Monday, July 7, 2014

Go Throw Rocks

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."

I did.

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.


Jan Blawat said...

I don't believe that life is productive when people blindly agree all the time, or only couch their opinions in positive terms so no one's feelings are hurt. Some of us need spurts of creative negativity to thrive. I just had a new chicken barn built by a crazy Ukrainian carpenter. There were times when we'd stand face-to-face and argue passionately about something as trivial as which way the doors should open. It was a great process, we'd throw out reasons just for the sake of argument that neither of us would have thought of otherwise. In the end, we would have come up with a wonderful solution, we'd smile and laugh and go on to the next challenge. Are there more diplomatic methods that could be used? Maybe, but those are too much like business meetings and put me to sleep. The trick is to not be mean, to disengage the ego and to know while you're arguing that your creative juices are flowing and that it's all going to end up well. I think you're on that track. Thanks for giving us a heads up.

Figure said...

I don't comment often, but Mugs, I really needed that.

My mare has not done well with me in competitive/arena environments, even with some of the trainers in our home arena giving me lessons. You nailed it; I'm not listening to her then. I'm riding her differently. I'm asking her to be something she isn't, and she's getting mad that I've gone and changed the game on her.

Mentally throwing those rocks again today. Thank you.

Ozhorse said...

It is very easy to misinterpret what someone has meant in a blog comment. I see it often. The commenter (talking about myself here) often is interested and motivated to contribute but there is the time pressure, and the guilt that one should be doing something else other than get the morning blog dose and avoid starting the day.

I dont write well, I have always found it difficult. If I want to make a good comment it can take a surprising amount of time. I envy your writing skill. I am not a story teller.

I think I am saying it is hard to say what one means, for lots of us anyway. Sometimes I wonder how other people can come up with such different interpretations of what someone meant.

I think you idea is a good one.

I have actually got pages of comments I never quite finished or posted because I thought they went on too long, or were too self centred, or people didnt want to hear them.

Thank you for giving us permission to make mistakes, or accidentally offend, because it makes it easier to comment. If we have to be too perfect, or write as well as you do, then I guess the risk is that people wont comment, and I guess one of the purposes of the blog is to get us to.

Anonymous said...


It's a good thing to have a K in your life. Though I know, if it had been me, a pile of rocks would have been thrown at his imaginary head.

I realized a while ago that I didn't understand the stresses you were going through. I also know I wouldn't hold up very well if I were you. So, I'm not going to call you a bitch even if you are one. Much like your relationship with Sonita, I don't always understand what's going on. But I'm Ok with that, do what you do and don't forget about that cliff you left Tally dangling from.

Bif said...

Can we throw donuts?

GreyDrakkon said...

Only stale donuts that are hard as rocks.

mugwump said...

Because I would eat the soft squishy ones. Then, I would have to hate you. Because of the fat thing...I haven't forgotten Tally.

Pishkeen said...

So glad you haven't forgotten Tally! That cliff is particularly concerning...

Tally and Sonita make me think of the first horse I ever 'fell in love' with, and my current problem-child of a mare. Oh heck, and my co-dependent border collie mix. I seem to pick the tetchy, sensitive, don't-touch-me sort of horses (and dogs). My theory is because I can see how brilliant they could be and the rewards when they start to respond are huge. Oh, and probably hubris on my part as well, or maybe I need to prove something.

Becky said...

I still say we need more fonts. Italicized for emphasis, backwards italics for sarcasm... maybe a squiggly font for "I'm just teasing you"....

It would make the internet a nicer place.

Becky said...

Also, for the record, I'm waiting patiently for whenever we get to hear more Dixie Ann. She cracked me up.

Liz said...

Mugs, I've been a long time reader and just like Figure, I don't comment. I'm in my mid-20s and not a lot of wisdom when it comes to horses. I've been riding for a long time, but I'm just starting to get it. It's a long journey. But, I look up to you and admire your training / tenacity / point of view a whole lot.

This post is so helpful to me because you bring up something that is embarrassing, at least to me: getting out of control and wanting to do something mean instead of seeing the other side of the story. I do it with people, I do it with horses, and I feel awful when it happens. Just reading this and hearing you admit that it happens (to the best of us) makes me feel more confident that I can go throw rocks, I can change my patterns, and I can be a partner to my horse rather than a slave driver. Thank you again, and please keep writing (Tally *hint hint wink wink cough*)

Anonymous said...

Hey Liz, you're normal. Anyone who doesn't do some of those things in their mid-twenties is doing too much drugs. You feel bad about it, so you have a conscience. You're looking for solutions, so you'll be alright. I can say that, I'm almost old enough to be your grandmother.

And, I agree with what Becky said. Both times.

Jenn said...

"I must drive you guys crazy."

I, for one, love that you get it worked out and tell us about it. I think everyone has this in some measure.

I think the 'Go Throw Rocks' should become a meme as powerful as the Spoons meme. (If you haven't found the spoons meme, you should. It's good.)

Anonymous said...

The phrase is not "bitch". It's THE bitch, and KARMIC Bitch to the rest of us.

Never settle for ordinary!

Seriously, Mugs, you made some great points I will ponder while out on the trail today.

Amy in Ohio

Whywudyabreedit said...

This is advise that I can use at home! I bet that splitting wood and digging post holes would work really well too.

I agree with Liz, I appreciate the honesty and can relate on so many levels. I am an edgy intolerant bitch at times. People who are my friends usually feel that I am justified in my aggravated reactions to situations. The problem is that I have to live with my reactions, and it seems like I would enjoy live more if I could let more things just roll off my back. I have been gathering tools - I will plan to put hard labor in the tool bag.

Thanks again for sharing your experience.

Ozhorse said...

UUmmm, Mugs, where are you? we miss you.

HorsesAndTurbos said...

Keep checking in here...Google says "many times". Hope you are okay!

Anonymous said...

Are you okay?

Anonymous said...

Mugwump, please come back!

GreyDrakkon said...

Hope you're doing alright, Mugwump.

Lori said...

I am missing your whit and insights. I hope you are all right. I am getting worried.

HorsesAndTurbos said...

I just found her alive and well on ...gasp...Facebook! :)

Whywudyabreedit said...

Sweet! Thank you for the update H&T =)

HorsesAndTurbos said...

You are welcome. Just typed her name in for the heck of it and there she was - talking about dogs! She's public so if you FB then you can find her, too!

Sarah K said...

We're all still here! Hope you are doing well and having a really good summer!

Anonymous said...

I guess you better say something soon, we're starting to stalk you.

Ann Clair said...

Thank you Mugwump, I, like you don't take criticism very well and can't see the trees for the woods at times. I plan to take K's and your advice and throw some rocks....after all we are all human :)

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