Whose Clock Are We On Anyway?

When you’re not training, you’re un-training.

Andrea Udal

Last night, I made a post on my facebook page, 2R Barrel Horses, about a mare that I had spent a total of 10 minutes on. Prior to making the post, I was hesitant. The amount of time spent in the saddle seems to be a huge bone of contention in the barrel horse industry around here and I realized it’s something that has been bothering me. So naturally, I need to post about it.

Now, I’m the same as most… had always felt that if I wasn’t camping on my horses for hours upon hours, I wasn’t getting anything done. So I wore myself ragged for years trying to keep horses up throughout the week. I could never figure out why, come the weekend, my horses weren’t really clocking and felt sluggish. They were so fit! They had to be! I rode for an hour a day! If you trotted circles for an hour a day, you’d be fit too! Right? Well… ya, sure they were fit. But they were also exhausted. Physically and mentally. Then, about two years ago… my world changed.

That’s the first time a great friend and amazing trainer said to me “if you’re not training, you’re un-training.” At this point I don’t think I truly understood what she meant. But, even then I was a closet analyzer so of course my little brain was going. The more I thought about it, the more sense it made. Sure, there are times when you need to spend time fitting up a horse that might take a little longer. But if you’re riding with purpose, especially on a colt, you need to be purposeful the entire ride. And if I was being purposeful for an entire hour (which I can promise you, I wasn’t)… oh boy. My poor horses.

Now, this post is about to touch on something a little more… controversial. The reason I was so hesitant to make that post last night was because of the “arena chatter” and judgement that happens when someone doesn’t understand the process. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “have you seen so and so? She only actually puts 10 minutes a day on each horse.” The most recent time I heard this, I was instantly taken aback and felt judged and the comment wasn’t even about me! Because I know for a fact there are days like yesterday that I get to CELEBRATE growth and heart and try by stepping off after 10 minutes! Here’s the thing… does so and so really only spend 10 minutes EVERY day on that horse? Have you sat and watched her day after day? Or… are you understanding the process? Perhaps so and so has been struggling to catch a lead on said horse for the past three weeks and her only goal the day you were watching was to get the lead. She got it on the first try so she rewarded said horse with a well deserved early out. Or maybe, said horse has been worked 8 days straight and so and so just needed a stop without the horse pitching to their front end so she could give her a break… and said horse rocked the task in 10 minutes. Or perhaps, and this one just might be the scariest thought of all… perhaps 10-20 minutes is all so and so needs each day to climb off of a better horse than she got on. Generally speaking, and this is strictly from my own experience, not every day is a 10 minute ride kind of day. I celebrate the days that are, as just checking my training is the ultimate goal, but 99.9% of rides take a little longer to reach whatever goal I’ve set for that horse on that day.

All of this honestly comes back to one thing… reward. That is how horses learn. My colt starter is as wise as they come. He has taught me so much over the years and I am so honored to have had the opportunities he has given me in riding behind him. He always tells me “Bobbie, you need to make the reward longer than the work. That’s how it sinks in. That’s the best way to get through to the young ones.” Therefore, drilling a horse for hours on end sounds kind of counter productive. Don’t get me wrong… there are days. I’d be lying if I said there haven’t been days that I have sat in the saddle of a horse for hours upon hours just begging for a positive to quit on… I’ve even sat in the middle of the arena, thrown my hands in the air and cried in frustration. But I can 110% attest to the fact that as I move forward in this journey with an open mind and heart and ride purposefully every single day the entire time I’m in the saddle, those days are becoming fewer and further between. I have stopped setting unattainable goals and focused on tiny baby steps. And guess what… every single horse blows it out of the water. Pretty well every single ride.

So, the moral of the story, or post, or whatever. The length of time we’re on our horses needs to stop being such a competition. It shouldn’t be something that’s open for discussion or judgement. It also shouldn’t be something that anyone is afraid to admit or talk about. Horses learn from release. The ultimate release is stepping off. Do yourself and your horse a favor and remember that the next time your horse blows your expectations for the day out of the water 5 minutes into the ride. And do so without guilt!

Quality supersedes quantity 😉

I Work for Your Horse

Literally…

At current time, my weekdays consist of waking up, doing chores, going to my teaching job, coming home, bringing in horses and climbing into anywhere from 4 to 8 saddles before doing chores and finally having dinner. I made the decision a month ago to bust my ass until June to make sure I was someone who people actually wanted to hire. So far, I’m busy. Real busy. And I love it.

Anyway, the other day as I was working through my current roster of client colts, a thought popped into my head. I’ve been getting really great results with everything I’m getting on. Why?? I’m not anything special… I mean, I have great hands and I do believe the program I’ve built works, but there are definitely more successful trainers out there at this point. Then it hit me. While I, like any trainer, have my own personal program that I ride to and a sort of timeline I follow, I’ve also, rather unknowingly, been riding for each horse as an individual. Don’t get me wrong, every great trainer out there does this. I just have a twisted interest in dissecting everything in this little brain of mine 😉 

Ok, getting back on track. So I’m in the saddle of a colt that I have really enjoyed since day one (I’ve also come to the realization that THIS does not happen often. I always end up really enjoying them… but most of the time it takes 4-5 rides when they start getting the feel of my hands and showing me that they are learning before I start enjoying them). A thought pop into my head. I don’t actually work for the owners…. Metaphorically speaking anyway. I work for the horse. These horses dictate their own programs. I listen to their every need; what they require for feed, how many days off a week they need and when, and, most importantly, what they are ready to learn.

Taking a slight detour, I feel it is important to point out that this isn’t just true for the colts that I have the pleasure of spending 30, 60, or 90 days with. It’s true for my own as well…. In fact, being so blessed in being busy with clients has allowed me to step back and give my own colts a much needed rest for a month or two… otherwise I would be teetering on the edge of creating what Jackie Jatzlau has deemed “facebook 3 year olds” in her podcast Married with Horses… colts who are NFR caliber at 3 (and in this case 4 as well) but do absolutely nothing come futurity time 😉 

Being a school teacher, I have found so many parallels between training horses and teaching children. Food for thought; in many school divisions in Alberta, children have the option of going to junior kindergarten at age 3 and 4. This program is generally offered twice a week for half days. Moving forward from junior kindergarten, students have the option to attend kindergarten at age 5. This program is generally 5 half days a week (I’m actually not sure if there are any schools in the province that still offer it this way, but it has been in the past), or, as in the school I currently work at, two full days a week, with Fridays introduced in about October. Our school only attends every second Friday generally. So 5 days over a two week period are kindergarten days… generally speaking. It isn’t until Grade 1, age 6, that children go to school full time. They are worked into a routine, slowly. Students also get two days off a week minimum (there are a lot of long weekends), two weeks at Christmas, a week in the spring and two months in the summer. By now you’re wondering what this has to do with training horses. Don’t worry, I’m getting there. 

We send our colts to the trainer at age 2, some of us hold off until they are 3, but for the most part, colts have their first 30 days by the end of their 3 year old year. 30 DAYS! We work our children up to full time school but we take our colts and throw them to the wolves for 30 days right off the hop. I am fully aware that a horse is not a child. I get that. I also understand that most people turn their colts out for a considerable amount of time following their first 30 days. But being a teacher and a trainer, I can tell you, a colt learns in a very parallel manner to a child. A colt learns what is right from being shown release, a child learns what is right by being praised. A colt learns what is wrong by having undesirable behaviors being made uncomfortable or corrected. A child learns what is incorrect by being shown where they made a mistake or being told/shown the correct path…. see where I’m going with this?  The point is, an immature mind is an immature mind. 

I can tell you, I don’t climb on a three year old as much as I climb on a five year old. I also don’t expect my colt starter to actually put 30 days on my colts when I send them the first time. Do I still pay him well? Heck ya! Anyone who has chatted with me face to face on this topic knows that I feel colt starters should be paid more than a barrel trainer. I couldn’t do what they do. By the time they get to me, they are safe (I hope so anyway). Colt starters don’t have any clue what they’re getting. Yes, I take risks climbing on colts. But they take a way higher risk. So, back to my program. I listen to the horse and one thing I can attest to; the younger (both mentally and/or physically) they are, the more rest time they need. That being said, they generally also absorb concepts quicker. And rest helps their minds be able to do that. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the number of rides in a given time frame depends on the individual, and mental and physical maturity impacts this as well. I get asked a lot about the number of rides I put on a horse in a given time frame and just recently realized that I don’t have any set answer. And maybe that’s why my program is working… because I work for the horse. 

I get asked so much; “how long to get my horse jackpot ready?” Now, please do not take this as me making fun or judging people who ask that question. I didn’t understand the complexity of the answer to this question until I started climbing on so many colts. I value a broke horse. I’ve been very lucky to ride my main guy, Famous, who was pretty much born broke. I don’t mean that literally… basically, he got really broke really fast without me really knowing what I was doing. I started taking him to horsemanship and barrel clinics as a three and four year old and he could ‘just do it’. Now, he’s a pretty fancy broke 7 year old. I now have the pleasure of riding a three year old, Smoothie, who has a very similar story to Famous… only on purpose… I know what I’m doing with her 🙂 My ultimate goal is to make everything feel like Famous and Smoothie do. Pretty simple! Alright, so back to the question at hand. I often struggle to answer the question about how long to get a horse jackpot ready. The reason is; I’ve had horses loping the pattern after a month. I’ve also had horses not ready to even look at a pattern for 4 or 5 months. The answer to that question depends on your horse. And I work for them. 

Ok, so this post has gone in directions I didn’t really even intend for it to go. I, like any trainer, think my program is the best. But, like I said above, my mind thrives on analyzing and explaining everything. Why what works, works. Why what doesn’t, doesn’t. Why I do the things I do and why I love the things I love. One thing that I truly believe is that I may be hired by you. But, I work for your horse. 

Good or Bad, It’s Mine

I own it!

I’m the type of person… hold that thought. I WAS the type of person who gave credit to everyone except myself. I taught a great lesson — it was the teacher before me who gave me the lesson plan (to heck with the minor changes I made), I trained a really nice horse — it was the colt starter who put his first 30 days on him (to heck with the hours upon hours of time and patience I spent in his saddle), I won big at the barrel race — it was the riders I’d had the opportunity to ride under (to heck with the lessons I learned and the down right good riding I put in) who got ALL the credit.

Recently, with all the big changes in my world, I’ve come to the realization (after years of being told by so many) that I am the reason that anything happens in my life. Good or bad, it’s mine. I own it. As children we are taught (and as adults we teach children this as well) to own our decisions. When a child makes a bad choice, they are shown the steps to own up to that choice and do what is necessary to make it right. I’m no different. Even as an adult. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked into my principal’s office with my tail between my legs to own up to a poor decision I’ve made in the classroom, or had to backtrack because something I thought was a logical way to get the point across to a colt didn’t work. I, like the rest of you, am human. And humans make mistakes. The number one thing we’re taught is that mistakes are ok… IF you own them.

So, moving on to the point of this post. We’re taught to own our poor decisions… our failures if you will, so why aren’t we taught to own our successes as well? I know for a fact that I’m not the only person in the world who struggles… struggled… with owning my success. I know why I struggled… I never, ever want to let anyone who has impacted my path feel unappreciated. Clearly, I have felt this to the point of degrading my own self worth in order to ensure that everyone else feels appreciated. The biggest issue with this? Those people who have had the greatest impact on my biggest achievements are the ones who are most supportive of my successes. They are the cheerleaders that correct me when I’m so quick to give them all the credit.

I could go on for hours on this topic, but that would be beating a dead horse. I have had the pleasure of working with some great teachers, both in the arena and in the classroom… and celebrating my successes as my own does not take away from their contributions. But, the fact is, if I do the work, whatever happens, good or bad, it’s mine. I own it!

Me and Famous winning the first round of the 2018 ABRA Finals. I own it!

Taking a Risk to Follow a Dream

So… I quit my job today…

Well, not today, but a few weeks ago.

I had it “all”. I graduated from university in May of 2012 with my Bachelor of Education… In layman’s terms, a teaching degree. I subbed for the last few months of that school year and found a full time position for the 2012-2013 year. I was offered a coveted continuing contract at the end of my first year. Every young teachers’ dream! I had job security in a profession that I love… Or loved… The jury is still out on that one.

So why, 7 years later, have I signed, sealed and delivered my letter of resignation? The honest answer? That’s a loaded question. There are several reasons. A few I can openly discuss and a few that are best saved for close knit discussion with colleagues and my husband.

I do not hate my job. In fact, I really do love it (despite being indecisive about that most days). I love it so much that I realize if I don’t step away for at least a little while, I will grow to hate it. And that’s not fair. It’s not fair to me and it’s not fair to the moldable young minds I spend my days with. A few years ago, I submitted to the fact that my heart is, at least for now, in a different classroom. One with a dirt floor and four legged students.

It’s all fine and dandy to long to be somewhere else. Unfortunately, “somewhere else” rarely pays the bills. I’ll admit that. We’ve all heard the stories of horse trainers who can barely make ends meet. Trainers don’t do it for the paycheque, even I’m not that naive. They do it because they’re passionate and have a gift. I’m going to let you in on a little secret – – teachers are in the same boat!!

So by now you’re probably wondering “where are you going with this?” “what makes you so different?” The answer is simple. I’m not. I don’t expect things to be easy. And maybe a year from now I’ll be regretting my decision and wishing for that little piece of paper guaranteeing my position for September. Maybe. But I doubt it. The fact is, I own my decision. It’s mine and it’s the best way I know how to “just do me”.

Not everyone gets the opportunity to take a risk and live their dream. Maybe mine will work… Maybe it won’t. But it will for sure be one heck of an adventure!

The Journey Begins

“I think I want to start blogging.”

That’s how it started. Well actually, no… I’m lying. It started in my head. Then I sent the text message. 

Something that most people don’t know about me: I love to write. When I was in Grade 7, I wrote a short story that ended up being 16 pages typed. My teacher accepted it, then took me aside before our next story assignment to politely ask me to keep it to 4 pages typed. Whoops. 

I would spend hours as a young teen in front of the computer… And I wasn’t playing video games. I was writing. I couldn’t tell you what any of those stories said… they are long gone, never to be shared with anyone. 

Recently, I’ve made some HUGE changes in my world (more on those later) and I realized something; I miss writing. I miss how writing makes me feel. I miss the feeling of content and release after writing something that I’m proud of. So that brings me to today. This brilliant plan to start blogging. 

So, I’m driving to work this morning and I have a brain wave. Blogging. I feel like I have a lot to say. About everything. And, like most people, I think my opinion is one that everyone should listen to, or read, or whatever. Anyway, back to my morning. I’m making the long commute to my job (10 minutes, haha) and I have this overwhelming feeling to share my brilliant blogging idea with a good friend of mine. This friend is a blogger as well and she offers mental bootcamp courses online. She has taught me how to trust my own energy and believe in myself and trust my intuition and all that cool stuff.

So I send the text. “I think I want to start blogging.”

“Cool. What are you going to write about?”

Ummm…. what? What do you mean, what am I going to write about? Do bloggers actually think about that? Turns out they do. My response to this question; everything. I’m going to blog about everything. My life is busy. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t have it any other way, but it is busy. I’m always going in ten different directions and my trials and tribulations are sometimes noteworthy. If you’ve read this much, I thank you. I also invite you to take this journey with me and see where it leads. Who knows, maybe I’m on to something 😉 

 

Welcome to Dirt Floor Recess!