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

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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.

 

 

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!

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

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

Coming out!

Well the title was as exciting as this is going to get!   I should have titled it, “Get out!”  But frankly it didn’t have quite the trick effect I was going for.  This post is about the box we all call home.   The box we go to when we get nervous or afraid.  The box where all our habits live.  The box where our condemnation resides.  The box where we shore up the walls and reinforce the weak points to keep the scary stuff out… or maybe in…  Boxes are amazing things aren’t they?  Boxes are designed to hold things.  They keep dust and sometimes moisture out.  They keep things organized.  They keep things safe… sometimes.  Sometimes not so much.

 

Some people have the courage and wild spirit to live their lives in defiance of the box.  Mark and Miranda are two such people.  I envy that.  Because this trained monkey is decidedly not courageous or brave.  I hate monkeys actually.  They creep me out just a little bit and I one time got in a heated and delightful argument about how monkey’s are “related” to humans because their DNA is so similar to that of homo sapiens.  In fact apes and humans share a similar DNA pair chain of 96% .  Pretty incredible…. until you realize that the pair chains of Homo Sapiens  is 3.3 billion base pairs.  Very simple math will tell you that 4% of 3 billion is 40 million… doesn’t look nearly as “brotherly” now does it Darwin!  Furthermore, we share a 92% base pair rate with starfish (which have no brain).  While this is a little off the beaten path of this blog, it still represents how people think inside the box.  We are looking at “how many”, when what we should be looking at is “what type.”

 

We do this all the time.  We focus on how it wont work, the problems, the challenges.  We see the mountain.  We worry about the obstacles.  We circumvent instead of plodding through.  We teach our children the answers.  We should be teaching them how to learn, not recite.  But what if they get the wrong answer?  I struggled with that a lot as a young mom.  We decided early on to homeschool and I went about it with gusto.  Every day was learning day!  But I also learned early on that the best school happen out in the yard, digging for bugs, catching frogs, playing in the dirt and making a lot of messes.  I worried a lot about them getting all the answers right.  And …. I learned that the answers weren’t nearly as important as the process that went into HOW they got the answers.  Objectification is great if you are working on a computer, doing lower level math or coloring inside the lines.   Not so with human and horse relationships.

 

When do you know that your horse has learned a skill?  When do you know that YOU have?  Doing it correctly one time is great, but can you reproduce with some reliability, those results?  A number of years ago I trained a dog in Schutzhund.  Everyone in the club I attended brought their amazing dog and I watched with awe and building apprehension.  When I brought out my 9 month old, cocky male Shepherd and asked a few questions, I was met with crickets and a few quietly muttered words of, “keep at it.”

 

What I learned after that frustrating experience, was that every person in that club had purchased a pre-trained, pre-titled dog.   To be clear, I have absolutely no problem with that.  They all knew the routine and their dogs all knew the commands, the order and the skills.   The dogs performed well, and their human handlers also performed well.    When problems crept in, the handlers sent their dogs back to trainers for a refresher and a brush up.  Again, I have no problem with that.  Utilizing a trainer to help you is a very wise move.  But their ability to assess and correct me in the training of my dog was non-existant.  Why?  Well, they’d never done it.  They had never failed with quite as much flourish and so utterly amazingly as had I!

 

They knew what he wasn’t doing.  Gosh, I knew that too!  He wasn’t leaving the scent pad.  It didn’t take rocket science to see that.  But HOW to get him to move forward.  We all stood there looking at him, happy as a clam, sniffing every milimeter of that scent pad.  We all knew WHAT he needed to do.   But to me, the HOW and the WHY were far more important than the WHAT at that moment.  To my way of thinking  (small… monkey … walnut sized brain … keep that in mind!) if I could fix and understand the how and the why, the what would logically follow.  Maybe not immediately or the first time, but correct thinking would bring the correct response.   But there was that box!  We all stood around, each of us in our own separate boxes.   My box had a lot of labels on it. “FEAR OF REJECTION, FEAR OF FAILURE, FEAR OF LOOKING STUPID, FEAR OF FEAR… seriously!”

 

 

So what does it take to step outside the box?   I can’t say that I know all the answers to that.  Maybe some of it is mindset.  Maybe some of it is the encouragement of people that surround us to try and persevere.

 

I think one fairly big answer is something that I have never been able to allow myself the freedom to do myself, but something that I have stressed and pushed my children to do.

 

Make mistakes.  Make big fat wonderful glorious glaring mistakes.  But make them in front of the right people.

 

When my daughter was working with Mark and Miranda she came to me one evening and said, “I am afraid of making a stupid mistake.”  I asked her if she felt that either Mark or Miranda would make fun of her.  She said no, I knew she would.  I asked her if she felt that they would think less of her for having made the mistake.  Again, she said no, I knew she would.  Then what reason would you have for not making a mistake?  Please… make them now!  Where they can see and help and correct.  Please do not try (like your foolish mother) to be perfect, a goal you will never meet.  Please, go work hard,  and make mistakes!  Laugh at yourself, learn and rinse and repeat.

 

Recently Mark and I were talking about trainers and he pointed to a young woman, Maggie Leverett.  His comment was something to the effect of, “A lot of trainers might have more experience right now, but no one has more try that Maggie.”   He went on to explain that “try” was far more valuable to him than a lot of other things that we might put high up on the list of “important stuff.”  Because the foundation of a lot of try is humility.  You cannot, no matter how skilled a teacher, teach anyone who knows everything.   Willingness is huge.  I didn’t know Maggie at the time or I would have used her as an example for my daughter.  Be like Maggie.  Try.  Be willing to fail, be willing to fall, to make a mistake, to blunder and look the fool.  Try and falter and try again.  I might make small mention here that this last September, Maggie showed her young Mustang at the Mustang Gathering and won, … all of her classes.  Congratulations Maggie, you are an inspiration to many.

 

In a world of hesitancy and fear and being comfortably nestled safely in our jail cells (I mean boxes), have the courage to risk.  The scary thing about a box is… you can easily contain it’s contents.   If YOU are the contents… you are being contained.  Stop it.  Refuse, be beligerant, say no!  Be delightfully stubborn and annoyingly insistent.  Try again.

 

Go to a clinic, I dare you!  Stomp up to Mark Lyon and look him straight in the face and say, “I know you can’t teach me and my horse _____.”  Fill in the blank… go ahead, I DARE you!  Tell Miranda, “Oh my horse wont do that.”   (I’m actually laughing as I write this!).

 

But the dare is two fold!   So after you have boldly proclaimed your challenge… TRY.   Whatever excuses you have had (which is really only fear creeping in to put you back in the box), whatever perfectly good logic or well reasoned history you have to NOT try…  stop it.  Remember this…box

 

Have faith, trust, hope and above all TRY!

 

 

 

Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

Welcome to our new venture!

 

To begin with, while this blog is about Mark and Miranda Lyon and M & M Horsemanship, it is being written by a cleverly trained and obedient monkey.  You thought horses were all that M & M trained?

Her name is Lisa, that’s me.  So anything you find amazing and fantastic is about M & M and anything that makes you go   jack-sparrow   Well… that’s me, please don’t blame them.

For any of you who have ever tried to start or keep a business running, one of the things you will quickly come up against is … how do we grow our business?  How do we, as horse trainers, properly and more importantly, efficiently use our time?  Making a business thrive that is oriented around service takes a lot of time and energy.  It takes a lot of work in a good economy and even more in one where we are all searching and struggling to row the boat upstream.

Clearly the most efficient use of a horse trainer’s time is …. training horses.  Mark and Miranda train efficiently and thoroughly, but despite their seemingly super-hero abilities, they do actually need a few hours each day to do normal human things.  Things like showering (trust me on this), having some coffee (little cream, not too sweet), get groceries, read mail, open and throw away bills… I meant pay them of course, in a timely and appropriate manner, and actually have a meal together and be a husband and wife instead of just a training team.

Enter … a trained monkey.  Training a monkey is really not that hard.  Wrap an electric collar around it’s neck and crank that dial up and you would be surprised what they will do for you.  Trust me I know, I’m wearing one right now!  See the short and (very) entertaining video below.  If it doesn’t make you laugh, you might find some benefit in shock collar therapy.

All kidding aside, the purpose of these posts will be 3 fold.

  1.  To educate and help you in your horse training endeavors.  To make you aware of challenges that can be worked on, to overcome obstacles, to encourage you to keep learning and keep working and above all, keep riding!
  2. To make you aware of upcoming clinics, demonstrations, training events and expos.
  3. To entertain.  Let’s face it, horses can raise your blood pressure, but what would our lives be without them?  Everyone has that crazy story about that crazy person that crazy time when…  Well, we want to hear them and we will share a few from Mark and Miranda as well.
  4. To have contests!  Mark and Miranda will be giving away a car in 2016 and a trip to Afghanistan!

car-crusher-2a  It’s the pretty white one, right there in the middle!

ok .. NOW all kidding aside…

Please let us know what type of topics you would like discussed.  Questions, a story to share.

For any of you who have been to an M & M clinic, you know that Mark and Miranda are heavily invested in not only the horses at that clinic, but the people who bring them.  I cannot recall how many times I have heard them say that they really enjoy helping people.  While I am only a trained monkey, I am a fairly quick learning trained monkey and it does not take a rocket scientist to see that time after time harvest follows planting. What we plant and water and what we prune and pluck is the careful job of an attentive farmer, and the same can be said for a quality trainer, be it of horses or men.

“I want it said of me by those who knew me best, that I always plucked a thistle and planted a flower, where I thought a flower would grow.  –  Abraham Lincoln

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Feedback is important.  We learn from feedback.  We want it!  We need it!  While we love the positives, we often learn as much or more from the corrections.  Please know that we will ALWAYS make it a top priority and principle, to be respectful and courteous in all we say and do and we simply ask the same in return.

Thank you for joining us and never forget…… always get back on.

Always.