I was currently heavily vested in a degree path that dealt with formal, lexical, and conceptual semantics.  How we choose our words.  Why we choose the words we choose and to what desired end.  My desired end was not to better Brian.  My desired end was little different than his had been in dealing with that young woman in the lobby.  Scorn and disdain are the dirty twins of excessive hubris and my conscience was pricking me that mine was no less than his.  The only difference perhaps being that his condescension and superiority had become so deeply ingrained that he now subconsciously denigrated people on a regular basis, quite possibly unbeknownst to him.  But I knew, and that made me responsible.  I am not a quick thinker.  And while I mulled this over in my mind, the moment of Q & A ended and attendees were gathering their things and leaving the conference room.

 

I stood in the middle of the room absent mindedly watching as people filed past me while two or three people stood looking at the samples of vests and equipment set out at the front of the room.  Brian was packing his briefcase to leave and as he walked past me he smiled and said, “It’s a lot to take in isn’t it?  I’m sure you have questions.”  It was clearly rhetorical.  I felt the full weight of the intended and well rehearsed condescension.  The tone he likely used with everyone.  I stuck my hand out and introduced myself.  I was confident that he would never remember either my name or face and I felt a twinge of relief.  I was no longer in a Q & A session.  The time for questions was over.   I leaned in and quietly said, “Kevlar is synthetic plastic, not titanium.   It is made stronger by the polymerization of long chain molecules.  It’s relationship to thermodynamics is only in the fact that it is indeed matter.  The first law of thermodynamics states that matter can be changed, rearranged or manipulated, but not destroyed.  The second law of thermodynamics, the one you connected to this Kevlar vest, follows where the first leaves off.  It states that the continual changing of matter, through its dispersal and manipulation, creates a state of entropy which then continues in an ever-increasing state of decay.  So… to equate this Kevlar vest with the second law of thermodynamics, was to say in essence that it will simply get weaker and weaker over time.  You might want to rethink that logic on your next sales pitch.”  I smiled my best smile, which isn’t very impressive and has never gotten me much, and turned and walked away.

 

On the third day of the convention, in the morning as people gathered, there appeared before Brian’s wonderful Presidential suite on the 7th floor, a veritable buffet of empty wine bottles, beer bottles, and possibly a pair of ladies silky undergarments.  It appeared that someone had written, “Thanks Brian, you were great.  Thanks for explaining some of those canine things so well.”  in bright sin-red lipstick on his hotel room door.  I have no idea who might have done it, but I applaud that champion of underdogs.

 

I do not know if that woman from the first night at the conference ever got her question answered.  I don’t know how Brian’s attitude affected her.  I do know how it affected me.  My response to Brian was my own, and for my part, I do not think that it was the best response I could have offered.  Words like:  inspire, encourage, and motivate; are verbs.  By definition, they describe an action and most often their purpose is to evince change in the status quo.   Most often we use these verbs in a positive sense, though not always.  Did my words to Brian produce a change in him or his lecture?  I don’t know, but I can take a guess.  Change and investment in people’s lives rarely comes through a few snide sentences, no matter how technically “right” they might be.  Change is born in the heart and mind.  It is best and most often the offspring of sincerity partnered with truth.  Sincerity itself is not a moral endeavor.  The world is filled with examples of sincerity to inaccuracy.  We must learn from those who have held the standard.  Not in sincerity alone, but in correct thinking, right acting and sound motivation.

 

So who and why and what do we look to, as our guides and teachers?  It is an important question, because if we have teachers who are sincere, but sincerely wrong, we learn deeply held beliefs but wrong skills or behaviors.  If we have teachers who teach from a place of correct thinking and sound motivation, but lack the sincerity to invest in or encourage their students; we learn correct actions, but slowly and inefficiently, lacking passion or commitment.  We feel disconnected and lost in the process and are often incapable of expanding on that knowledge in any different situation.

 

This last year I had some difficult decisions to make.  Made more difficult by not completely understanding how to look at the problem from any remotely objective point of view.  Sometimes we need someone who can maintain a little objectivity and still provide us with clarity.  That is also NOT saying that objectivity is the same thing as a laissez-faire attitude.  I called both Mark and Miranda, at different times, frustrated and unsure of what to think or which direction to go.  I am pretty good at reading maps.  I don’t know why.  I would much prefer that someone give me directions in terms of North, South, East, and West, rather than left and right.  It is more direct, it removes inexact options.  I don’t enjoy wandering, though I admit that sometimes wandering is what we need to do to get us to realize that we just might be lost and need help!

 

When I called Mark and Miranda, I learned (only later, because I’m kinda slow) that I didn’t really need an answer, I needed the support and encouragement to find my own answer.   They told me that whatever I chose, they would support.  Support is a funny thing.  Support does not always require 100% agreement, it requires the continued caring and communication of the supporter.  In that, both Mark and Miranda have been there for me.  Entirely and completely.

 

Their responses were each unique.  Miranda was almost immediately upbeat and progressive about what I considered to be a huge decision in my life.  She was excited.  Her excitement colored my view and changed my perception of both her and me, and the situation.  I needed that, though I was initially taken aback by her forthright attitude, mostly because I did not perceive the “problem” as she did.  Where I saw a roadblock, she saw possibility.  …  I needed that.  Which is not the same as saying that at the time I was particularly happy about it.

 

Mark’s response was very different.  Mark would make a good litigator.  He listened a lot but when I started sinking into my ruts (and there are many) he systematically countered.  I like debate.  I happen to be fairly adept at verbal repartee.  This was not one of those times.  I was out of my element and comfort zone and while he recognized this, he also did not allow me to settle there for long.  It is a talent, perhaps a gift to disagree with someone without shattering them.  Most often disagreements, arguments, or discussions that devolve into defensive rants, never produce useful results.  The removal of emotionalism from the discussion, the separation of behavior from personhood, is not an easy thing to accomplish.

 

My point:  I appreciated and needed both approaches.  Recently on the phone with Erin Sisson, we agreed that one of the greatest benefits in working with Mark and Miranda was NOT their similarity, but their distinct and unique differences.  I initially, when I met them, thought that we would hear the same things from each.  While they support and compliment each other, their approaches to the same goal are from different directions.  Like the perpendicular warp and weft of woven fabric, they interweave, but the threads are unique and individual.

 

For the record I will never wear a WWM&MD bracelette either.  Not because I do not respect and admire and trust them.  It would not take a great mind to recognize my opinion of Mark and Miranda.  But I think that possibly one of the best things I have learned from them is their support and respect for the individuality of the horses and people that they teach and serve.  Trainers exist like the colors on an artist’s palette.  There will always be trainers like Brian.  Trainers and clinicians who speak much and say little.   Trainers like Mark and Miranda are fewer and farther between.  They are harder to find, they are quieter, they talk less but say far more.  Sometimes, I have seen them talking not at all, but to think they are not speaking would be folly and simplistic.  For every sentence spoken there are far more thought out and pondered.  Wisdom holds the tongue in check.  This creates a phenomenon known as “weighted words.”  The concept that import comes less from the volume of words spoken than it does the impact and personalization of a few carefully chosen words.

 

This summer Mark and Miranda will be clinicians at the Mustang Family Reunion Ride in June.  I would strongly encourage anyone who has not attended a clinic to come, observe, participate, question and ride.  The options for attending are numerous and the above link will take you to that page for more information.

 

Recently I had a conversation with Miranda about riding my mare and I was discouraged.  She told me something that I will forever remember.  It didn’t take her an hour to come up with and it didn’t have the flowery poetic appeal that sometimes masquerades as wisdom.  It is a poignant example of Miranda’s weighted words.  It was really quite simple and yet somehow so profound.  She said that sometimes in the midst of learning things we forget that horses are there for us to be with and enjoy, go ride your horse.  

 

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What are you waiting for?

Mark Lyon and the Waiting game.  I watched it, he won it.

 

It’s the beginning of a new year.  New Year’s resolutions abound.  I never make them though I do not begrudge the practice in others.  I used to make them.  To learn a sport… failed that one.  I could not tell you the important stats on a given sport to save my life.  I don’t even know why I made that resolution!  To speak less and listen more… failed that one on the very first day when a friend mentioned that gun ownership should belong only to law enforcement and that they should turn their guns in at the ends of their shifts.  I had a LOT to say about that one!  CLEP (College Level Examination Program) is a way for students to get college credit if they pass an exam that covers a comprehensive compilation of the matter in a given subject.  One year I decided that my New Year’s Resolution was to CLEP out of Calculus, Chemistry and Biology, three subjects I had never had in my years growing up other than a cursory introduction to Biology and Algebra.  That meant I would have to teach myself the whole subject before the CLEP test date.  I believe it is quite possible that this particular resolution was made under the influence, because I would like to believe that I wouldn’t have done anything that hair-brained while under the full control of all my limited faculties!  But I was committed.  Biology was a little easier than I had thought, and having a bit of a pyromaniac streak in me, I loved Chemistry and signed up for lab time to blow a few things up… I mean, perform properly managed and carefully controlled experiments.  I passed both CLEP tests and went into Calculus cocky.   I did not pass!  But the hardest resolution that I ever made was …. to be more patient, and to be willing to wait.

princess bride

 

To many, wait is a 4 letter word.  Ok, well, wait is a 4 letter word to everyone unless you are talking about the relative mass of an object and it’s downward force…..

 

We don’t usually like to wait.

 

We wait in lines

We wait for test results

We wait for the light to turn green

We wait for appointments

We wait 9 months for a child to be born and many wait even longer to adopt a child

We wait for an answer to prayer

We wait for a movie to come out (my kids recently saw Star Wars, but the weeks waiting on that nearly killed them… and their mother)

 

We often see waiting as a waste of time.  Wait and time are irrevocably linked.   We see waiting as a passing of time while nothing is happening, but that is most assuredly not the case.  We see waiting as the passive opposite to action.  Waiting however, is not passive, it is often proactive, and it is not easy.

 

Last year I watched Mark starting a horse.  I have seen a lot of horses broken, and by broken, I mean broken.   Most of the horses that I saw trained, were trained for harness not under saddle, but the point here is the process, not the skill set.  I had never seen patience, calmness and active waiting, until I saw and heard Mark with that horse.

 

People that I had seen break horses, in my experience (disclaimer… my experience means and is worth very little) were trainers that held an inverse relationship with their horse’s actions.  We often refer to horses as being reactive, but humans are often just as reactionary.  As the horse becomes confused and frightened, his reactionary nature moves into the foreground and the trainers I observed then perceived this as stubbornness or stupidity or willful refusal.  The trainers frustration becomes an inversion of the horse’s responses.   In a frenetic attempt to goad, prod or badger the horse into a correct behavior, the trainer becomes almost hyper-active in his own choices of behavior.

 

Mark was not in a clinic in this situation, someone had simply come up and asked for help and typical of their response, he had quickly given it.   To be clear, I have little skill with horses.  I have a lot of history in their presence, not all of it good.  I do not have the skill nor do I have the understanding that many have and I hope that I have never made it seem so.  But I do watch and more than that, I listen.  I can hear Mark’s voice and the subsequent conversation.  Please forgive how I may describe what I saw, as it may seem naive or ignorant to those more skilled and knowledgable, but I am very clear on what I heard.  Mark’s body language and particularly his hands did not seem filled with any tension.  Mark was not resisting or fighting the horse, he was guiding.  It is subtle and I will not condescend to explain the difference, I expect you understand that, far more than did I.  Unlike what I had experienced growing up, as the trainer became more frustrated, he became very “busy.”  Mark became very quiet.  He was waiting.  He was unconcerned.  He was not stressing out over the horse’s behavior.   Waiting, was the best word that I could come up with for the process Mark was involved in.  He was waiting on the horse’s understanding and resultant decision.  He knew it was coming.  I guess I have needed a few experiences recently to make me more fully understand the process of waiting.

 

He explained that his goal was not to demand mindless acquiesce from the horse, but to help him see and move through the door he had opened for him.  He explained that he had shut any other possible doors and simply was waiting for the horse to take the path of least resistance, which happened to be the door Mark had opened for him.  Mark knew where the door was.  It was Mark’s goal to help him find the door and make the choice, not drag him to it and shove or whip him through it.  It was a great analogy and one that was easily relatable to his observers.

 

It became clear that he was creating in the horse a foundation for what would become a pattern in his future schooling.  Furthermore, it struck me that Mark’s willingness to wait on the horse to find the answer, indicated that he put great value on what it was he was waiting for.  What we are willing to wait for says a lot about how we value that end goal.  Not only what Mark was waiting on, but HOW he waited, said a lot about Mark.  Waiting is very hard.   And like many hard things, it requires practice, dedication and it is a choice.

 

I don’t think I really have a bucket list.  I’ve said that before though and then come up with things that I would have liked to have done.  I would love to see a falcon hunt.  The sport of falconry has always fascinated me, though I’m not really sure why.  One of the terms in falconry is called, “waiting on.”  It is precisely what it sounds like.  It is the active waiting of the falcon on the falconer.  Far above him, he will wait for extremely long periods of time for quarry to be released.

 

The Bible has a lot to say about waiting.  In Psalm 130 David says, “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits.”  Doesn’t sound passive like sitting on the couch to me.  Both Matthew and Mark recount when Christ healed Peter’s mother in law and she got up and began to wait on them.  In restaurants we call them waiters.  Their job is not to sit in the back, but to wait actively on the table in their service.  They are waiting and watching on the ones they serve.  Waiting for orders or requests.  There are also a number of references to waiting, as a lion or a bear waits on its prey.  Also not a passive, inattentive picture in our minds.

 

We have come to live in a wait-free world.  We can hardly stand the 3 second wait for a reply to a text.  Microwaves cook food in minutes so we don’t have to wait.  Digital pictures can be downloaded and printed immediately so we don’t have to wait for them to be processed.  We don’t wait for relationships either.  We jump into and out of them as soon as the winds of discord blow.  We don’t wait for rewards.  We want instant gratification, immediate answers, fast turn around times, speedy Jimmy-Johns delivery.  We don’t like waiting for mail, we don’t like taking the train or waiting at the airport.  Everything has been tailored to suit our impatience and expedience.  At what great cost.

 

We have exchanged commitment to the process for simpler and quicker end results.  End results that are often woefully lacking in-depth and foundation.  For the last couple years I have prayed… begged… pleaded…. and then carefully qualified my prayer.  This last week was the wait of a lifetime.  Like that girl Veruca Salt, in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” when she sings that song, “I want it NOW”  …  I was that foolish child.  But waiting is an exquisite pain and a priceless process.  Waiting defines us in some ways.  And through the wait and defining, comes refining.

 

There is a time for everything.  A season for every activity under the heavens.

 

There is a time to wait.  There is also a time to NOT wait.  For what are you waiting?  Mark was waiting for something he knew was coming.  He designed the path and guided the outcome.   His vision, in many things and in many ways, has changed the lives of many horses and their owners.  In fact, Mark Lyon is the reason that I taught my children about Michael Faraday. Faraday lived in the early 1800’s and was largely self-taught.  Autodidacticism is the three dollar word for someone who largely teaches themselves about a topic and to expertise in that topic, often reaching a level of skill above what would be considered the norm.  Autodidacts also tend toward learning many different things, because theirs is not just an enjoyment of learning, but an insatiable and uncanny ability to grasp knowledge and possibly more importantly, to expound upon it.  To utilize it in a practical manner.  Michael Faraday was lauded by Clerk Maxwell, Ernest Rutherford and Albert Einstein, as one of the greatest scientists in history. Not for his one time accomplishment (we most often reference his invention of the Faraday cage but he did far far more than that)  but because of the foundation he laid in electromagnetics.  Michael Faraday was also a waiter.  Patient, sure of himself and his research, he was willing to wait for what he knew was coming.  His waiting was rewarded.  As was Marks.

 

We hear a lot about a brand new year and wiping the slate clean and starting fresh.  But there is something to be said for starting where you are.  We live often through great paradox in this world.  We attempt to forget the past and move forward and I am not saying that is always a bad thing.  I have done it and I know people of better esteem who have as well.  But staying the course, continuing on, plodding forward, all have their own unique merits.

 

A new year with new opportunities for training, both yourself and your horse.  Never has there ever been a better time to act, to wait.   Happy New Year, what are you waiting for?

 

 

Sent: Bronsmethhospital/ptserver/3

 

 

Tell me the Story of You!

I have struggled greatly with the guilt of knowing that this blog is not really a service or benefit to Mark and Miranda as I had hoped it might be.  I intended better but we all know where that road leads.

 

Last week when Miranda and Erin Sisson were visiting, they asked what I’d like to do, and this was first on my list.  I had tried to find a way to record Skype and Facetime calls so I could conveniently interview them but apparently the FBI and CIA take a dim view of that sort of thing and have made it incredibly hard!  I tried contacting Hillary because I was sure if anyone could figure out a way around the system, she would have that in the bag, but apparently she lost both my number and my e-mail.

 

It is no great mystery that Mark and Miranda are talented.  I would go further and say gifted.  Talented implies the ability to learn, retain, and utilize data or a skill to a highly effective level.  Many people have talent, at any number of different things.  Gifted, is somewhat outside the scope of human hands.  That does not mean that gifted people do not also work hard to hone a skill and talent, they surely do or should, but those who are gifted have an almost ethereal ability that is not found in the best of textbooks, the finest institutions, or the most rigorous and exacting training regimen.  It is not just talent, it is a gift.

 

 

So intentions and excuses aside, I wanted to hear how Mark and Miranda started.  Furthermore, I wanted you to be able to hear it. Actually audibly hear their voices.  There is something personal in hearing the style, lilt, and syntax that makes up a person’s voice. The small pauses, the choice of words, the emphasis, all those things bring us closer to the speaker.  It draws you in, in a way that written words cannot.  The following represents an attempt at that personalization.   It was not an entirely successful venture, for which I apologize to you as an audience, and more importantly to Mark and Miranda.

 

I was unaware that I could not post audio in a blog unless it is hosted by a third party.  That made me grumpy.  I have, on occasion, gotten in a LOT of trouble by not taking “no” as an acceptable answer.  So I had to upload the audio to Youtube, where I learned that you cannot upload audio alone…  That made me grumpy.  It was at this point that my kids retreated to the barn to do their schoolwork.  After wanting to pull my hair out …  I downloaded software to merge audio and photo.  After a few hours of talking in vicious undertones to my computer, and a few more hours of clipping and sewing and stitching like Dr. Frankenstein in his lair, I am hoping that the resultant product of Miranda telling her story will help you see and hear her in a new light.  Maybe it will also make you see yourself in a new light as well.  Maybe it will inspire you to record your own history. Perhaps you will grow your story and attend a clinic or blaze your own path in some uncharted adventure.

 

I want to credit the photographers who took such wonderful pictures of such a beautiful woman.  Beauty that, despite the great skill of a photographer, can never be truly captured because it is not born on the skin but deeper in.  I take responsibility for any infringement and will be more than happy to edit or correct the video if necessary or as needed.

I did my best to edit out my own voice, other than a couple questions, but I know very little about proper editing.  The voices you hear in the background are Erin Sisson, who wants to be a food critic, (you’ll have to listen to get the joke!) and myself.

Enjoy.

 

 

I am hoping that Mark will be kind enough to allow me the same pleasure of recording his story and will post it whenever he manages to get off a horse long enough talk…  You might have to wait a bit on that one.

 

 

Click Accept

This is the time of year where these little challenge things come out of the FB woodwork.  I am not sure if they are quite contests or programs or little experiments or just things people do.

 

Recently I have noticed a few friends doing something called “30 Days of Gratitude”   No negative comments from me.  I am a fan of gratitude.  I don’t think we see enough of it and I am fairly sure that I do not express it as I should.

 

While I fully support my friends who are doing this, I am not.  It is not that I am ungrateful, it is that I feel inadequate in my words, to express fully how I feel.  I am not entirely sure how to put into words what is in my heart.  It is not a place I visit often.  It is a place that is guarded by jokes and lightness and banter, to protect something more personal.

 

It seems here in 2015 that we find ourselves surrounded by attitude more than gratitude.  We hear a lot about “my rights” and not so much about “my responsibilites.”  I didn’t hear about rights when I was growing up.  I heard about responsibilities and priveleges and how the two were directly interrelated.  I did not enjoy getting up before the roosters to build a fire in the kitchen stove, bundle up in the dark and go out to mix milk replacer for our calves, climb into the hay loft and throw down bales of hay and straw, clean soiled bedding, chip out frozen water troughs and feed the waiting and rather noisy horde.  I didn’t enjoy it on Christmas, or birthdays or when I was sick.  I didn’t enjoy it when my best friend, Belinda Imhoff would drive her pony over and tell me she was going to help bale hay, which everyone knows is totally the best job ever because you get to ride on the wagon and play on top of the hayrick.  But I had to stay home to pick weeds out of the cornfield…. by hand… acre after acre after acre.  Which everyone knew was the worst job because it was SO boring!  I would grumble about animals needing roughage and weeds were perfectly acceptable roughage!  I might add that I made sure that the grumbling was done well under my breath!

 

I didn’t like those things.  I didn’t see the lesson or a foundation being built.  But I am grateful.

 

I am grateful for the hard things in my life, which is a very different thing from liking them.  I do not enjoy the struggles of pain or hurt or hardship.   I am grateful not because I am wise or strong or courageous.  I am not.  I am grateful simply because I choose to be.  To be clear and honest, I have not always been grateful.  I am no saint and I can write my own indictment for all my faults and failings.  Make me out to be nothing more than I am, a daughter of the dirt; very plain, very simple, and very flawed.

 

I am grateful for pain that has made me more compassionate.  I am grateful for weakness that has shown me that strength is more than just physical.  Weakness and strength are not mutually exclusive and not always the opposites we see. Uncertainty is a mountain and a monster.  It casts our lives in shadow… if we allow it.  It is a difficult thing for which to be grateful.  But I have tried (and on many occasions, failed) to choose to be grateful for the question marks that lie before me.  It has allowed me the choice to relinquish control …. control that was never meant to be mine in the first place.  Relinquishing control is not the same as giving up.  It is the choice to put my life in the hands of the God that I said (with words) I always trusted.  Now is where the words meet the actions.  I am grateful.

 

This is where this post lists off center.   This is where my awkward leaks out a little.  I can effectively express feeling and emotion in the third person and I often do so to protect myself.  But some things, like gratitude to an individual, need to be first person; hand to hand, face to face, heart to heart.  I find all of those things hard, not because I am so emotionless or cold that I am incapable of feeling, but precisely because the little group of people to whom this post is addressed mean so very very much to me.  More, in fact, than written words will ever be able to adequately describe.  It is being exposed and vulnerable… that too, is a choice.

 

Words come, often, somewhat easily to me.  Sometimes far more easily than they should!  I read a lot, I have a fairly wide ranging and ecclectic vocabulary and I like the spin of a story cleverly told, of words carefully woven together.  But in this post, I sit here completely at a loss.  How many times in the last few days have I shaken my head in disbelief.

 

On Monday evening I received a text from my friend Erin Sisson.  I knew she was having her Andalusian mare, Aurora, trained by Mark and Miranda and was going to ride her for the first time in 5-6 weeks.  She was excited and I was excited for her.  We joked and talked about what it was going to be like and since I knew that she and Miranda would be together, it was no great surprise that she mentioned calling or Facetime or Skype.

 

After working through the normal difficulties of technology, I heard that Skype tone that is so unique and familiar (and I might mention, annoying?).

 

I clicked accept and the first face I saw was Mark’s.  I was thrilled, thinking he might not be there with them.  There we were, 4 crazies crowded around our cold little distant pieces of technology; laughing and smiling.   It made me miss them so much more.  There is an ache that is worse than any physical pain, and it comes from longing to see friends that you hold ever in your mind and heart, but rarely within your physical grasp.  It is almost indescribable and any small dim picture of their face, hearing their voice, seeing them smile and laugh, is so amazingly good that words simply fail.

 

Earlier that day Mark and I had joked back and forth.  He said he was sending me a surprise.  The very first thought when I read his remark was, “If only it was THEM, not a thing.  I don’t want any THING, I want my friends.”  But I ruthlessly banished that thought, because it seemed so unlikely and so far away, and frankly, it was painful.  So we joked and laughed and I buried the hope.

 

Yet, there he was, telling me that he was sharing his wife with me for a couple days.

 

Why?  Over and over, after we hung up, that question filled my mind.  Why would they do this?  All three are business owners.  All three are busy and have more important matters to attend.  I had done nothing to deserve this.  They weren’t coming to train a horse or for a clinic or lessons and the more I wracked my brain for a reason, the more confused I became.   Why?

 

When they got  here they seemed genuinely happy to be here, not as though they felt they should be, but were truly having fun.  Overwhelming.

 

Gratitude is more than just liking something.  It is more than just thankfulness.  I think it would be popularly acceptable to say that gratitude is the desire to repay a kindness.  But there are some things that can never be repayed.  How do you repay a friend?  You can certainly do things for one another, but I have little of value that will benefit Mark or Miranda or Erin in any tangible way.  The fact is we repay debts, but what they gave me was not a debt.  It was a gift.  Gifts are meant to be accepted and enjoyed.  Something hard for me, and for many I think.

 

I go back to hearing that skype tone on my computer.  Two choices you are given as that tone plays repeatedly …. waiting…  You have to make a decision.  The choice is yours.

 

click Accept

or

click Decline

 

It’s really that simple.  To not decide, is to decide.  If you abdicate, choose to not make a decision, you have chosen “decline.”

 

There are things that I can say only personally to these three, because they are for them alone.  But I can say, that one of the greatest gifts that can be given is the redefinition of the word “friend.”  I find it both unmistakable and incredibly hard to articulate.  The depth and breadth of your friendship is overwhelming.  Your commitment and faithfulness to me, someone who can offer you so little, speaks volumes.

 

I pray that God will grant me the time and ability to somehow express my gratitude, broken and faltering though that effort may be.

 

I click accept.

 

Thank you.

Lisa

Would You Rather?

Sometimes when things get a little rough I retreat.  Not always bad, not always healthy.  But I will tell you that Facebook is not always a good retreat.  Again, not always bad, but while it is the faceplate for people the world over, it distinctly lacks the personal humanity of sitting across the table from a friend, hearing them breathe, listening to their voice, seeing them smile, seeing the light in their eyes, or even just being silent together in a shared space.  Right now, I am missing my friends.

 

We all know that Facebook can add quite a bit of drama and that leads me to something that has been grinding away at my small mind for a while.

 

Some FB things that make me go….

angry baby

I don’t spend a lot of time on the computer, despite how it might seem.  I have better things to do and Mark and Miranda surely do.  But most of us enjoy spending a few minutes catching up, or sharing a post or two that we like.  Facebook is a great tool but here are a couple things that I find … challenging.

First on the list of eye-rollers is what we will refer to as the “half bait.”   These come usually as pop-up stories on our timelines often from people we don’t know (and sometimes people you don’t want to know!)  and they go something like the following:

This kitten … kitten  Was stuck in this hole … massive-hole-mine-crater-sinkhole8

when this dog… cape  found it.  (Here is the really annoying part… ready?)

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT WILL BLOW YOUR MIND!

My immediate response is No… just… NO.  I will NOT have my mind blown!   Besides, anyone who knows me, is aware that it would be a really underwhelmingly small explosion anyway.  (Did you know that a monkey’s brain is about the size of a walnut?)  I have learned my lesson because on a few shameful occasions I have been suckered into clicking on that emotional link because…. well I just HAVE to know what happened to that kitten.

Let me clue you in.  The kitten is ALWAYS saved.  ok?  Always.

The dog tragically breaks his back legs climbing through rugged underbrush to the rim of the rock-lined hole and yet still manages to heroically run to get Timmy, who picks him bravely up (despite severe arthritis in the spine) and races back to the hole, dodging landmines and a large rabid bear that is chasing them, and gently and carefully lifts the terror-stricken kitten to safety. The bear… seeing the kindness and care that Timmy has for the poor and downtrodden, retreats into the woods to a life of quiet reflection, veganism and solitude.  Timmy, the bedraggled kitten, and the wounded but courageous dog walk home snuggled in each others arms and live happily ever after.

3 minutes of your life… zap… gone forever!  Don’t do it, I warned you!

Political stories are rife with that type of emotional blackmail as well.  No matter what side you’re on (if you need help picking a side, I would be happy to tell you what side is the RIGHT side….. see what I did there?)  the stories all come to the same heart-stopping cliff hanger that the author hopes will leave you no option but to click to read the ending.

Many of you know that Mark and Miranda are fairly up front folk.  They don’t play that little game.  They wont slow step you to an epiphany.  They will come straight out and make it clear.  If they have something to say that you really need to know, trust me they will make sure you know.

The next on the list of irksome FB posts is called the, “If you’re really my friend….” type post.

Here is how this post normally reads:

I know that no one will read this… and if you do bother to read it, I’m sure you wont really care anyway… but if I have a few friends out there who care about what happens to me, please post this as your status for an hour to show me that you care….

Usually followed by rules and restrictions on how it can’t be just shared but actually has to be copied and pasted and must include a secret handshake, the blood of a firstborn child and proof of a DNA cheek swab.  emotional         . . .  Ugg

Actually, I feel for those people sometimes.  No one likes to feel forgotten.  I believe it is important to be a part of a unit somewhere.  A family, a group, a little posse of crazy friends, all those things are important.  We were placed on this Earth in groups, designed to be in community with one another.  But… a lack of a “like” or “share” or comment on FB does not represent the sum total of our audience’s commitment to us.  That is where FB falls down.  Intimacy.  We cringe sometimes when we hear that word, because it is so often cheapened and misrepresented and maligned.

 

I have friends who never contact me.  I always have to be the one to send them a message to say, “Hey, how are you doing?”  And then hope they will reciprocate.  But honestly, if they never do, I am still going to be messaging them to say, “Hey, how are you doing?”  At least until they say, “please go play in traffic.”  Why?  Because I care about them.  I want them to know that they are remembered. That’s it, that’s all.  Do I want them to think of me?  Sure, no one wants to be overlooked or left out.   I get that.  But friendship is not a score keeping session either.

 

I once attended a church for almost a year and they gave me a visitor sticker every Sunday.   I mean, I know I’m not horribly memorable but… EVERY Sunday?  But that’s life.  I decided I could get bitter, or get over it.  I decided a little humor was in order and each Sunday I was a different person.  Marilyn, Edith, Maquesta, Shantel.  I watched for that blank reaction and would lean in and watch them write the name on that little sticker… wondering what kind of spelling skills they might possess.  On one particularly exciting Sunday morning the friendly lady at the “greeting kiosk” that you walk past to enter the sanctuary stopped me with her best smile and welcomed me to the church I had been attending since the paint was wet.  Her pen poised above the little name tag, her nails laquered with a perfect “Hester Prynne red” and her jewelry glittering in the morning light… She asked me my name, I tried to match her smile… failed and leaned in and said, “Janellinoire.”  I should have received an Emmy… or is it Oscar? I had a firm grip on my tongue with my teeth trying not to laugh.  Her smile looked extra darling for about 3 seconds, but there were a few too many gritted teeth showing and her eyes were telling a different story.  She might have needed to repent for thoughts of murder, I’m not sure, that’s between her and God.  She said, “Well how marvelous to have you here, why don’t you just write your name on this name tag so we can all get to know you!”  I felt almost robbed when one Sunday someone said, “Wait, you’re name’s Lisa right?”

Mark and Miranda are incredibly busy people, and yet time and again I have seen them make a concerted effort to stop and take the time to help someone, contact someone, reach out to someone.  Not for financial gain, just to help.  Time and again.  That moment has a cost.  We are given just so many moments in life, to use or to lose.  That moment is an investment.  Investing is a risky business.  Only those who are willing to walk into the risk, knowing full well that they may lose, will ever receive the reward.  And what is the reward?  This day and age a whole lot of people would blithely say prosperity.  To be clear, my husband is a business owner.  It is a thriving business and we do not apologize for that.  And…  yes he DID build that!  But there have been times when the prosperity of the business was our greatest struggle and failing.  I strongly support capitalism.  But many, like Megachurches that chant the maxim, “healthy, wealthy and wise” have grossly  misunderstood the meaning of all three words.  I have never claimed to speak for Mark and Miranda, and I want to make it clear that they may disagree, and they should not be judged on my words.  That said, I believe that their lives tell a distinctly different tale than what society shucks as progressive success.  Their commitment and dedication to those they serve implies a greater law at work.  No clever mantra or catchy adage. How they live is the axiom.

 

So when you are at that clinic and their eyes are fixed on you and your horse, that is their investment.  Not in brick and mortar, but in the hearts and minds of horse and man.

 

Do you remember that game many of us played when we were younger (ok I have played this as an adult too, it just gets weirder!)  called, “Would you rather?”

Would you rather have tennis racket hands or springboard feet?

Would you rather be invisible or fly?

Would you rather … the list is endless and runs the scale from funny to gross to introspective.

So lets play a little shall we?

 

 

Thank you for playing!  Now go out there and ride!

Trick or Treat?

I apologize that this is fairly brief and somewhat disjointed, it has been a bit of a hard week.

I don’t believe in Karma, never have.  I DO believe that sometimes things work themselves out in the most fascinating of ways.  Sometimes that person that has always picked on you relentlessly finally sasses the wrong 240 lb. black woman at Walmart and gets the public smack-down of a lifetime and you just HAPPEN to catch the whole thing on your iphone.  That’s not Karma…. that’s about near heaven!

I avoid Walmart if I can.  …  like the plague mostly.  If I have to go, I prefer early in the morning when most of the drama hasn’t woken up from their hangovers.  A little while ago I couldn’t avoid a trip to the store to pick something up in the drug department, which just so happened to be right across the isle from the large costume and Halloween display.  While waiting I heard some laughing,  glanced up and saw a teenish age boy pull a zombie mask on and crouch down in the isle.  I smiled.  I am a proponant of a well placed scream.  What neither of us saw was the coming reaction of the large black woman who rounded the corner carrying a couple bags of Halloween candy and a few hangars from the “Intimates” collection.  It’s quite possible that this woman had previously played defensive tackle for some NFL team, she had the look of a prison guard mixed with sumo wrestler.  She rounded the end of the isle and the waiting zombie leaped to life, arms out, ready for a meal.  What he got was a mouth full of this woman’s large purse and 2 or 3 hangars full of very large women’s underwear draped over his corpse-like head.  I don’t speak the proper Walmart dialect to fully understand what she was saying to him, but it was clear that he was her son and he was in a lot of trouble.  By the look on his face when he pulled the mask off, it was also apparent that this was trouble he was not unfamiliar with and likely well worth the coming storm.

 

Halloween is my least favorite holiday, but the advent of my favorite season.  We live in an inconvenient place to trick-or-treat so no one ever stops at our house… or maybe word has gotten out about the crazy person that lives here.  This brings me roundabout to the sort of person this trained monkey is.  Not a good one.

 

Case in point, the following story:

One year I saved a ton of these candy wrappers…

 

 

chocolates

Remember them?  Those chocolatey and nutty treats, kind of crunch and then melt in your mouth?

I carefully smoothed them out and kept the little sticker and the little brown cup papers they came in.

 

There was this boy…. (a lot of train wrecks start out this way). He was tall and quiet; intelligent and kind. (Opposites attract right?) …and he didn’t know that I existed…. but that was about to change.   Anyway, I got some of those large cocktail pickled pearl onions and some chocolate.   If you know where this story is headed then you might want to re-examine your own innocent take on life.

So, yes, I melted chocolate and carefully dried and covered those pickled onions.  In fact, I was so caring, I DOUBLE dipped those little guys. Carefully wrapped and packaged, I delivered my gift…  trick or treat you say?  I say, “trick for him, treat for me!”  Why he never asked me out remains a mystery to me.

 

I like practical jokes.  Honestly I really rather enjoy playing them than receiving them, but I’m flexible on that and have always felt that if I am going to dish it out I had better be able to smile and choke it down when it comes my way… which it has on numerous occasions.

 

So how many of you would figure on Mark and Miranda being pranksters?  Show of hands?  I’ve heard a few stories of that mustachioed man and anyone who has ever met him has seen the twinkle of mischief that immediately precedes something delightful (as long as it isn’t happening to you!).  And Miranda might fool you with her quiet grace and sweetness…. trust me it’s a facade, that woman has mad  pranking skills.

 

Of course a lot of people like Halloween not just for the tricks or candy but for the costumes.  Why do we like costumes?  Make-believe maybe?  Somewhere along the way we lose the sense of childlike wonder and anticipation and imagination and we replace it with a more mature, possibly boring sense of pragmatism.  I think that’s a shame.  I know that one of the favorite things in the Extreme Mustang Makeover is the youth freestyle, where youth have the chance to showcase not only all their Mustang’s greatest skills, they also can show off a little of their own creativity and style.  Costumes can add or in certain circumstances detract from a performance.  Note the two following pictures!

pinkdarth   costume-fail-5  Pink and green Hello Kitty Darth Vader?  This guy is more confused than Bruce Jenner!   And the second one… It’s a good thing there’s a picture of Mickey Mouse in the corner because I would not have known, would you?

And then we have….

Funniest_Memes_this-horse-s-clip-job_15615  I dont know who clipped this horse but clearly they have boss skills!  Possibly  Erin Sisson, she still owes me pictures of the clip job on her Trakehner mare!

anatomy-of-a-horse-434x325   When anatomy class gets boring!  I absolutely do not get the whole fascination with zombies.  I really don’t. But a zombie horse…. admittedly that’s kinda cool.

halloween poodle love this girl!  She wins big for cuteness and the pony for tolerance.

So now it’s your turn!  (Hint:  there will be a vote and we will be giving away free chocolate like this chocolates  lol, just kidding.)

What’s the best costume you’ve ever seen?  Send us a picture of one you’ve made or seen.  If you’ve seen the Mustang Makeover, what is your favorite freestyle and why?

 

Have a great week, get out there and ride!

 

Trick or Treat!

 

 

 

This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.

Spankings.  I’m more a fan of them now that I’m a parent than I was when I was a kid.  I got a lot of them.  All of them were unnecessary and uncalled for… because I was a model child.  The time that I set the floor of my room on fire can’t be counted because I was only playing “Revolutionary War” with my older brother with little clay figures we had made and he was the one that insisted that as much realism should be used as possible.  I was a benevelent military leader and felt that my troops deserved a small bonfire made from tiny pieces of straw and hay.  It was a hard winter in 1780 and I was only going to win this war if I could provide them heat and food!  It was a very small puff of smoke… that’s all… a little charring.  It could have EASILY been covered with a small area rug!  Frankly the rug would have added character and warmth to an otherwise austere and simple room…. they should have THANKED me!

 

Do you remember that line parents give their children when they have the discussion that resolves into the spanking?

 

“I love you and I’m doing this to teach you something and it is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.”

 

I smile as I think of my oldest daughter while I write this.  There were times that I was saying in my head, “Nope, this is pretty much gonna be a bad time for just you and you alone!”  It’s also quite possible that it wasn’t just in my head that I said those words.  She was tough!  She was/is stubborn and independant.  If we had been kids at the same time, I think that we would have had a LOT of fun playing, “Revolutionary War!”

 

I remember watching someone work with a horse and grow increasingly frustrated with his refusal to do what that person wanted him to do.  As so often happens and I admit that I have done this, punishment begins for what is perceived as a lack of willingness or outright disobedience.   The biggest problem here is quite possibly… perception.

 

Perception is valid if it is backed by knowledge and a full view of the facts.

 

A long time ago I took a test called a “Fluid intelligence aptitude assessment.”  It tests not only facts memorized, it tests perceptive ability to extrapolate from a given set of data.

 

Here are two questions from that test:

 

  1.  5+3+2= 151012
    9+2+4= 183662
    8+6+3= 482466
    5+4+5= 202504

THEN
7+2+5=??

2.

download

 

The first appears on the outset to be simply mathematical and the second visual, but both are perceptual as well.

I will tell you that I killed a few trees on the first one, writing, scribbling, erasing and rewriting before I finally saw the pattern.

 

If you want to figure the above out yourself I am putting up a SPOILER ALERT right here because I’m going to give you the answers below.

 

  1.  the proof for this problem is not merely math.  In actuality the math skills necessary to complete the actual problem are very simple.  Math we all know by the third grade.  But that is hardly the difficulty.  The challenge comes in perceiving the pattern.  How we view the numbers.  How willing we are to step outside the order and parameters of what we have come to find “normal’

proof:

5+3+2= 15,10,12
9+2+4= 18,36,62
8+6+3= 48,24,66
5+4+5= 20,25,04
a+b+c= d,e,f
d=a(b)  [a multiplied by b]
e=a(c)
f= a(b) + b(c) then the number is reversed (ie. first example 5×3=15 + 3×2=6, therefore 15+6= 21 and 21 reversed is 12)

7+2+5 = 14,35,42

143542

Fun huh?

 

2.  How many holes in this shirt.  This problem is far more simple than we make it out to be at the beginning.  First and foremost, if you asked someone just randomly without calling this some sort of test question, you would likely get a very different response.  They would count the holes minus the arm, neck and bottom holes.  Why?  Because we do not perceive those “holes” as holes or deformities.  While we refer to the openings in the arm and neck as armholes and neckholes, we do not see them as the same type of hole that appear in the center of the shirt.  But as soon as someone says, “I’m going to give you a test question”  our minds begin to open up to the possibilities that “normal” might be suspended and we will be required to view the question on a broader scale.  We will need to think outside the box.

 

So there appear to be two holes in the front and two more directly in the back of the front holes as you can see the background color showing through.  So most people would say that there are 2 arm holes, plus 1 neck hole, 1 bottom hole, 2 front ragged holes, 2 back ragged holes for a total of 8.  Did you get 8?  Congratulations, that is a very good try, but alas, it is not entirely correct.  What we can only say from this picture is that there are at least 8 holes.  It is possible with a back view of the shirt, that there may be other holes that we could not see from the front.  Tricky eh?

 

Questions can be very leading.  Here’s a good leading question.

 

It’s really a good thing that God made bacon isn’t it?

 

Your natural response is, “Why yes, Lisa, it surely is!”

 

or…

 

“Why do you like bacon?”

 

I am making an assumption here.  Clearly I am expecting you to say yes.  (Frankly if you don’t say yes, you should probably quit reading right here because we no longer have much to discuss!)

 

My whole point to this whole crazy post is this:  Perception requires a foundation.

 

If you are struggling with the perception of your horse, why he is responding, or not responding in a certain fashion, your response to him will be colored by your perception.

 

I had a discussion with a friend recently about how our horses greet us in the morning.  I am skeptical I suppose and my response with a snort was, “sure he nickers and gets excited, but trust me, if I fell off the planet tomorrow and you brought him hay, he would nicker and get excited for you!”

 

We do this with lots of things.  My horse feels this way, my horse thinks that way, my child thinks this or that.  Have you ever had a conversation with someone who throws you crazy body language?  Try it sometime.  It’s a delightful parlor game and it will bring into clear focus just how difficult is this communication and perception game.  The next time you converse with someone try opposing all of your non-verbal communication.  This will be harder than you might think.  I.e.  When you say, “I had a great evening,”  cross your arms, lower your eyes, scowl etc.    Try saying, “I love you” angrily.  Try saying, “I’m so ticked off”  with a smile and a laugh.  I proved it to my kids by calling in our dog and having him sit in front of us.  I then began to tell him how I was unhappy with him, he never listened and I wasn’t sure he really had it in him to be a good pet.  I did it all while leaning in and smiling and speaking quietly to him.  What do you suppose he did?  He wagged his tail the whole time of course.  Though I didn’t do it, I could have shouted, “Good dog, good dog”  In a loud, harsh, angry voice and you know what would have happened.  That’s the very reason I didn’t do it!

 

So when you hear those parents who say, “this is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.”  I would put money on the fact that their perception and the perception of the guilty party about to receive their just rewards…. is totally different.  I am in no way saying that it doesn’t hurt a parent to correct or discipline a child.  It does.  It is an incredibly hard and painful thing in fact.  I am simply saying that our perception of how we each view that punishment is different.

 

So how do we learn proper perception?  In humans we call it communication.  But way too many people think that communication is talking… that’s it, just talking.  We use those non-verbal cues, spoken word, and contextual reference.  We perceive someone who has their arms wrapped around themselves, acting nervously, and saying, “I’m fine” as possibly a little nutty, until we contextually add in the fact that they were just in a car accident.  Then all of the pieces fit into place.

 

It’s not easy!

 

And what is possibly the very hardest part of communication?  In my opinion (possibly entirely useless)  ….  Listening.  Listening is not a passive act.  It is an art.  Listen when someone isn’t speaking.  Can you still hear them?  I don’t like new-agey type touchy feely questions like that.  I really don’t, so I hesistate to even ask it.  But I do think there is a truth hidden somewhere in that little flower patch.  Learn to listen.

 

Now try doing that with a thousand pound animal that does not speak your language, does not share all of your own body cues and cannot verbalize any contextual information for you.

 

It reconfirms for me the great skill that Mark and Miranda possess.  If you struggle with communication and perception you need a gap junction.  In the medical world a gap junction is a way of connecting two treatments or body processes.  It provides or creates a catalyst (often painful) in the hopes of producing growth and healing.

 

During an interview someone told me that one of the things that they admired in watching Mark work a horse was, “he never got angry, he worked through it.  He understood that the horse didn’t understand, and he systematically went about making it clear for him.”

 

He acted as a gap junction.

 

For schedule and contact information visit their website at:

M&M Horsemanship

Training – The discipline of habitual excellence

A while ago a saying became vogue in certain parenting circles.  “Quality time, not Quantity time.”

 

While the notion seems on the outset, to be valid and make logical sense, there are a couple flaws in this little axiom.

 

I had trained a number of dogs before I owned the first one that was MINE.  And I apologize for the analogies to dog training because I cannot claim any training of my horses, which I purchased already broke to ride and drive.  I did none of it.  So my only frame of reference, flawed though it may be, is dog training.

 

Like many people, well intentioned and filled with excitement and grandiose visions, I attacked the training of my dog with gusto and dedication.  I committed that all of the time I spent with him would be of the highest quality.  I would waste no moments and we would grow together in talent and ability.

 

All of you who are wiser and more experienced are smirking and saying, “Aww, that’s adorable isn’t it?  Look at that trained monkey spin!”

 

… And yes, that’s really what happened on a few occasions.  Don’t get me wrong, we did quality work and I think that’s imperative!  But we also did a lot of really sub-par, hot mess work too.  My dog came out of a few training sessions more confused than I, which was saying quite a bit!

 

Fortunately, for both of us, I determined early on to lighten up and enjoy him.  I spent countless hours throwing a ball to him, brushing him, and playing “hide and seek” which turned out to be a genius move on my part (totally by accident I assure you.  I have no other genius moves in my bag of monkey tricks).   There were moments, mostly during “formal” training that I became frustrated, not because of Jacco’s lack of understanding, but because of my lack of ability to communicate across the gap of human to canine “language.”  While we did have quality training moments, they were not long spans of time.  They were moments.  A short burst of time where I happened to give him feedback that he was able to clearly understand and respond to in the way that I was then able to reward.  But to be clear, the greatest part of our “training”  happened in the life we lived together.

 

It was in life that our foundation was set.  Sitting on the couch or walking in the woods, chasing rabbits and on way too many occasions skunks, which left me running away from my dog yelling over my shoulder, “No, stay, no no, down Jacco, PLATZ Jacco!”  All the while, my elated dog chased me, caught me, danced around me, rubbed against me and thought that I had created skunks just for him and this delightful game.

 

Our training was not the result of all quality and a little quantity.  It was the result of a natural life of a little quality and a lot of quantity.  I learned that the more quantity I spent, the more we gradually grew to have quality as well.   I learned how to more effectively separate my emotional “feelings” about both his responses and my cues.  But being a relatively average trained monkey… that took me a lot of time to learn.  Quantity.

 

A lot of people in the dog training club felt that you needed to channel your inner canine to really develop them into the finest sporting dog they could become.  Admittedly a lot of those people had great sport dogs and I respected that skill and their achievements.  But I did not covet it.  Many of those trainers had dogs that while on the sporting field, were outstanding to watch and won high prizes, but when off the field were completely incapable of being good family members.  Why?  Quantity.  They had no quantity.  They went from kennel to field to kennel.  I watched on more than one occasion the reponse to a dog refusing a cue.  There would be sudden shock and then an almost apoplectic fit from the handler who seemed to think that the dog’s refusal was a personal and intentional insult.  I walked away from those experiences confused and embarassed for those handlers who clearly were no longer enjoying the sport.  I wanted a dog that I could live with, which included tolerance of quirks and failings, mostly mine.

 

At the other side of the training isle were the people who baby-talked their dog to the point of a diabetic sugar coma.  “Oh good booboo, such a goody woody doggy woggy.”  I think on more than one occasion I might have muttered something about needing to pukey wookey…  Just Ugg.  I believe praise is important, but many of the trainers praised their dogs so exuberantly and vociferously that the dog lost all focus and the training session that was going so well skidded to an awkward halt.

 

In a more real-world setting, in search and rescue training, the trainers were entirely different.  If the dog tracked with a classically deep nose and never lifted his head, they were fine with that, but if he lifted his head and cast about, air scenting, they were fine with that too.  Because the goal was not “pretty” the goal was… “find them!”  That is your ONLY goal, if it’s a little messy and you still find them, you’ve won.  If it’s pretty and classy and you miss your find, I promise you that the look on the loved ones faces waiting at HQ will or certainly should, humble you.  There were a few amazing trainers who managed to get an unbelievable mix of both esthetics and practical skill.  I will also tell you that I am not one of those trainers, though I admire and aspire to that standard.  How did those SAR trainers get dogs with such seemingly subtle understanding of their body language and cues?  They worked hard and tried to do a very specific and quality job when they were training in the field, but JUST as importantly, they spent time with their canine partner.  Every day, they lived with the dog.  They spent quantity time.

 

Now perhaps not all of these little analogies work well when transferred to the training of equines and I get that.  And I am making no judgements on any equine event Western, English or anything in the middle whatsoever.  I have no skill and pretend no history or talent in the training of horses.  I have been around them all my life, I have feared them for a good portion of that time.  Perhaps for that very reason, I decided when my daughter became more and more interested, that she should learn respect, but not fear.  I wanted her to learn to take care, but not become debilitated or paralyzed by fear.  I believe fear can become a far more dangerous thing that masquerades as “caution.”  Let me assure you that is not the case.  Fear is not a rational emotion.  It will cause you to react instead of respond, which, in so many situations can be a design for disaster.  In almost every situation that I can bring to mind, education and knowlege will help to counteract and interrupt irrational fear.  But I needed that knowledge.  That’s where Mark and Miranda came in.

 

As a completely honest bit of shameful confession, I have not entirely conquered that fear.  As shameful as it sounds and is, I have the ability to come up with nice sounding words that make me appear quite a bit more courageous and all in all, better than I really am.  I am a small work in slow progress, nothing more.

 

This act of creating excellence is not a one day proposition.  It is habitual.  And even once habituated, the maintenance of excellence is a life-long endeavor.  It is not natural and it is not easy.  It requires concentrated effort and an almost daily, sometimes hourly (quantity) commitment.  It is a staunch refusal to give up.  There have recently been times that I have dearly wanted to give up.  Feeling as though I am plodding through waist deep mud that is intent on swallowing me.  Every forward step is a monumental effort only to find myself sliding slowly backward.  It’s nice to think that the goal is there in front of us, that shining object on which we hang our hopes and focus, but sometimes, the goal is right there in the middle of the mud.  Every step is a goal.

 

Often one of our most priceless tools is the talent and expertise of someone who has travelled the road before.  Who has paid the price of quantity spent, through both good and bad.  Who has endured the trials, experienced and persevered through the mud and mire and come out on the other side.  Who has through quantity spent, removed the dross and been refined.  Those people who through repeated practice make excellence a habit.  We call them by many names; trainers, mentors, parents, friends.  I call them Mark and Miranda.

 

If you have ever gotten to spend an hour watching Mark and Miranda train, you have seen that excellence in practice.  It is not a one time performance that you are witness to, it is a lifelong commitment.  It is the habitual practice of excellence.

 

Excellence is an art won by training and habituation.  We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly.  We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.  –  Aristotle.

 

*Disclaimer

I want it always made clear that the opinions herein are not necessarily Mark and Miranda’s.  You know the saying, “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing”… well… if that is true…. I’m deadly!  My goal is not to teach but to point you to the teacher.  I can’t begin to tell you how many times I write, delete, rewrite and think about how those words sound and the impact they may or may not have.  I do not ever want to misrepresent Mark and Miranda.

 

It is also a dangerous and unfair thing to put someone on a pedestal.  When we train our horses we are careful to set them up to succeed.  However, we often dig a pit and set up our fellow man to fall, for whatever reasons, both innocent and sinister.  I want to be extremely careful in how I portray Mark and Miranda.  They are not “just” trainers.  They are my friends.  They are not perfect, but they are priceless.

 

Any areas where I have failed or fallen short, please forgive me and place the responsibility with me and me alone.

There are no stupid questions. ….. Challenge Accepted!

Now perhaps you have never asked a stupid question and good for you….  but I’m not sure I like you anymore and clearly we have nothing in common!  I have asked a LOT of stupid questions.  Here’s one from my book of shame.  When I was getting my driver’s license I was understandably nervous and shuffling up to the nice gentleman who was standing right beside the DMV car parked right in the DMV parking spot that said, “For driving tests only” while holding a paper that said in big letters on the back, “Driving test.”  I asked, “Am I going to have to take a driving test?” dmv

So now that we have that embarassment out of the way, let’s talk about questions.  We all ask them or at least we all should. Most of the time it is the student asking the teacher the questions.  While that’s all well and good, I think turn abouts fair play don’t you?  Do you know what it’s like to be put on the spot to answer questions from dawn til dusk and be expected to sound polite and patient and intelligent?  Well, that’s called parenting!  And if you’re a parent it’s pretty likely that you’ve experienced this phenomenon…

questions  and I would add…. Go to your room!

Questions often say as much about the asker, as they do the answerer.  In a world where we are often taught to follow along like good little citizens, I have strongly urged my children to question everything!   We never learn unless we ask and sometimes it takes the courage to ask that one question that we really want the answer to, but are afraid we will be laughed out of town or snickered at quietly.  We don’t ask because we’re pretty sure that everyone else knows the answer to that question.  Everyone but me!

Well, I would stake my claim on the fact that you are not the only one who wants the answer to that question!  You will just be the only one brave enough to ask it!

Trainers are no different.  Good trainers learn from their students.  They are (or should be) always learning how to serve their students better.  They learn how their students learn, what trips them up, and what makes a lesson really come alive.  A wise trainer never assumes that his student is stupid, simply uneducated or not fully educated on the given topic, and I think we can all agree that there is a huge difference!  Sometimes the best way to learn from a student is… wait for it…. to ask them what they need!  It’s really that simple!  They need to know what you need to tell them!

So…

Brace-yourselves-For-a-few-questions-meme-7859

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Why stand we here idle?

If time and distance and death were no hindrance, who is it that you would most like to meet?

I did a little research and looked up a top 10 list of historical figures that people say they would most like to meet.  (This comes from the San Diego library and ranking system, 2013)

  1.  Jesus Christ
  2. Princess Diana
  3. William Shakespeare
  4. Albert Einstein
  5. Marilyn Monroe
  6. Leonardo Da Vinci
  7. Elvis Presley
  8. Roald Dahl
  9. Freddie Mercury
  10. Martin Luther King

Wow.  Whaaat??  You’re joking right?  Freddie Mercury?  Frankly, there is only one person on that list that would have ever made my own!

Whoever you might have on your list, I have advice for you.  Throw it out.

Don’t get me wrong, there are people I admire historically.  One pretty high up for me would be Patrick Henry.  The following is an excerpt from a speech he gave in 1775, St. John’s church, Richmond, Virginia.

 

I shall speak forth my sentiments freely, and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony.  The question before the House is one of awful moment to this country.  Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not?  For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.

We must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of Hosts is all that is left us!

They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance, by lying supinely on our backs, and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot?

We are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. Three millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us.   The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave.

Why stand we here idle?  Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

 

This speech was made by Henry to raise up a private militia (times change, needs rarely do, we could use that militia right now!)  This speech makes the blood pound in my ears.  I agree!   But so often we seem to feel that these are the kinds of words that are spoken in a bygone time by long-ago people, with antiquated ideals and past tense issues.  I disagree.  Completely and strongly.  Those words are timeless.  And they are held timeless by brave men and women still today.  They are held by guardians of freedom who refuse to stand idly by.  They resolutely refuse to be silent and helpless, throwing up their hands in apathetic hopelessness.  Strong men and women who wont play the victim, who hold the standard and the banner, not in bitter anger, but in the hope of a future that they are courageous enough to influence.

I am not sure I believe in heros.  We are inundated these days with notions of super-humanity.  Perhaps I have grown jaded, or maybe I have simply refined what I expect of that moniker, hero.  People who can fly, turn green and huge and powerful, spin a web, pick up an impossible hammer, fly and move metal with their minds, or ride on ice… really?  Why we have this need for abilities outside our own is a bit of a mystery to me.   Remember that song…. He’s gotta be strong and he’s gotta be fast and he’s gotta be fresh from the fight.  He’s gotta be sure and it’s gotta be soon and he’s gotta be larger than life.

What is larger than life?  This question has been drilled home to me in recent days.  I admit that this little trained monkey has a bit of a pet peeve and here it is:   “I’m going to give it 110%!”    My teeth grind just a little and I have to quietly remind myself that what is important is more the spirit in which it was said and not the technicality therein.  But… you cannot give more than 100%.  100% is all.  Don’t look to give more, give that.

Hero or Heroine is defined in the dictionary as:  A person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements or noble qualities.

Nowhere in that definition does it say, “able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.”  Why?  Simply unnecessary.

 

I hope someday someone asks me the question, “Who would you most like to meet?”

I am ready with my answer.  I have met them.  They are not people of the past.  They are alive and well.  Though not all of them.

I met a man who struggled daily.  Panic and anger and fear haunted his dreams and many of his waking moments.  He was demoralized by large crowds, his hands would grow clammy and he would back into a corner.  A simple restaraunt meal would find him jockeying into a position to see all entrances.  Easy it would be to relegate him to the slag-heap of cowardice, until you peek behind the curtain.  He had spent months walking a razor wire in Iraq.  He had looked down the scope, sighted in on the moving figure, and pulled the trigger.  He had lost companions and friends and brothers-in-arms.  He had paid, and dearly.  It was to be his habit and life and waking breath to walk the line out on the road, intent for any unturned rock hiding an unseen landmine.  He had spent countless nights huddled in the green claustrophobic haze of night vision goggles, waiting, listening for the click and pop from the shell and his own impending end.  He had lost a leg in his service.   He returned to a largely thankless country, ashamed of his “murders and heinous acts.”  The same acts that allow me to sleep safe in my home, free and able to carry on with only the small worrys of my here and now.  I remain forever in his debt.  Humbled by his life.  And he carries on.  He stands not idly by.

I met a child who died from cancer.  Her death made me see life in a very different way.  She cried when she was stuck, she was angry and expressed it all.  In the end, her cape was pulled quietly over her head.  She fought.  Not with bullets or fists, but she fought none the less.  She did not stand idly by.

This blog is about Mark and Miranda so it doesn’t take much of a roadmap to realize at least part of what I think and how I feel about them.  I am not an easily impressed individual.   I do not trip through the daisies with any person who happens to throw a few nice words my way and I am more likely to remain silent than to offer mindless compliments of my own in return.   I hope though, that at the end of my days, it can be said of me that I encouraged people somehow with something in some small way.   Compliments are nice, and we all appreciate a sincerely given praise.  But we often grow more from kind and honest correction.  Encouragement is an entirely different thing.  It is the practice of emboldening someone.  Producing in that person the courage to move forward, often through  adversity.   It is the ability to revitalize flagging confidence.  To build and grow a person, to motivate and inspire them and their dream.  To plant the seed that will flourish and bloom and produce ten fold.  THAT is what Mark and Miranda have done for me.  And not only me, but countless others.  They have through persistence and patience and encouragement and humor, breathed life into many and certainly me.  They have changed my life.  They have changed the lives of my girls.  They have changed my horses.

When I look to the best of life; things like that empassioned speech that Patrick Henry gave.  The best of our great country, the wildness and spirit of the men and women who shape it.  I do not look backward.  I do not live nostalgically for past leaders.  I look forward to people like Mark and Miranda.  Why?  They do not stand idly by.

If I can encourage, in any way, to any wandering or questioning person, call, go to a clinic, seek, ask.  Help, encouragement and hope are waiting and available.   For me, it started with a simple admission of need.  I need help.  That’s what I said, almost those exact words.  Hard, a bit humiliating when I see myself juxtaposed against a sea of more talented, more experienced and all in all, much better people.  I had little to offer, but “little” was enough.  Little, was enough to change my life.

“We are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power.”  

Do not stand idly by.

 

M & M Horsemanship