Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Let's Get to It

I'm neglecting you again.

Can I make it worse?

I have about 10 half finished stories hidden back here.

I've been mulling things over and getting stuck. Sometimes, a story pops up, just like the old days, and I start writing and the whole thing eventually just fades off. I haven't been able to get ahead of it.

This isn't unusual for me. I will begin a project, a new tack room, a book outline, a rock wall, mulching my pasture, and suddenly stop. I wander off to another unfinished project and stare at it, wondering why it's still not done. Eventually, I see a problem I hadn't before, something crooked, or awkward, and I know how to fix it. So I'm back at it again.
I'm not sure whether this is me not wanting to admit there's a problem, or knowing instinctively, but not logically, that something is wrong.

Logic finally meanders on in and I untie the knots.

I do believe I've at least loosened some of my blog knots.

I need you to meet who I am now. Not growly, tired, frustrated Mugs, well, OK, that's still the same, but I've been doing a lot of thinking. Faced facts I wouldn't before, sorted out what needed sorting and realized, I can't write anything but how I see it. For reals.

I want to start out with a list. Remember how you guys used to get all mad at me for oh, hating blankets or drop nose-bands? Then I'd go through all the angry responses and either flat out tell you why or write a related story?

I'm hoping my list will remind some of you and kickstart others.

I hate box stalls, but I think every horse needs to learn to live in them.
Horses need to learn to stand tied.
I hate nosebands and tie-downs.
I use spurs.
I like spade bits on bridle horses.
I don't clip and rarely brush.
My horses have been barefoot for years, but it's only because I'm cheap, I absolutely do not ride the barefoot wagon.
The majority of horse whispery clinicians have turned a colt's first 30 days of training into a life-long project for their customers and a career for themselves.
People who dance with their horses at liberty with Enya blasting through the speakers are generally full of crap.
Horse communicators are lying to you.
Not all Mexican dancing horses are brutalized untalented messes.

There's a start. Let's see what happens.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Work it like a Kardashian

I had quite the epiphany today. Not one I'm particularly happy about, but I found a hole in my riding that I've been digging for years. Many of you will recollect how much I love finding holes and filling them.

I posted a video of a cutting practice as part of my last post. I hadn't watched it in a long while. Madonna was pretty nice, but she kept arcing her body to the right and swinging her head to the left.
She appears to have a case of the looky-loos, or a reluctance to work, but that wasn't the situation. Take another look at the video and see if you can spot it.

I know this because those poked out ribs and head to the side has been an issue in every aspect of our rides.

Her spins to the left are perfection, I step her forward, release my left leg and she flies. To the right, we have issues. When I set her up, I get a head toss and a tail swat, she's locked up enough that one step forward doesn't cut it. I have to push her ribs over, hold them while I step her forward, gather her into the bridle to keep her head straight, and finally spin. It works, but is definitely not as pretty and free.

During her slide stops, if she's on her right lead and I drive her forward with my legs and keep her shoulders straight, she'll pile drive into a consistent and pretty stop. On her left lead, I'm dealing with her rib collapsing under my leg and usually end up with her hind end drifting to the right through her stop.

Lead changes, like a dream to the left, huge effort on her part to get a clean change to the right.

And so on. It affects how she negotiates a steep hill, up and down, and how she travels across a field. When she spooks to the left, it's a spin, stop and look. To the right, it's a bolt, straighten, then spin and look.

Without me on her back, she is dead level.

I know I sit crooked, without equal contact of my seat bones. I was of the opinion the issue was fixed. If you look at this video, I look fairly straight. The problem is, it turns out to be only an impression of straightness, I'm holding my right side completely rigid and my left is collapsed just like my horse. My shoulder is higher on the left, telling me my hips must be crooked too.

After many rewinds I think I sorted it out. My solution has been to focus on contact with my seat bones. Well, guess what? When I make equal contact it creates the entire clusterfuck. In order to plant that left seat bone I'm collapsing my ribcage on the left, becoming rigid on the right and constantly blocking my horse from bending  to the right.

All of this is from the damn Parkinson's. The disease is all about locking up. Some muscles quit on me, not necessarily in a dramatic way, but just quit doing their job. Others step in and compensate. My left cheek has lost tone and is smaller than my right. I don't believe I'm saying this, but half my butt needs to be bigger to get my balance back.

My answer? I'm going to try to focus on building butt muscle through exercise. I'm thankful for the Kardashians and their obsession with glutes, it gave me access to all kinds of giant butt exercises. I'll work both sides, and add half again to the left. Here's the best I found for my current situation - I found them in Cosmo of all places.

Old age brings problems with strength, flexibility and tone. Having Parkinson's is a fun addition to the challenges already faced as I age in order to continue to ride. I can't stress enough the importance of looking outside our usual solutions.

Again, I was able to sort this out is because I listened to my horses. It took me forever to figure it out, but if I had taken the easier road, shoved them into the bridle and spurred the crap out of that sneaky ribcage I would have solved nothing except undermine the confidence shared by both my horses and I. The road less travelled gave me my solution.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Talking to my Horses

This is Madonna and I at a practice, probably seven or eight years ago. 

We sat in a companionable circle around our campfire's fading coals.The wood was mostly ash but a few surviving chunks sent up an occasional flare. It wanted either more fuel or a bucket of water, but nobody felt inclined to make a decision. The night was warm enough, we were tired, full, and everybody had at least a beer or two in them, and the conversation, like the fire, kept flaring up. 

It was the end of the first of a three day clinic, being put on by me and none other but the Big K.
We had worked hard enough to get comfortable with each other and the jokes and razzing was getting easier.

"You know, I don't like the way your horses behave on the ground," an attendee said to me.

"Say, what?" If there was a joke in there I wasn't hearing it.

It was suddenly very quiet.

"Don't take this the wrong way, they're incredible once you get on them, but they're totally different on the ground."

I heard the Big K snort and knew he was trying not to laugh. Instead of making me mad, his derision helped me get sorted. This was a green rider who was trying to learn, plus she had dropped a load of cash and travelled a long way to get here. 

"So, let me ask you," I said, "have you seen them kick or bite at me?"

"Oh, no, not at all," she said.

"Lean on me, push me or crowd me?"

"Mmmmm nope."

I continued, "Have they stepped away when I saddle, refused a bit or been hard to bridle?"

"Well, that's not what I'm talking about," the attendee started to sound a little pissy.

People were starting to grin and snicker a bit, it was going to be tough to quit.

"How about be hard to lead? Not move where I tell them to? Refuse to walk in a stall or trailer?"

"Do you want to know what I mean?" Pissy was turning the corner and heading straight to bitchy.

"Wait, I know, did they yank a foot away, pin their ears at me or tail slap me in the face when I picked up a foot?"

I had gone too far, now she was mad and quit talking. After a minute or two though, she couldn't resist getting back at me. 

"You talk to them," she said.

"Yeah, I guess so," I said.

"They talk to you too." 

I was about flummoxed. "Well, in their own way I guess they do."

"They have opinions!" Her voice was triumphant. You'd of thought she caught me in some secret, giant, trainer lie. 

The Big K couldn't hold back the guffaw that had been building in equal proportion with his beer intake. "Come to think of it, Janet, your horses do have opinions!"

I didn't like the way this was headed but I had to give it to him. Odin had single-hoofedly dismantled a temporary stall and round pen our first two nights at the ranch. Several of the panels were never going to be the same.

"I'm not getting you," I told her.

"I asked, why don't you clip Madonna's bridle path and you said, "Because she doesn't like the clippers."

"That's right," I said.

"When I tried to pet her muzzle, you said she didn't like her face messed with," she said.

"Right again, and when you reached up to scratch her ears I told you she didn't like her ears handled. My horses don't have the habit of sucking back, I'd like to keep it that way," I said.

"You told me not to walk straight up to Odin because he doesn't like people coming at him when he's carrying a rider, and that's just ridiculous," she said. 

There was a smugness to her that made me want to just smack her one, but, I was the professional, and she was not. I took a deep breath and attempted to explain how things worked with me.

"From the day we start them, horses are doing what we tell 'em, and to them, most of it makes no sense at all. We handle them, tie things to them, sit on them, make them move in completely unnatural ways. We control their food, their water, their exercise, make them live in blankets and box stalls and they need to be cheerful and compliant while we're doing it."

"That's what they're supposed to do," she said.

"I agree," I said, "that's what they're supposed to do. Sometimes though, I think, Why are they supposed to? What is the actual purpose here? You know what? There's an awful lot of times when I come up with absolutely nothing. So I don't do it.

"My horse hates having her face handled. She has to hold still and be haltered. She has to accept her bit and let me fold her ears into the bridle. If I need to look in her ears or nose, then she better let me.

"What she doesn't have to do is let people kiss her on the nose, or shave the inside of her ears. She sure as hell doesn't need a bridlepath or shaved fetlocks. 

"Odin has a funny reaction when I'm sitting on him and a stranger walks straight to the only place he can't see. Sometimes his reaction isn't so funny. I think it has something to do with feeling trapped, caught between front and back. I'm not worried about it, and there's no good reason for people to be all up in his blind spot. 

"So I help my horses and respect those small pockets of space. You know what? I guess we do talk. Because they know they can tell me what they don't like and sometimes, they get a choice. I find it makes it easier when they have to do what I say. They know I wouldn't insist unless it mattered."

That gal chose not to talk to me until late the next day. It was okay by me, I liked talking to my horses better any way.

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