Why can’t you be perfect?

Loaded question, I know. Why cannot we all ride perfectly, have our horses react perfectly to the amount of pressure we elicit, and have them execute perfectly to those cues?

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Tori Repole Photos; Featured in this Chronicle Article.

Well, there are many reasons. For one, we are human and horses are horses. If you are thinking *no duh* and doing a facepalm, I dare you to keep reading. A point will be made, eventually.

Beyond the unavoidable things that happen to divert us from perfection, what’s wrong with striving for it?

Perfection has a lot of weight to carry. It means that every component of the picture has the same amount of attention to detail.

In the context of horses, this means not jumping a course of crossrails until you master the transition to the canter. And before you produce an uphill, engaged, and straight canter departure, it means building a connected, marching walk.

Before you even step in the saddle, you must command your horse successfully to stand quietly at the mounting block. Before reaching the mounting block, your horse must walk respectfully next to you, listening to your body, hand, voice as you lead them.

I could go on. Perfection is hard. Perfection is work. Perfection is unachievable.

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Tori Repole Photos, Featured in this Chronicle Article.

Why strive for something unattainable?

This is my new state of mind lately with horses and work. If we use an excuse that it will “never happen” to be perfect, then why bother trying to improve?

Asking “what’s the point” is defeatist. We all have room to grow. To focus on the shortfall we will always have limits our potential.

Be healthy in your mindset, strive for perfection, and celebrate your progress.

/ end monologue

How do you all handle the idea of perfection as it relates to horses?

Busy != Pony Time

It’s very sad when my days consist of work, travel, and the only pony time I get is trolling the COTH boards. Don’t get me wrong, love the community there, but there is not quite anything for your soul like sitting in a saddle, as I am sure most there would attest.

In my time off, I am trying to remain fit (ha…) and stay mentally focused.

Today I got to test how well my time away was treating me.

Answer: Not well.

Continue reading “Busy != Pony Time”

Deliberate Consistency

One thing I’ve been told consistently by separate horsewomen and men throughout my riding career is “Ride the horse you are given.”

This can mean a lot of different things depending on the circumstances. Be more tough on a pokey sloughy type, don’t expect the saintly 2”0 packer to jump around a 1.20m course, and allow a horse’s fitness and physical limitations be your guardrails.

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Someone is upset with the prospect of his imposed guardrails – ice boots.

It can translate to a whole host of other lessons, but those examples tell us we have to listen and be pliable. We cannot immure our animals into selfish expectations.

Sometimes I focus so much on what a horse needs at a given time, I do not embrace its counter-message. Be consistent. For me and my human clan, it’s a tough sell. Be flexible to what a horse needs, but also be the same in the intensity and escalation of your asks? Maybe you should ask me to solve differential equations without a calculator while juggling especially slippery objects.

Stress.

If you are like me, you have a lot going on in your life, what I like to call “distractions” from my true love of animals and riding. Examples of this include this little thing called “work” and “taxes”.

My mind can be flooded with these distractions, and when I allow it to take a forefront mental calculations, my riding feels much more hurried. Rather than be the relaxed and soft rider I know I can be, it’s about getting to point B in the fastest way possible.

Real life scenario – I arrive at the barn, late for my lesson, after a high-pressure, hectic work day. I allow my normal, slow warm up. This was deliberate. When getting Q up to speed, I kept repeating to be slow and listen to him, especially we are dealing with soundness question marks.

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Night is supposed to be peaceful, right? Not frenetic?

Good job me right? Wrong.

We start jumping, and there goes all that quiet riding I warmed up on. I am aggressive, shoulder-pitching, leaning self with all the pressures of a stressful corporate job screaming at me when I need it least.

Being consistent is my crux when my mind is playing through its own algorithms. My approach needs to be the same, because it’s not fair to divert course mid-ride.

Does anyone else have to practice deliberate consistency? Or get easily caught in a tense cycle once it starts? Always appreciative of suggestions.

Pet Peeve – Slow Spooking

I am not a “triggered” person. There is no one event, word, or situation that will throw me into blind rage. This is especially true with horses, where more often than not I am told I am too soft and ineffective.

There is one horse behavior that truly drives me batty. And I encountered it when riding Q this week.

Let me set the stage, Q is not – by any stretch of the imagination – a wild horse. He always tends to be behind your leg, and he carries himself as a “been there, done that” kind of guy. It is rare he will bat at eye at anything. Like, truly anything, sometimes *I* jump at noises that he is just like, What’s going on up there, lady?

I cannot reiterate how calm this horse is.

If ever there was a gif to describe how Q treats life…

With all the rain we’ve been having and the mild unsoundness, I got on the goober still expecting the same Q.

RULE NUMBER ONE WITH HORSES, DOOFUS. Expectations? Throw them out the window.

It took one strange spooking horse in the distance to initiate the launch sequence. Hopping and rearing. Pretending we were a dolphin. It was cute, were it not for the 5 other horses in the ring.

I will ride through most fanfare, but rearing is not an activity I am not willingly participating in, especially since there were other (well-behaved but impressionable) horses in the ring.

Out of courtesy for others, I got off promptly and marched the guy down to the smaller, quieter ring.

Mind you, I didn’t want to let him loose, because I still wasn’t sure how he would feel soundness-wise. I had a good idea he’d feel fine, since he was impersonating bombastic marine life. However, I was not going to let him buck around in case it was cold weather jitters, and he tweaked something further.

Weeeeeeeeeee

So I got back on in the smaller, quieter ring and like *magic* had old Q back, slow and predictable (and most importantly sound!).

However, I knew he had a hidden energy in him, so I was fed up with his “I couldn’t possibly trot forward” schtick. Dude, you tried to plant me in the ground not 10 minutes ago!

I cannot….  -Q

We had nice forward movement, then later returned to the “scary” ring and acted a perfect gentleman. At any rate, the spooking followed by zapped energy is not a strategy for success when I am riding. I will make them move forward if they show me that they are willing to spook explosively.

What are your hidden pet peeves?

The Effect of Urbanization on the Industry

It’s no secret that the world is moving to cities. As we migrate to our high-rises and skyscrapers, land becomes increasingly expensive as most of our public spaces will be converted into vertical architecture.

We cannot put horses in skyscrapers. Though at the Royal Agricultural Fair, there is a two-story stable building which has always given me pause. As well, I do know some carriage horses in New York and other large cities reside in multi-story buildings.

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This is far from the ideal circumstances for our performance horses.

So this begs the question, how will increased city living change the way we ride our horses?

More with Less

This is the key driver forcing all of the below listed after effects. My suspicion with increasing property values is that horses will have to be managed on less land. That means larger scale barns, smaller turnouts, and meticulous scheduling.

Regimented Exercise

Getting a horse moving will become increasingly reliant on treadmills / hot walkers and other “simulated” turnouts. Gone will be the days of endless lush green turnouts for solely two horses.

Veterinary Shifts

Our horse care professionals will need to accommodate for less variety of footing and likely less of “freeform” exercise. We will see more injuries related to inconsistencies in work frequency and loading; fewer related to turnout-related freak accidents.

Increases in horse proximity and activity may lead to higher instances of ulcers.

Behavioral Accommodation

Horses that are given strict schedules may flourish (high-level of detail on care and training) or flounder (over drilling until submission). With greater time spent in a stall, owners may spend more on enrichment objects and activities for their horses.

Upward Costs

With the mounting pressure financially, some barns will not be able to afford to be a mid-tier facility. Stratifying the divide between “us” and “them”, the elitism of the sport will be positioned to intensify.

~~~~~~~

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Living in close proximity to others has shared advantages of public services, transportation, and culture. We gain so much from interactions with diversity and enabling a pooled set of resources.

Horseback riding is not a typical sport. You cannot shove it in the basement of a gym, and rest laurels on the comradely of people. Our equipment requires special storage, care, and attention.

As we adjust to the new normal, this will present real shifts in our industry. In my suspected future, what do you agree or disagree with? What did I miss?

Off

Another trip down unsound horse lane, after experiencing this with the previous horse I rode. It always is frustrating to gain speed and steam only to but told to rest in the height of progress. Hopefully we are not sidelined for too long, but at minimum Q is going to need a couple days to relax and recover from some soreness.

What does that mean for me?

I get to return to thought pieces and mindful reflections on my riding.

Topics to be mulled over.

As an aside, I do not expect this unsoundness will last long, this soreness is very mild.

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So…. This is how I get out of work?