Category Archives: Training
When you think you know what it is you do and suddenly find yourself fully engulfed having fun changing lives in ways you never quite imagined or have ever explained to another…
In the last few weeks of my working with horses and their owners I was suddenly, almost magically transported to a keen insight into what it is I am actually doing in my “supposed” line of work as a horse trainer/coach. I am a transformer.
I have owners bring me their problems… horses, fears, ideals and dreams. Their horses that have stopped working, are barely moving, running away and are in conflict with what is being expected, or are totally refusing to “behave”.
I evaluate the communication between horse and rider, finding the clues to the mistakes. Many times because the horse’s body is out of alignment. The owner’s timing is off. The horse has never been asked or taught how to move in ways that are comfortable much less correct, and with no idea of how to ask with the rider’s body for the expected results with their horse.
I assist people in learning to connect in the horse’s body language of communication, how much difference it makes to a horse to move in a way that the horse can flow in any direction that is desired when the person asking is in the right place. Even more so to be able to bring to the owner’s awareness that many of the horses brought to me have been started or handled by well-meaning individuals who are not aware of what incredible mimics’ horses are. That every minute you are handling a horse you are teaching it something! What you do want or what you don’t want. For horses focus and live in the now, they are not thinking of ten minutes ago, are where they will be tomorrow.
Their focus on present is so keen, that if they are asked to move in any way that causes the one moving them to stop moving. They accept the non-movement as this last movement they have done was the right answer.
I have had three horses in the last four days that are older horses, who have no idea how to lope confidently on the ground with a lead attached, much less under saddle. These horses all show the signs of being ridden by people that had no idea that everything they asked a horse to do, even if it put the horse’s body out of balance. It had to be the right answer because one of several things would happen. The horse would stop moving, slow down to a more in control speed, the rider would stop pulling, yanking, kicking, lose the rider, or would quit and put the horse away. Many times selling the horse because they didn’t know how to fix the problem they had created.
I assist owners in becoming aware of how everything going on with their horses is a reflection of something in the owner’s confidence in communication. Horses and their owners’ bodies are evaluated, for chiropractic, feet, emotional and communication abilities. Many times as in the present horses… I go all the way back to simple, basic baby steps. In assisting the horse to find trust in my ability to ask with the right feel and timing for the best answer for the horse, then by showing and teaching this to the rider to start a whole new form of communication. Teaching and coaching both with their ability to understand and work with each other to change the habits that have brought them to me.
Always I watch with fascination and joy as a horse learns to lose the brace from frustrated, fearful handling because of all the misunderstanding in trying to figure out what is desired of them, and that it is possible to do these movements in a much more comfortable and easy way. I show both how to communicate comfortably, safely, and effectively in a way that they both understand and can feel that they must move as a team, each one’s job is to be in a position to assist the other the best placement of their bodies, so they can now find a new way to react that feels and works better for the both of them.
Many times taking former “washed up, bad, blown up” horses, and frustrated, fearful riders. Back to performing winners, comfortable, and confident companions, by getting all to slow down, communicate, trust and “ask” each other to be the incredible partner they had both been seeking and believing possible when they first came to me. I love my job, the people and the horses that grace my life.
Now feeling jazzed that all of this feels moments away from becoming my bigger reality. I got up, made coffee, designed and printed one gift certificate for my favorite client. Jumped in the shower, dressed, hair done, make-up on, as I hear the dogs barking, my automatic alarm for vehicles on the premises. Hurry out to say my hello’s and love the expression on her face over the unexpected gift. Amused as the two boys hurry to see who gets to go first, the younger quickly and aptly brushes, blankets and saddles his, with a quick smirk to the older, as we begin.
He has one side of his horse so completely tuned into his every question, but, the other side is this, hmpth, maybe, I don’t have to, stand offishness, with me coaching from the outside of the pen. After about 5 minutes of using all the tools that had worked on the other side, he stops, looks at me and ask for assistant. I go in, show him how to change his body position in reference to the horse’s, how to really make sure the horse’s ear and eye on the side facing him is actually pointed in his direction, before and during asking for advance or retreat. We go through the steps of having the horse turn away from him, or toward him, finally getting the expected response from the horse and a grin on the young man as he feels the dance.
So he mounts up, and as we put the big horse through his paces, the rider now feels the definite difference from getting the horse fully focused on the ground. We then proceed to hone, little movements of his arms, elbows, and hips, slowing them down, up, more or less till he is grinning as the big horse starts almost matching him as fast as he changes his thought. We come down to the small circle, finger up, or down, calf pushing or releasing, forward, sideways, and finally backwards. The big horse stops, is completely without any pressure on the bit, and his head drops lower the moment he is asked to stop. I give the thumbs up, he dismounts and heads back to the trailer. As horse and owner number two begin their groundwork.
Funny with the two young men being brothers, their personalities so extremely different, so well matched to horses the same size with exactly the same two different personalities. Working on many of the same exact movements, yet using entirely different tools and forms of thoughts to obtain these two boys grinning, sitting straighter, more confident, and more assured and comfortably managing animals that “use” to give them the runaround. As rider number two finishes and heads back to the trailer, the mom marvels at how much they always learn when they come here. How much they enjoy it, and how she can hardly wait till her horse finishes his month of tune up, for her to partake in lessons with a horse that better understands what is being asked, for her to then learn with and continue the fun that all of this has become.
We say our goodbyes, and as they are leaving I begin my horse rotations for the rest of the day. My big horse is puffed up, still sending out energy to the new horse that he is herd boss, and watch him perform, he so knows his stuff. Horse number two is just into playing, listening, partaking, but with the attitude of power, speed, let’s get it done and over with. Then to the little mare, in a snit because I am turning horses out as soon as I am done, and she does not think she should work first. So begrudgingly at first, she tries to just do enough to get by, till sensing I have all day, when she suddenly becomes all business like, turning and moving like the class act she can be when the mood fits her. We go through each ask, respond, stop, turn spin, head down, lick and chew, I grin as I am grooming her back off at how funny and like us they can be. Grab up the last of mine, he sighs, tries to run through it all so he can go out and play, till he realizes he will do it over and over till its right. Another sigh, he slows down, really starts attempting to listen better, small steps right, pivot, small steps left, pivot, step back, drop his head, release, take a deep breath and my personal horses are done.
With only the new horse left, and having such a great morning, I am in high hopes that the long session yesterday might have really ended in a really good place. Hopefully the asking for the left front hoof will be better. I am so pleased, when each thing I taught, showed or suggested he try to do yesterday, suddenly today, I have this great big huge cooperating animal, actually trying, working with me, showing me how smart he truly is, and how what I have shared with him about the way I will work with him, if he will let me. Truly does work for him. We have such an awesome session, I impress myself with his responsiveness and memory for all he was shown the day before. We finish with his head lower, a huge sigh, a perfect follow the leader game of stop, start, back-up as we head back to unsaddle. I brush him down, take him out to the big sandy pen, to turn him out to role and run till later. I am so in love with this path I have finally found such great footing on as I keep moving toward my dream!
Went to work in a interested in what life will bring me mood. Feeling the cold, especially in my hands, as the little bus took its time warming up. Spent the first half of the route, at each stop I came to. Trying to figure out what was first causing the alert to come on my phone, which then blocked my ability to play my stored music choices. When I finally did get the music to play, it was barely legible, so more fiddling, a few more buttons, a better understanding of my phone, and presto wonderful Abraham to relax, sift and sort through.
Dropped off the students at their various schools and as I headed back to the bus barn for the monthly mandatory meeting, I heard and felt the thought “You can have it all”. I paused, just letting those words wrap around me. This then caused several easy, powerful, visualizations of me succeeding at each of the current goals I am pursuing. Feeling balanced, warmed, and hungry, wandered into the meeting where there were the apples and banana’s I had missed and inquired about at our last month’s meeting. I was so jazzed, I had asked, felt how good they would taste, forgot about it, and bingo the Universe fulfilled my request. Talk about feeling like I was in the perfect, feeling place as the meeting ended.
I knew driving home it was too wet to ride, and definitely the dampness made the cool, windy weather, something I had no trouble by passing. To instead stay inside and add to my growing list of characters, before I went further with the story. I fed, hayed, watered, re-setting up everything for this evening’s feedings. Went inside full of the tale I had been putting together in my mind of KC, with a quick dash of dish washing, deciding on suppers menu and more coffee. I sat down to add my minds creation to the screen before me. As I was writing and thinking, the phone went off. One of my client’s was sending someone over to get her horse two days early. She was calling to make sure it was okay with me, telling me how the two men, Mike( the current in training horse handler) and Larry ( my recent dating lesson) were picking up some cows at the vet, then headed to my place. Not really sure who was going where since they left together. My mind’s first thought was…I know which one will show up. Probably the man who we parted company over his not being exactly on the same page as me in our techniques of horse handling at my place. He had the book learning down perfect. He had an idea how a woman should treat a man, his view of her giving in to authority. So comfortably, easily we parted ways. And then the dogs announced someone’s arrival, yep Larry. I met him cordially,had the feed left bagged up and in the truck. Grabbed a halter, and got out the little girl.
His first comment on how much taller she had gotten in the last two months. I agreed, stating how much difference an adjustment and lots of riding can do for a horse. Headed toward the truck and trailer, past the door he left open, swinging wildly in the breeze. I was so proud of all of my work with this young two year old mustang filly. She trusted me, she followed me, she knew all the commotion going on was okay, cause I was okay. Walking past the barking dogs, toward the trailer I knew she had come over in, but now the front end contained a brahma cow and her calf. I ignored their bawling, stepped up and walked in, while he positioned himself out kind of wide with the trailer door.
She walked up, pawed the floor twice, took a tentative step in, then out. Sniffed around, stepped in almost up to me, and out she stepped, he moved the door and himself away, to give her room, with a “come on sweetie, up you go” all the while looking uncomfortable in his position. I asked her again, up she stepped all the way, he slowly, carefully, so as not to spook her eased up the door toward her. Yet the moment she stepped backward, he twice as quickly swung the door wide and back. “Sheesh” I thought to myself, he keeps taking away any idea of pressure, and this little mare is smart. She could feel his uncertainty, so we did this a few more times, before I was definitely getting colder, and the expression on her face was “what a cool game”.
So I backed her up, handed him the lead, went and got some hay, a longer lead, a rope to hold the door in position, and the lunge whip. Came back repositioned him, changed ropes, fixed the door in place, gave him the whip and told him to tap her lightly when I asked. Next thing I know he is so lightly tapping, sweet talking, and babying her to the point she is loving it and getting more set by the moment. Especially when she discovered if she took any step or motion backwards…he moved. Five minutes of this and asking him to increase the pressure, which was like asking a fly to move over, I had enough. Tied her to the inside trailer door, as she was standing there right up next to the opening. Walked past her, took the whip from him, set myself, tapped her once and said “up” in went a front foot. As she started to bring it back down, I just kept up the tapping, she relaxed so did I. I asked “up” again, in went the other foot, she paused, I paused. She started to come back, I started up the tapping, then said “up” again, and in she walked. Closed the door with just enough space to slip back in, change halters, tie her right, gather up my stuff, thank him and send them on their way.
All the while congratulating myself on staying professional, taking over when I knew I and the filly were the ones in charge, got the task done, and re-confirmed my original impression about him and his way of handling horses. He has all the tools, but most of them seem to come from books he’s read, and he isn’t comfortable or confident in what he does do…and the horses know it. The old adage you can lead a horse to water but not make it drink. Equals you can’t teach someone if they don’t ask, they’re not ready to hear, and you’re wasting your breath. But that’s okay, he found a job working cattle, something I learned from listening to him he truly enjoys. So it always works out. I still own the ground I walk on and will share it with those who are the of the same line of thinking. I so love my life, I thought to myself as I went back to continue building the cast of players…in my training life tale.
The section is entitled:
My Evolving, Revolving, Expanding and Ever Changing Cast of Players
KC (MISS PRISS aslo known as **##**)
There has been so much thought put into what I should write about… I know so little about so much, at least as far as a survey of other peoples opinion might bring one to understand. So I thought about the many poems, and stories I have written in the past. Some of them to be found in my dream book, several shared with another in camaraderie, still yet to be returned and a whole lot of others locked up in the yet to be repaired computer. Which sit’s there in full sight, reminding me of the value of backing up to disc’s a habit I have still integrate into my affairs.
So with all of these thoughts, happenings and ideas roaming constantly in my mind, I have managed to do several parts of the book(s) in layers. Encouraged by my morning experiences, thoughts and driving vistas. This morning’s presentation starts with my being bushwhacked as I got up, crossed in front of my bed headed to the bathroom to start my day. When, whack… a set of needle sharp claws found the tender skin of my shin bone and before I could take another full step, I feel this wicked paw, reach up pulling off my sock as her other foot’s unsheathed claw, missed its target to get stuck in my sock. Almost, but not quite tripping me, as I am used to this occasional tirade of protest of hers because she is no longer in charge, not being tended to as fast, or exactly how she desires.
I marvel at her skill, persistence, and ability to know when I do or don’t take the water spray bottle to bed with me. My latest attempt at re-directing her demanding, bitchy, I’m queen attitude. To my preferred alternative; you are my youngest son’s cat, you will behave, I pay the bills and you can wait till it’s your turn. Which my current tactics, trainer skills, persistence and patience with her and myself, are actually beginning to bear fruit. My mind this morning aware of and reminded of how much her coloring of tabby gold, greys, browns, and white mingled stripes, so fits her skills and abilities to sneak around. Skulking like a commando in the bed sheets, under the curtains, barely distinguishable in between the tan and brown chairs, on the multi colored carpets. Stealthily sneaking, slapping, slashing, and assaulting any and all unsuspecting passerby’s who dare to come into her territory, her domain.
Made even more amazing when she dawns to clean herself up, walking auspiciously around unsuspecting victims, who she fawns, rubs and weaves in and out of their legs. Sweetly asking for the assumed, “pretty kitty, need some loving?” Just waiting for her target to venture a hand down anywhere near her fangs and claws, to be ripped and shredded for another’s gullibility into her cunning trap. Many have fallen prey to her clever manipulations of what appears to be a very pretty little lady in need of attention. She has just yet decided how to be anything other than the miniature missile of destruction, the boys created in her growing up years.
She came into our home when the youngest was in first grade. Desired a cat of his own, and after the required, “you do good in school and we will get you a kitty”, he did and the search began. By living in a small town, finding kittens that need homes is a pretty easy task, when one scans the local newspaper, feed store bulletin boards and the local vets outdoor display signs. Signifying give away’s, adoptions, and critters for sale or in need of a good home. The corner vet’s sign was spotted with the appropriate “barn kitties for free” on the morning trip to school, so when he got out later that day. We swung in to take a look see. There on the table in the center of the vet’s waiting room sat a cage with one small, dark, waif of a kitty. My son, so excited “a kitty, momma, one just for me”, so I asked the assistant about it. Male or female, how old, where did it come from, and what kind of cat’s were its parents? It was a girl, she was 5 weeks old, her mom a certified mouser, from a farm out in the country. I signed for her, signifying at the proper age she would be neutered, got her out of the cage, into my six year olds waiting hands.She seemed timid, tiny, and alone, glad to be cuddled up to, snug in this warm feeling, nurturing embrace. Drove the short distance to the house to take her inside and introduce her to my cat Minxy, who has learned to allow and tolerate the constant stream of new coming animals which involves living in the country at a horse facility.
Minxy extended a slow inquiring soft pink nose, and little miss spitfire, reached up to slap her squarely with her extended claws. I passed it off as the ritual of each learning about the other, and the baby attempting to establish her right to be there. Little knowing what vixen had come to stay with us. She proved to be healthy, fast, playful and with a profoundly strange love of my youngest son’s dirty socks. Taken each and every time he took them off, as she would drag them to her established place on the corner of his bed. To be guarded, growled over, and massively defended every time Minxy walked past the room, much less to even look inside. This was soon to set the stage for how strong was this little one’s desire to rule her kingdom with an iron paw. K C named by my son for the initials of kitty cat.
My habit of writing while the kids were away at school, usually found her curled up around my feet as I sat in my rolling chair. One day as I maneuvered from the desk to the filing cabinet, I heard this sudden squall, felt the teeth and claws from the terror of pure pain from her, because I had just rolled over the end of her tiny tail. The next thing I knew, around the corner comes my cat to see what the commotion was all about. KC ripped into Minxy, and the fighting monster became the new terrorist who owned, ran and was in charge of entire house. This kitten took the whole scenario to heart, and seemed to blame what had happened on my cat, plus any and everybody or critter that crossed her path. Within three weeks, my cat looked like she was visited by a pair of trimming shears on the loose. Every time Kc spotted Minxy, she attacked, clawed, bit and chewed her, should she stand still, instead of making a break for it to any vantage point the protected all of her but her front to keep the little she devil at a safe slashing claws distance. As Minxy began making it a habit to beeline outside anytime there was an open door. I decided for the health and safety of my cat, she might just be better outside. She seemed to agree by moving in under the house and only coming up to be petted or fed if the door was closed and secured, because KC would come charging out after her when she saw her.
So now I had an indoor and outdoor cat. The indoor queen’s personality really began to take on characteristics I would have never thought imaginable for an animal in my care. She demanded to be fed and cared for from whoever was closest. Jumping up on my oldest son in the middle of the night and biting his nose, should she decide she had not been fed enough. Eventually irking him off with her demanding habit of 2 or 3 extra feedings a day, to the point of him unceremoniously throwing her off of the bed and out of his room. This regal, determined, haughty feline deemed when she would be fed, or have her box cleaned. Raking any and all with claws who attempted to pet, play with, or love on her in a more normal cat fashion. She defied anyone to make her do, be or act like the barn kitty persona originally expected. Actually seen several different times, lying stretched out across a pillow or couch, watching a mouse cross the open living room floor. The boys took to teasing and tormenting her, as her new found ability at tripping sneak attacks, drew blood from the scratches, or bruises from sustained when her tripping technique was perfectly executed, amongst interesting names now assigned to her highness. The war became so extreme between the two forces, amidst, thrown tennis shoes, she was eventually run off from their side of the house to take up residence on mine.
A decision I took seriously to heart, in my mistake of feeling sorry for her pretty forlorn expression, when she started curling up on the corner of my bed.” Poor kitty” I mistakenly stated, “Are they mean to you?” A sucker caught unaware, she started slowly sleeping with me. Finding me at my desk, nudging for a pat, to a move over, can I share your lap phase. All of which lasted about a month, before the biting started anytime she caught me either not petting her, as she lay there, or because I was petting her too much. I finally decided she could use some manners, as I began to pay attention to some of her more defining quirks. Especially the delight she had in stealing small, creatures, tiny toys which were rubbery, flexible and would slide easy across the hard painted floors. Her habit of batting them around and then chasing them in burst of athletic enthusiasm, around and up to my feet, reminded me of training dogs to fetch.
So I began only paying attention, if the preferred object touched my feet. Then I would reach down, snatch it from her and hurl it through the door, into the next room and watch her run, dive and slide with it caught up in her teeth, and then waiting till she batted, or chased it back to my feet, to do it all over again. After about a week, I started holding the toy in the throw position till she started to turn and head in the direction my arm was cocked. Once she was in the right place, I would throw, she would go get it, play with it directly back to me and we would begin again. Another week or so of her continued interest of playing with me that way, I decided to up the stakes. I now would get her in the headed, waiting on me to throw position, say sit, and wait till she did. She caught on to that so fast, with so much interest, I started waiting on her to sit after she would bat it back to me, or occasionally carry it back. Being an observer by nature, I made note of her occasionally carrying it back and added that to the program. Eventually in about a month I had her finding, bringing, sitting and giving me the toy. Then she would move to the start direction, sit, and wait on the throw, to slide, chase, somersault pick it up and bring it back to me. Many times only stopping when she was panting, tired, and in need of a break.
It took almost another month to show or share this with anyone else, cause she still insisted being the stalking huntress of any other who dared come in her domain. Once the boys caught on to her ability, they tried to tempt, trick or torment her into compliance, but she didn’t like, trust, or believe in them. Occasionally someone would come into the office she actually liked and she would perform for them, till I would notice her tail starting to slash back and forth, knowing the next retrieve would probably draw blood. So I would stop the fun, and explain if she comes up to love on you, it would be wise to keep your fingers and hands out of her sudden change in disposition.
I began to notice her gaining weight, about the same time I was becoming aware and increasingly annoyed about her demanding when to be fed all the time. She had begun walking on me at all hours of the night, whining, begging, squalling, and then biting any exposed piece of flesh if I didn’t get up and tend to her immediately. I remembered reading about cats and water pistols for getting them off of counters and wondered how I could use this new tool to my advantage.
I grabbed one of the big 32 ounce bug spray bottles, filled it with water, and kept it close to me within easy reach whenever I was in the house. Deciding at the same time, her manners were going to improve when she was fed. The routine was to now be twice a day, once in the morning as I was getting ready for my day, once at night about supper time. My setting of these new hours was immediately met with sabotage, if I were sleeping and she walked on me, I would upend the covers to get her back on the floor. She would immediately dive under the bed, wait for me to doze, then grab the first piece of exposed flesh she could find, bite hard enough to draw blood and escaper to her hidey hole. I had to learn to sleep aware of any movement on my bed, and to keep well covered, nothing dangling off the sides of my bed. I had to up my accuracy with the sprayer to include, under the bed and across the room at a moment’s movement. It took a little more than a month, before she realized there was a new boss in town.
Her next attempt to win back her position of “poor little princess” was to start whining, and mewing pitifully every time anyone walked into the house. Then running frantically back and forth from the cat food container to her bowl pleading, quickly weaving back and forth between someone’s legs in the throes of deprived, mistreated, so starving animal. Since I have given up feeling guilty for well fed, tended, and taken care of animals, I informed people of the spray bottle right inside the door, and to protect the body at all cost should they fall prey to her pleading and offer to pick her up and console her. I explained bloody nubs would be at their owners own risk. But since she still seemed so “needy” I upped the stakes to include no feeding her till she sat for her supper.
This required more patience than when she was previously taught to sit, as now she was older use to her way of behaving when she was fed, and mad at her change in stature now having to wait till it was time to be fed. The first week, she balked, screamed, tried biting, all to no avail as I just stood there, patiently holding her bowl, till her bottom found the floor. This went on for about a month, before she began to get the bigger picture of me and my determination for peace would now include a cat with as good of manners as my horses and dogs already did possess.
Of course my youngest son, who she belonged to, and would barely tolerate his holding her, but did not rate for her to listen to. Finally decided to ask if he could learn how to get the same respect from her, and get her to mind, be quiet and sit for him to feed her. Instead of running off to hide, for a sneak attack the minute he stopped hunting for her and turned his back. It’s taken about a month, first because his impatience would cause him to throw the food back and quit, saying it was too hard. Till like with her, I refused to come do or fix it for him, I just patiently sat, giving directions, praise, and reminders of how long that the two of them have been tormenting each other. Cat training is a whole other way of learning “the time it takes….is the time it takes!