Saturday, December 22, 2012

Train Like An Individual!

 I've just started reading the book, THE GIFT, by Barbara Schulte. It talks about how we're all unique with individual insight and abilities that no one else has and how to enhance those abilities with mental strategies for riding. It's great food for thought especially if you struggle with confidence, which happens to be the reason I bought it!

The concept of being a true individual doesn't stop at the rider. It applies to horses as well. Just like us, they have individual personalities but they also have unique strengths and weaknesses.

Every time we interact with a horse we're training whether we know it or not. Because of that, we can either grow that horse's strengths or we can magnify their weaknesses. A good horseman will be in tune to that fact and will work towards building their unique abilities.

By focusing on and encouraging a horse's strengths, just like us, they build confidence. Think about it. When you realize you've done something well, doesn't it make you feel good? Doesn't it make you feel like you've accomplished something? Horses are no different. If they're told, "No, that's not right!", over and over eventually they give up, just like we do. But if they're told, "Yes, that's right!" they just try harder for us.

God made us all different and I think He enjoys that fact. After all, it would get boring if we were all the same! The wonderful thing is that He's a big God that's equipped to deal with our individual craziness, weaknesses, and our strengths. He loves it all anyway and He finds ways to help us each grow our strengths in Him so that we're encouraged and try harder. So celebrate your uniqueness in God and ask Him to help you with it!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Get Some Control

I love breaking colts. Some people dread it or just absolutely refuse to do it, but I love it. There is nothing more rewarding than to see the fruit of your labor when you crawl on the first few times and have a good ride.

Breaking colts is serious business. How they start out is how they're going to be throughout their lifetime. Horses are made or ruined in those few rides. Ultimately, it can mean their life or death as the slaughter houses are full of horses that have major problems because they didn't have a good start. So any time you take on breaking a colt, it doesn't need to be for any other reason than that horse's future and you need to make sure you do a great job.

One thing I learned years ago from Marty Green, one of my mentors on colts, is that you need to get them broke before you ever put a foot in a stirrup. It's not good enough that they just tolerate you laying over their back without bucking. They need to have a brake, a steering wheel, and a gas peddle and they need to be light on those things.

Think of it this way. Would you go out on the interstate with a big dump truck that the brakes worked part of the time and took all your strength to steer? Absolutely not! You'd say that's insane. Well, breaking a horse is the same way.

If you have to do more than just pick up to get a colt's face, they're not ready to get on because you only have partial control. You need to spend more time getting better control of that horse's body and mind.

I'd bet that God feels the same way with us. He enjoys seeing the fruit of His labor in our lives when He builds us from the ground up. But just like with breaking colts, to have a good ride, God has to have definite control in our lives. He's got to be able to control our feet and our minds before we can go anywhere without a fight.

If we want to have a good ride with God, we've got to let Him build that foundation and get some control in our lives first. The only way to do that is to spend some time with Him so He can do the groundwork.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Just A Grunt!

In losing my mother this past week and dealing with family members, I'm once again reminded of an old saying that I love from my wise ex-mother law. Her saying was this, "What can you expect from a pig but a grunt?"

That's not to say that she was calling people pigs. It's much deeper than that. It's saying that you can't expect people to be anything other than what they are. You can't expect them to see what they can't see. When you realize that, it takes some of frustration out of the equation and it's easier to walk in a new direction rather than keep banging your head against a wall that isn't going to move -- you can invest your energy elsewhere.

The same thing applies to horses. I used to think that a good trainer could make a horse do anything. They could make a pleasure horse run barrels or a walking horse do reining. But as I've progressed and aged in my horsemanship, I'm starting to realize that a good trainer can see what a horse wants to do and they can see what a horse is. They're not expecting a pig to bark, so to speak.

A happy horse is a horse that is going to perform well. They're just like us. If we like our job, we'll do our very best because we enjoy it. If we don't, we'll do the bare minimum. Horses are no different. If we try to make them do something that they don't want to do, they'll do it but it won't be easy.

Spend some quality time watching and listening to your horse. Does your horse perk up when you go to canter across a field? Does he seem a little more interested when you approach a trail obstacle? Does loping slow come easy to him? Maybe you're hitting on what your horse really likes to do when you see those sometimes subtle reactions. Pay attention to those and pursue them a little futher to find out what your horse likes and "what" he is.

To take it a step further, God is the same way with us. He already knows whether we're a "pig" or some other critter. He works with us accordingly. He doesn't expect us to be something we're not. Instead He embraces what we are and works with it on His timeline. He knows what we're good at and He works with that.

So the next time you encounter a difficult person or a difficult horse, remember you can't expect any more from either than what they are. Once you realize that, life gets a little easier!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

All In The Release

You'll hear many clinicians talk about the fact that horses don't learn from the pressure, they learn from the release. In other words, they don't learn from the asking, they learn when we quit asking.

Softness is a direct result of how hard we ask and how hard we quit asking. If we ask hard, we'd better quit asking hard if we want our horses to stay soft. The bigger the ask, the bigger that release had better be.

In the beginning, there are times when we do have to ask a little harder to get them to move their feet or give through their face. Instead of just contact with the leg or a pick up on the rein, we have to bump with the spur or bump with the rein. Where the training part comes in is matching your release to the intensity of how you ask. The harder you ask, the more release there should be in your rein and your leg. Quit asking and leave them alone.

When it comes to God we're not much different. We can be under a lot of pressure in life and searching for a way out, searching for some peace and happiness. God lets us endure that pressure because not only do we grow during those times but the reality of it is that it's the pressure that makes the release seem sweeter.

In times of pressure, we often get caugt up in worry and focusing on our problem. But when that release finally comes, it's then we look back and we're thankful and realize God for who He is and how He loves us. Just like a horse, we learn off of that release.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Repetition & Consistency Count More

Horses aren't that much different than us. The more we do something, the more we understand it and the better we get at it. Horses are the same way. They learn by repetition.

Just like everyone else, I'm short on time. Most people think you have to have a lot of time to teach a horse. It is true that it takes a lot of time to make a horse but no one said that all that time had to be be spent in one session. In fact, a lot of times less is more when you're teaching.

When I get a young horse in to break, the first thing I do is work on ground manners. Every time I take them in or out of the pasture, I'll spend just a few moments working on moving the hips or shoulders, or backing up. One step in the right direction and I'll turn them loose for the day as their reward.

You might ask what in the world can you teach a horse in two minutes a day? It's not the time that counts, it's the consistency. Twice a day they're given the opportunity to learn about ground manners. In a normal training environment they would only be given that opportunity once a day.

Our walk in faith is the same way. It's not big long prayers or long Bible reading sessions that brings us closer to God. Again, it's not the time that counts but the consistency. When you seek after God's heart day after day that's what He wants. He wants your consistency because He knows just like your horse you learn best by repetition.