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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No pain, No gain, No train

No pain, no gain

 

We’ve all heard the phrase.  It became more recently popular in the exercise world through the likes of Jane Fonda and her “feel the burn” aerobics routines.  But its origins are somewhat further back and frankly of more intelligent design.

 

Benjamin Franklin, in his persona of Poor Richard wrote this, “He that lives upon hope will die fasting, there are no gains without pains.”  And even further back to Robert Herrick who wrote in “Hesperides” that, “If little labour, little are our gains:  man’s fate is according to his pains.”

 

Both statements were sociologically and politically motivated. Both make some very good references to working hard to receive a reward, or results.  I agree completely with the philosophical notion of working hard to gain a reward.  But I struggle with the theory in practice of “no pain, no gain” when it comes to the training of the mind and body.  Partially because the use of the word “pain” referred to “effort” and not to physical pain or the use of punitive punishment.

 

I will apologize for my references here to the training of canines.  I understand there are numerous and varied differences between the training of an equine and the training of a canine.  Sadly, it is my only frame of reference.  I’m sorry.  Disclaimer duly stated.

 

I trained with a number of great men in the police and SAR world at Camp Atterbury in Indiana.  Many of them trained with a lot of compulsion, which is simply a nice way of saying that they used force.  Force is a much maligned word and should not be equated with abuse.  They were great trainers and I never saw a dog abused or harmed in one single instance there.  That is also not the same as saying that their canines did not experience stress, because they surely did.  In fact, quite a bit of stress.  They made no apologies for creating stressful situations in which they placed their dogs.  Their dogs lives were on the line, more importantly, the lives of the men and women who were using those canines, were also on the line.

 

But there’s always that one person isn’t there!  In this case, I wont use his name but we’ll call him Jo-bob… because every stereotype that just came into your mind when you read that name…. fit him like a glove!  Jo-bob had about six teeth and it might have been generous to say that he had that many functioning brain cells.  Jo-bob wanted to be a cop.  Well, Jo-bob wanted the perceived power and authority and prestige of being a police officer, without the extreme commitment to maintaining decorum when faced with adversity and often a heaping helping of stupidity.  And this was well before the “black lives matter” nonsense.

 

Jo-bob’s training methods showed his lack of thought and shallow pool of character and his dog suffered for it.  Jo-bob, took literally the notion of “no pain, no gain.”  It’s worth noting that Jo-bob’s dog, a well-balanced, well-bred (possibly better bred than his owner) Belgian Malinois, took the “no pain, no gain” concept seriously as well.  For the next few months Jo-bob put his dog through a rigorous and painful domination routine.  Jo-bob demanded instant acquiescence to his every command and meted out harsh punishments for what he saw as refusals.  But Jo-bob’s powers of perception were at most 15 watt and flickering.  About the umpteenth time that Jo-bob brought his dog to train, there was a collective groan from the club when he swaggered onto the field.  As he began his obedience routine we noticed a marked difference in his dog.  He was stiff and mechanical and lacked the high-wire enthusiasm that almost any Malinois owner knows marks that breed.  The air seemed almost to crackle with electricity.  Jo-bob was blissfully unaware but it was clear to the rest of us that today was going to be memorable.  As Jo-bob rounded the final blind to return down the field he sharply corrected his dog to quicken his pace and pull up beside him.  As the dog tried to round the corner faster and keep pace with his handler, Jo-bob corrected him again… at this point, let me stop and change the wording here.  The dog was already moving to come into a better heel position, so Jo-bob’s punch and jerk was not correction, it was punishment, it was punitive and it was worthless as an informational tool.  Had the dog been dragging, not paying attention or not trying, some form of correction would have been warranted, but the dog was in the process of attempting to comply.  So as Jo-bob punished his dog for trying, the dog anticipated another punch and jerk and decided to take a more proactive approach.  Now, I know some of you wont like what I say next, but you probably needed to be there to see the poetic response of this dog.  Without breaking stride and coming into a beautiful heel position, he reached calmly over and gripped Jo-bob’s left hand.

 

I have put a bite sleeve on and taken a bite by a dog doing protection work.  It is a heavy jute sleeve with a stiff anti-compression device meant to protect the arm of the agitator.  I remember when I took the hit, my concern was being freight trained and knocked off my feet by the dog jumping at me.  But when I felt the full mouth on the sleeve I was instantly humbled by the power, even through the reverse compression sleeve, as it mashed my arm tight.  Respect.

 

When a dog lacks nerve and bites repeatedly over and over, trainers call it “corncobbing.”  It is a bad trait.  It is basically the dog telling you, “I’m not sure if this is the right thing to do, so I am going to bite and let go and bite and let go until you make it clear to me what I am suppose to do.”  Jo-bob’s dog showed no such insecurity.  He did not rip at Jo-bob’s hand, snarl or show any other outward aggression.  Had there been people there that did not understand what they were seeing, it might have appeared that J0-bob’s dog was simply gently holding his hand and walking him to the finish line.  I assure you, he was not.

 

Jo-bob swore up and down the field and cursed the dog and his mother.  He railed in rage against the dog’s stubborn stupidity.  One of the men took the dog to a crate at the side of the field.  I found it interesting to note that none of us were really worried about handling his dog.  We understood.  Dog bites are a serious business and should be taken seriously.  I do not make light of dogbites but…  I am human and pretty flawed, and I admit that the words, “nice dog right there, shame about the handler though.”  Might have crossed my mind.

 

The whole point of this story being that Jo-bob’s infliction of pain did not get him the gain that he assumed it might.  I have always strongly held to the notion that if you must inflict pain to coerce your dog (or horse?) to perform, you are doing it wrong and your “training” is faulty!  The problem is almost invariably NOT in the animals unwillingness, but in the humans inability to make it clear to the animal what is wanted and/or expected.

 

In training service dogs we talk about the 4D’s.  Duration, Distance, Distraction and Difficulty.  Many people have a dog that will sit on command or so they think.  But people do not often recognize the subtle cues or in some cases what could be called, “miscues” that they are giving.  Sometimes almost constantly giving.  Nor do we always recognize what is called situational generalization.   I once talked to a woman at the park who had a beautiful Lab.  Nice dog, but a little nutty.  Crazy for anything that moved, including leaves and stray blades of grass.  As our dogs played, she told me that her dog was finely trained and I did not doubt her.  That is, until a squirrel, with an apparent death wish, meandered onto the scene.  Our dogs immediately raced for it.  At almost the same time, we both shouted “down.”  And as luck would have it, my dog came to a grinding halt and while she stayed down, she did turn to look back at me with what could only be described as a withering glare.  Her dog was gone.  The squirrel made a bee-line for, of all places, the road. Fortunately, it wasn’t busy and both squirrel and dog made it safely across!  We eventually got the heaving happy mass back on a leash.  The dog was thrilled, the lady was shaken, they left for home.  I am an average dog trainer, don’t assume that couldn’t have been my dog racing through the countryside.  But early on, I was blessed with the knowledge someone far wiser gave me that I should never assume that my dog was fully trained until I could do every task at a distance, under distraction (including suicidal squirrels), through duration and in difficult circumstances with a high amount of reliability and precision.  From that point on, I trained my dogs to heel in reverse, through obstacles and to mirror my body position from 10 feet away.

 

I had trouble and difficulty.  As I said, I am only an average trainer.  And I suppose you could say I had pain with no gain and I had some pain with gain.  I had dogs that seemed disinterested or unmotivated and one dog in particular that I could have sworn had played too long in the shallow end of the gene pool with Jo-bob.  But at no time during this training did I assume that the dog needed to be blasted if he refused a cue.   What he needed was clear and concise information on what the cue meant and how to go about making the right decision easy for him.   That responsibility, the making it clear, was not his, it was mine.

 

Take the simple cue to “sit.”  I had a room-mate with a dog that would come in obediently and sit after each and every potty break.  But as I watched her interact with the dog I became interested in the “behavior” that surrounded this cue “sit.”  On a walk around the neighborhood one day, my roommate asked her dog to sit.  Her dog, Fluffy (I don’t really remember her name) then behaved as though she had never heard the word before.  Indeed she had never heard the word spoken out of context.  She had never been asked to perform that behavior outside the confines of all her normal and regular surroundings.  To the dog’s way of thinking, she hadn’t gone outside to the bathroom, she hadn’t come inside, there was no refrigerator in front of her.  All of those things were part and parcel of the cue “sit.”  She was lost.  She wasn’t being a jerk, she simply had not learned that “sit”  meant, any time, any place and under any circumstances.  What she did not need though, was pain.  She needed schooling, patience, consistency and proofing.  What she needed was the trainer to understand and take the lead.

 

Now, I have used a prong collar, I have used an electric collar, I have used a herm-sprenger and a choke collar.  They are all tools.  They are all useful tools, when properly understood, fitted and employed.  I am, again, not sure this translates to the training of horses, and forgive me (and please correct me) if that is not so.  But tools themselves are fairly neutral devices.  They do not correct or shape behavior on their own.  They can evince great results…. both good and bad.  They require human hands and hopefully, human understanding and a considered thoughtful plan of action.  Of course a prong collar looks medieval to a human, and herein sometimes lies a problem with the anthropomorphizing of animals.

 

I had a sled dog team when I was younger and crazier.  And of course heard all the stories of “poor dogs left to sleep out in the cold.”  My dogs all had boxes but I did not bring them inside or give them heated blankies.  Why?  Because they didn’t need it.  Their core body temperature is well above humans, they have a metabolic rate that supports thermal conservation, and they have a nifty double coat of fur.  To treat them as human beings, would have been a disservice to them.  They are not human, they are canine.  It is a distinctly different thing to look out for our animals welfare, to be proper stewards of those animals in our care; than to attribute to them human characteristics that they will never possess and are not equipped to deal with or process.

 

One of the things that impressed me about Mark and Miranda and their training, is their ability to understand, assess and utilize.  From the spoken account that the horse owner offers when bringing a horse for training, to their assessment of the horse (which may be vastly different than the owner’s verbal information), to the utilization of tools and techniques to continue forward with training.  I am lucky if I don’t trip over a lunge line, so to watch a fine horseman who knows precisely why they are doing what they are doing, and the how and why of the tools they are using, is part talent, part art form and a lot of experience.

 

Early on when my daughter expressed interest in not just riding, but learning to train a horse, I read a lot of books and watched a lot of videos.  Some were good, some not so much.  I remember distinctly a video by a very prominent trainer showing the how-to’s of a given exercise.  I waited for the why, but it never came.   To my skeptical mind, this made me distrustful.  Either A. you don’t think I’m sharp enough to understand the “why;” or B.  keeping me in the dark by giving me only half the information that I need, keeps me dependant upon you; or C.  YOU don’t understand the “why.”   … None of these options impresses me…. I choose to move along.

 

Recently a question was raised for Miranda about the progression of snaffle to bridle horse.  I am hoping that I can pull it off my ipad, but so far, I have been unable to do so, though I am still trying. I may have to have her re-tell the conversation so that I can place it here, it is well worth listening to.   I recognized that this was someone who not only knew how to do something, she knew precisely why each step needed to be reached, and in what order and progression.  What the signs were that showed her that a horse “got it” and how and when to move on.  The knowledge and use of a tool is very important.  That’s a simple enough concept to understand.  But I believe that equally as important is knowing when NOT to use said tool.  It was clear to me, That I was speaking to someone who fully understood all of that nuance and subtlety.  Furthermore, she was not cagey or withholding in her efforts to make it clear to us.  She wanted us to understand and had the ability to use cogent examples we could relate to, to explain the process.

 

I remember the very first time I met Mark Lyon.  It was in Nebraska, we stopped at their booth. Though he may never have known it, I specifically asked a question that I never got full disclosure on, from the above mentioned big name trainer.  It was not my conscious choice to voir dire Mark, but I had learned my lesson with the big-timey guy who looked a great part but didn’t measure up in the long run.  Mark immediately started telling me what they do in this certain situation and inside my little brain I was saying, “do better.”  And he did.  In fact I have fairly good auditory recall and I can hear his voice when he said, “We want people to understand not only what they are doing, but why they are doing it.”

 

There is always a window, a doorway, an opening.  There is always a way through it.  Sometimes it is as simple as getting connected to the right trainer, who understands that you can get a lot of gain and ditch the pain.

 

For more information please visit their website or FB page.

M & M Horsemanship

 

Elsa Elsa Jirkova Dvora, HRD1, FEMA type I

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!

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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