Thursday, February 16, 2012

See, I'm riding my blues away

Me on Sovereign last week

Warning: This post might get philosophical and wordy.

On Valentine's Day I had a super amazing learning experience about trusting yourself and about taking the time to allow your ideas to work. 

All three horses have given me fun, sensible rides recently, even though our temperatures are now seasonally cold and windy. I rode Pie on Sunday wearing the wrong clothes (insert Wallace saying "It's the wrong trousers, Gromit, and they've gone wrong!") because I wore light layers to do farm chores and my mother kindly had already done all the work! Therefore, I had two glorious hours before Maizie's tennis match so I hopped on Pie in a wind storm without my Carhartts. Brr - icy! He was just tricky enough to keep me focused on the ride rather than my frozen extremities. 

Monday was a bareback ride on my Sovey. I left the other two hooligans in the pastures (I usually tuck them safely in the barn.) Sovey and I rode the perimeter outside the fence with our two friends inside the fence toddling along behind us. As I smugly thought to myself that I was able to "ride" three horses at the same time since they were all getting nice, ambling exercise, Sovey spied a dubious pile of frozen manure and wheeled around and started cantering back home with his side-lined herd in tow. Snorting and bucking, Pie and Foggy added to the frenzy while I cursed myself for riding bareback. I don't really want to fall off, but my biggest worry is that our horses will be loose on the road if I get tossed. Our property is not completely fenced which is a big worry as I ride. 

Four more approaches to the evil manure monster and four more quick retreats left me without a plan. So, we stopped and stood there and waited. I just sat there on him and let him look. We sat there for a long time. We did nothing. This exercise would have been more meaningful to him, I think, if Pie, the clowning, nervous lip flipper wasn't to our right frantically flipping his lip, but Sovey was able to reassess the situation and I was able to sit and think. Let me just say that I do not believe Sovereign to have been actually frightened of the pile after his second approach, but, with horses, what is the difference if they are really scared on not? You have to find a way to get them to agree to follow your direction. I asked him to approach again and this time I rode toward the pile like we were going into a fence. I had conviction and we went by it perfectly. I am glad I took the time to stop and think about it.

Tuesday, Valentine's Day, was a morning hour ride on Pie that was a non-event. He was a lovey-cutie boy. I did use a saddle, but probably didn't need it. Then, after post-ride grazing I rushed home at 11 am because Lake, my 22 year old stepson, was coming to have lunch with us and to fix my computer. I didn't realize that the next 10 hours (!) would be spent learning a valuable life lesson that can help my horse life too.

My laptop hinge had cracked and the cover needed replaced. Lake is a quiet, calm, computer savvy kind of guy so he offered to fix it for me. He brought his sweet fiance, Katie, and together with Brian, we all had a great lunch and visit. Lake quickly fixed the cover and restarted the computer to make sure it was working well. The computer started, but Windows would not start.

Lake started sweating and looked shocked. He could not figure out what had gone wrong. He felt confident he did everything right. Two hours turned into four, so I took Katie to her house so she could go to work. When I returned, Maizie was home from school and Lake was still sweating and my computer was still not booting up Windows.

Maizie and I went running and Lake opened the computer again and re-did all his previous work to make sure he didn't inadvertently forget to hook something up. Like he thought, it all was fine and should have worked. At 5 pm, he again checked the connections. No luck. We ate dinner. Lake couldn't eat. He was worried, apologetic, sick to the stomach and mostly, confused. He could not figure this out and was losing confidence in himself and not trusting his computer knowledge with each passing minute.

I was amazingly (uncharacteristically) calm throughout the whole day. This computer holds my writing, my artwork, my life, but it doesn't hold Maizie or Brian or my horses so I tried to keep it all in perspective. I imagined what it would be like for me to work with a difficult horse in my slow, unorthodox, non-lunging, grazing and grooming, bitless-way and how that might look to the owner. Most horse people would never understand that I really do know what I am doing. I told Lake that I had confidence that he really did know what he was doing. He wasn't buying. He was devastated and no longer trusting himself.

At 6 pm Lake and Brian hatched a plan to buy a new hard drive and transfer all my information and files and photos onto it. I asked them for 24 hours. They both were skeptical. What could I do in 24 hours? I had zero ideas, but I knew that I needed 24 hours before I would let my hard drive be transferred.

Lake left at 7 pm and Maizie and Brian went to the library. I was left alone with my Window-less computer. I had Maizie's laptop set up right beside mine so I could research the problem. I usually can fix any jam I get into by researching, but I knew this was a big one and I was unlikely to solve the problem.

Online I read a zillion accounts of how people fixed this problem by doing something. Each account was different and involved changing codes in the Bios. (For perspective on how little I know, I am so old-school that I kept calling the Bios "DOS" because that is what it was called when I learned about computers). I went into the Bios and saw what they did, but I didn't feel good about changing anything.

I just kept reading. Buried in the middle of all the "quick fixes" from fast moving computer guys was one lone account from "Sam" who said that when this happened to his computer, he went to bed and in the morning it worked fine. That sounded right to me!

So, I sat there and just waited. I did nothing. By 8:45 pm when Brian and Maizie returned from the library, my computer booted Windows and was working perfectly. We phoned Lake and told him the amazing news.

Lake had done everything right. The computer "brain" just needed time to process the change. How much time do horse brains and people brains need in order to process new or old ideas? Sure, you can keep changing things and "fixing" them and re-fixing them, but sometimes waiting and doing nothing is the very thing a brain needs.

Also, how many times do we double think what we really KNOW in our hearts to be correct? Lake knew he had hooked up my computer correctly, but he had to trust himself and that is so tough when everyone is waiting for quick results.

I work alone with my horses. If I need to stop and do nothing and look like I don't know what I am doing, I can do that. In Florida this year, I think there were many times when I looked like an idiot because there were people around. They were all so kind and well-meaning, but I rarely share horse training philosophies with anyone I meet. By "share" I mean, I rarely explain them but I also mean, I rarely find anyone who "shares them" - uses my same methods to train horses. My views are unusual, but they work for me and most important, they are what I believe is right for the horse. It took me 40 years to believe that my horse training system might work and it took me that long to have the courage to not care if I look like I don't know what I am doing.

My Valentine's Day lesson - #1 Trust yourself  and  #2 Give it time to work!


  1. Good post and your lessons are right on. Horses need time, people need time and, occasionally, computers need time.


  2. Beautiful thoughts and writing juliette.

    Doesn't it often seem that strategies which result in good horsemanship are really just good life strategies.

    Would it be okay if I linked to this post? :)

  3. Thanks guys for the nice comments - thanks especially for taking the time to read it! I sure do get chatty!

    Yes, Calm, Forward, Straight, please link away - I am honored!

  4. Good things come to those who wait! Great post.

  5. This is so great. I do think, patience above all, is KEY and that is something I've totally learned from your OTTB trainings :) xo

  6. Great post. "Trust yourself and Give it time to work." Important lessons for us all. If we can stop and assess the situation then have the patience to do what we feel is right no matter if outside pressures go against the grain, we're on the right track.

  7. Juliette, What a wonderful story! Yes, it is full of deep thoughts that are interesting and intriguing, especially the one about letting the horse's mind take time,just plain old time, to process changes. That is really fascinating to add that to my way of thinking.
    Also, so neat to read about how you have come to terms with your own method of horse training, and not worrying that others don't understand it. I am like you. I take Buckshot into the arena and do what must look like the most boring non-things possible, but I know, and Buckshot knows, that we are working on some very important, but barely visible exercises. So I too have to not care a whit what others see when they watch me with my horse.
    Great post and revelations!!

  8. Whoosh, I am just catching up on your blog after months of thrashing around in the maw of my life.

    This is one of the best blog posts I have ever read, anywhere, any time. Thank you for writing it, and writing it in such purposeful detail. Now if only you could reduce it to an essence and embed it in a small talisman that I could purchase for the great price of just $19.95...


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