Sunday, May 25, 2014

An Old Saying

     As the old saying goes: "time is money"  So true!  And, so all of us must use our time in the most efficient manner possible.  Often, this means evaluating what our goals are, where we want to end up, and prioritizing accordingly.  As with training....  Focus on a goal then decide what needs to be done to accomplish the end result.  Also, consider the time factor if there is one - for example, aiming to compete in a Fall Futurity - what must occur between "now" and "then" to make it happen?
    Also, consider whether you're teaching the horse what it needs to learn for the discipline you are riding.  To do otherwise is inefficient and a "waste of time".
    Many people mix up techniques that don't go well together.  This just makes everything more complicated to say the least.  I firmly believe that one must fully understand every maneuver and technique when riding.  For instance, an opening rein when used on a young colt is absolutely the correct technique but, it is of limited value (i.e. usually a waste of time) when working with an advanced horse. 
     Spend your time with your horse wisely and you'll reap the rewards!  Talk to you next week, JD

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Good Memories

     I've got a closet full of show clothes that I'll probably never wear again.  For various reasons I do not show personally any more but I just can't let go of these hats, chaps, shirts, etc. 
     I still remember getting my first pair of chaps when I was just a kid and how excited I was.  I remember my first good western hat with the perfect shape and crease, done by hand of course! 
     In my early days, I didn't have a lot of money so I saved and saved.  I always bought the highest quality I could possibly afford.  I did this because I was proud to be a horseman and because I came from a tradition where proper quality attire reflected your seriousness about horses and horsemanship. It wasn't about bling, though we did want to catch the judges' eye, it was about style and class, which is as important today as it ever was.  Yeah, the styles may be different, but you can still spot the class acts every time.
     Along with chaps and hats, and boots and shirts, I always paid attention to all my equipment.  I invested in quality bits and saddles.  I may not have had nice furniture at home but I always had good tack!  I wanted my horses to look their best and perform their best too.  I believed and still do, that all this makes a difference.  It tells the world that you care about your horses and your horsemanship.
     So, when I open that closet door it brings back so many good memories.  A lifetime with horses and I have no regrets.  Being a horseman is a journey that I will continue going on until my life is over.  I know no other path, nor would I want one.  It's true:  Old horsemen never die, they just ride off into the sunset!   I hope you are building your own good memories!  Talk to you next week.  JD

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Horses are Horses

     Sounds obvious doesn't it?  But, in reality, I constantly see people who don't seem to have the least bit of awareness of who and what horses are.   If you acknowledge the uniqueness of the species it makes everything else so much easier to understand.  But trying to put human thoughts and values to a horse just doesn't make any good sense.
     For horses to excel in our world, we must accept them for who they are.  Among what they are is an athlete who runs or shys whenever they feel at risk.  This is basic survival for a horse!  They are not being stupid they're just being survivors as a species.
     Horses also have another survival trait: a very good long term memory.  They also have good powers of association which makes them trainable, but they are not logical thinkers by nature.  They have all of the basic emotions but in a thousand pound body. 
     Horses do not however "love" -  it's just not part of their make-up.  They are not capable of it, it's only we humans that can give our love.  Horses are though, very capable of definite likes and dislikes, and sometimes very intensely so.  I've had horses that formed very strong friendships with other horses and showed signs of depression when their equine friends departed.  I'm not talking about "herd bound" syndrome but friendship does make sense if you put it in context of getting along in a herd.
     Being herd animals really helps us as trainers and owners etc. because all herds have a hierarchical system.  Herds that I've watched not only have a lead horse but also a second-in-command.  And, make no mistake that there are definitely horses at the bottom of the chain, use this to your advantage.  If a horse respects you and you respond in kind, you have a better basis for a great relationship.
     Never forget that every horse is born wild and we tame each and every foal that is born, it doesn't matter that it's born in a stable or not.  Horses are so capable of learning and adjusting to domesticity that they can become willing partners.
     Horses that understand what is expected of them are potentially content or "happy" (not a good term).  It sets them up for success but to achieve this, we must train and treat them as horses, not as  human buddies.
     So yes, groom your horse to you heart's content, it's part of the herd's behavior, but for example: don't over do the treat thing because that's human behavior and just causes horses to get pushy and rude.  Instead, reward your horse with a pat (I do) but remember that the best reward of all for him is for you to just get off and loosen the cinch.  Treat and understand your horse as a horse and he'll give you back so much.
     I could go on but that's enough for now.  I hope these thoughts help you build a great relationship with your horse!  Talk to you next week, JD.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Making Friends

  Ok, I may be biased, but I think horse people are some of the best people on earth!  They work hard, play hard (if they ever get the time!), love their horses, are crazy about their dogs, are competitive but are always willing to help when needed.  No pulling on face masks here, if you get my drift, horse people are just horse people at their core.
     I've made long lasting friendships on the show circuit just by sharing a cup of coffee on a cold morning or sipping a glass of wine with someone after a long day.  I've made friends by loaning out something simple to someone in need - like a crop or a longe line or some tail wrap.  I've made friends by helping someone with a pattern or just by holding a horse.  Sometimes it's the little things that can bring people together and really make such a difference.
     I've shown a lot of breeds and I think what makes Arabian shows so nice is the camaraderie.  People mingle between disciplines and mingle between barns.  While I'm walking the dogs, people often stop to ask about them and it's a nice way to start a conversation that builds beyond what we show.  Almost anybody at the show will help you when asked.  If you forgot something, someone will probably be able to help you out and they do it so gladly! 
     These examples are among the reasons why I became an Arabian enthusiast.  It's not just the horses I love, it's the people too!  Talk to you next week, JD.