|This image is appropriately called "Tantrum."|
One more random post and then back to Spirit. It's been a long couple of weeks, culminating to a serious visit with my neurologist today. My creative juices have been a little tamped -- Mugs
K sat back in his saddle and looked straight into my eyes. This kind of contact was rare between us, since it makes me extremely uncomfortable and on most occasions, creates a strong flight reaction.
I knew though, that when K was brushing my anxieties aside and demanding this level of attention, I needed to suck it up. He had important information to share.
"Maybe you need to go throw rocks," he said.
"Go throw rocks."
Sonita was raging that day. Her cranking tail, pinned ears and gnashing teeth were the least of my worries. It was the iron rib that refused to move, the hind legs that jumped into a squealing buck rather than stepping into maneuvers, or struck at my boot in response to the barest touch of my calf that was getting to me.
I had lost it. I wanted to show her that if she didn't like my calf, maybe she would prefer my spur rolled up her side. I wanted to jam that resistant rib cage into my opposite leg, shove her up into her bit, no matter how hard she slung her head or put her nose in the sky.
My darling mare had drug me into the cesspool of her heat induced fury and I was ready to give her back exactly she was giving, and then some. K's instruction had turned into a blur of unintelligible orders, I heard nothing but criticism and disappointment, and was more than ready to turn my self-labeled incompetence into bullying my mare.
K held me with his frustrated stare. He knew I was too embroiled in my own emotions to hear him.
"Sometimes," he said, his voice as slow and clear as a preschool teacher, "the best thing to do, is get off your horse, walk out in a field, and go throw rocks. Once your arm is tired, come back and try again."
I could tell he was about done with me. I figured he was giving me this random advice to get me out of his hair for a minute. It was also clear he meant it. I could go throw rocks or I could go home. Whatever.
I dismounted, dropped a rein and walked off. Sonita snorted and rattled her bit behind me. Yeah, she had won. I hoped that snort was a juicy one and she blew it all over K's leg.
I crawled through the arena fence, stepped out into the cow pasture and proceeded to throw rocks, hard. The dogs came sniffing around, thinking there might be a new game, but picked up my mood and slunk off.
Each rock was aimed at Sonita's imaginary head, which I envisioned a few yards out. I suppose a few were aimed at K's head too, I'm not admitting anything. Then, a funny thing happened.
I started thinking about my horse. She always had a tough time during her heat cycles. In human terms, her PMS was a bitch. Not only did Sonita become an emotional train wreck, she often experienced physical pain extreme enough to make her colic.
I threw a few more rocks. I knew this. Was she hurting? Was she losing it because I wasn't listening?
More rocks. Why wasn't I hearing her? Well, because I hated her. More rocks. Maybe it was because I was anxious and worried about her performance, my ability and what K thought about me when I was riding with him.
More rocks. Maybe I was ignoring my horse at a time when it was really important for me to pay attention. Why hadn't I told K how it was when she was horsing? Was I assuming he would tell me I was babying her? Why?
More rocks. How often was I closing out the tenuous current of communication between my horse and I because I wanted her to be different, better, or just not who she was?
More rocks. Shows, around other trainers and especially, with K. So, the times when it was the most stressful for my horse, I was closing her out so I could focus on my own anxiety.
It took a bit more tossing before I quit cussing myself for being the crappiest horse trainer on the planet, but by the time I was ready to go 'fess up to K my arm was tired.
I walked back, calm and focused. When I mounted my horse she stood quiet. I explained to K why I thought she might be cramping some.
"What are you going to do about it?"
"I'm going to trot her out, long an low, and see if she can un-kink. If she can't, well, we should probably call it a day."
"Then go to it."
There's a point to my story. It has occurred to me, I get all caught up in my thoughts in the exact same way, right here, on this blog.
When discussions start in the comments, I'll take offense when none is meant, misinterpret things that are said, not be ready to accept offered information, and sometimes, just be a bitch.
Then, in my schitzo way, be warm and fuzzy over the exact same input. This shows up the most in my dog posts, because I'm learning new stuff here and it's as frustrating as it is exciting. Those of you who have tried to help, now have a taste of what K went through trying to teach me.
I must drive you guys crazy.
A good example: I posted a humorous (to me) series of photos of Brockle avoiding being engaged with the decoy (bad guy) during protection work.
The truth behind the joking was I didn't know why he was doing it.
A reader described her method of dealing with dogs that didn't focus when they should. I became defensive, she became defensive, and well, I jumped on her shit.
I know she was frustrated because she felt I was dismissing her knowledge and wasn't hearing her. It pissed her off.
We both should have gone and thrown some rocks, then come back to things.
Here's the thing, I did hear her. I started thinking about what I was feeling through the leash, which is every bit as telling as the feel through the reins. She was talking about a dog that was goofing instead of working. I had a dog who was displaying aversion behaviors because he wasn't sure of my expectations. The crux of the situation was, I didn't know this yet, but in my gut I suspected it.
Because of her comments, I started thinking, reading, asking, learning. In the end, Brockle was avoiding the work, because once again, I, his trainer and handler, was unsure of myself and my knowledge, and was closing out my communication with him to hide my own anxieties.
I have since been much more open about my ignorance, have gotten great feedback on the field, and have become the confident, open handler my dog needs. These days, Brockle is rocking at practice, and we're advancing steadily.
If we had thrown rocks out of the arena instead of at each other, I could have learned tons from the blog reader who was trying to help, and probably gotten more input from others. Instead, I shut her down and was left to sort things out by myself.
I respect you guys, I really do, and I want your thoughts and input. But, well, I get how I get, and need to be reminded to play nice once in a while.
So. Here's the offer. I want you guys to feel 100% free to call me out. Obviously, I already do it to you, so let's balance things. The code words? GO THROW ROCKS. If you tell me to, I will. I''ll take a break, think through what was said and come back behaving myself. I will do the same to you, and use the same code. GO THROW ROCKS. I'll expect you to back off, think things through and come back with your point again, but maybe a little more thought out, a little friendlier.
Unless of course it's just meanness. Then, well, I guess we can become an unruly mob and stone the sucker.
Deal? Let's shake on it.