Friday, May 13, 2011

In which it's a little bit too easy, being green in the Swamplands

For the second day in a row, it didn't rain!  

No worries, though:  we don't declare a drought in the Swamplands until the skies are dry for more than 4 days.  We are currently at 32 hours, and the sky is starting to fill with clouds again.

Fee and I hit the trails while the sky was still on top where it belongs.

 I've taken "trotting video" on this trail before, but now the grass and leaves are all GREEN!  

Speaking of green-ness:  the trees are green.  The leaves are green.  The grass is green.  And my TRAILER is green.   You think I'm kidding, about mold growing on anything/anybody that stands still for a few minutes. 

I'm not kidding.
 Time to wash the horse trailer!
 Smudge-y bits around the light, the label, and the latch.  All GREEN.   Ewww.
 There's even green growing around the purple flames!  That is so, so wrong.
 Half-clean, so you can see the difference.  Who thought up the whole concept of white horse trailers, anyhow?  Clearly, not somebody from 'round here.  Swamplanders would build a trailer and paint that baby greenish-brown. 
 All clean now!   I know lytha is probably cringing, because she washes her car--and her horse--every time they leave the property.  My life doesn't contain that much spare time.   I have enough time to wash my trailer frequently or ride my horse frequently.   We all know what my choice is! 

(but sometimes even I get grossed out by the green stuff and have to clean it off!)
 There.  It's clean.  The next time it leaves the property, it will get muddy, and within a month or two, that green stuff will start growing on it again.  At least I've got a picture of what the rig looks like when it's clean!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

In which I reveal lessons learned from endurance (mostly the hard way)

In a recent blog post (HERE) Endurance Granny wrote about endurance riders who don't really talk about their difficulties and failures. 

Certainly it's more fun (and easier on the ego) to talk about successes, but part of my blog is to explore what doesn't work, as well as what does work. 

With that in mind, I jotted down some thoughts about lessons I've learned from doing endurance.  Being me, I mostly learn stuff "the hard way."  If I can spare somebody else a trip down the hard-knock road, I'm happy to do it. 

You will notice that almost all of the stuff I learned is NOT exclusive to endurance.  Coincidence?  Of course not.  If you haven't noticed yet that endurance is a metaphor for life, than you really haven't been paying attention!

1.   What I experienced: I needed help and didn't know anybody and felt awkward asking for help.

What I learned: People love to help! Complete strangers will actually be happy to assist you--just ask!  They will help apply an easyboot, change a flat trailer tire, or feed the junior that you picked up at the previous vetcheck when her other sponsor got pulled.  They will loan you a stronger bit on the day you discover that your horse Will.Not.Stop.  They will give you a ride home when your truck breaks, and buy you a cup of coffee on the way. 

Avoid my mistake: Ask for help. Ask anybody -- chances are, somebody who can't help you directly will know somebody else nearby who can help.

Bonus points:
This applies to a lot more than ridecamp life. If you need help, ask. You'll be amazed.

Extra bonus points: Pay it forward, and don't keep score. When somebody asks, help.  If they don't ask for help, offer it anyhow.


2.  What I experienced:  The help I've gotten doesn't actually solve the problem.

What I learned:  Get help elsewhere!

Avoid my mistake:   If what you are doing doesn't work, stop doing it!   Read a book on the topic, find a new instructor, take a weekend away from the situation and come back to it with fresh eyes after a few days, or ask an unbiased friend for advice.

Bonus points:  loyalty to a person (a trainer? a clinician?) or to an ideal (barefoot?  bitless? treeless?)  is important, but there's no need to be stupidly loyal.  Know when to say "enough."  No training technique or piece of equipment is a perfect fit for every horse.

Extra bonus points:  Figure out in advance how you will evaluate a situation.  Give yourself plenty of time before you decide that a "solution" isn't working...but don't feel obligated to stick with a solution that doesn't solve the problem.


3.  What I experienced: I have an entirely unique problem--nobody else in camp has a horse who does this thing!

What I learned:  Those people in camp with awesome performance horses didn't start with a perfect horse.  EVERY  horse has "issues" that a savvy rider will cope with, train out, and overcome.  Some issues are minor ("she spooks at the finish line").  Some issues are major ("he bites the vet"). 

Avoid my mistake:  Ask around.  Find somebody who has experience dealing with the issue, and ask for advice.  Don't overlook the vets--either in camp or at home!  They can, and will, offer advice if you ask for an opinion.  Just because a horse has "always done it" doesn't mean that you can never change the rules.  It's okay to decide that you will stop allowing  a behavior--and then take steps to fix the situation! 

Bonus points:  You train your horse every single time you interact.   Pay attention to what you're teaching--it's entirely possible that your horse is behaving badly because you gave tacit permission to be naughty!  Perhaps you haven't corrected a behavior or haven't corrected it strongly or consistantly enough. Pay attention to your behavior while the horse is misbehaving, and try to spot things you can change about yourself that will change the situation for the horse.

Extra bonus points:  It's okay to ask somebody else to help.  See #1.

4.  What I experienced:  Something seems Not Quite Right.

What I learned:  If something seems Not Quite Right, generally it's because something is WRONG. 

Avoid my mistake:  Stop what you're doing as soon as safely possible, get off and look top-to-bottom, front-to-back.  Maybe a shoe is loose.  Maybe your cinch is loose.  Maybe your horse has seriously pulled a gigantic butt muscle and will be lame and sore and out of competition for months.

Bonus points:  This applies to a lot of things, not just riding endurance.  Examples include, but are not limited to, the rock in your shoe, the sound of your truck around a corner, and your relationship with a spouse, a parent, a child, or a boss. 

Extra bonus points:  get your brakes checked.  Trust me.


5.  What I experienced:  This horse is nuts!  I'm scared every single time I ride him/her!

What I learned:  There's an old cowboy saying:  "There ain't no horse that can't be rode/There ain't no cowboy can't be throwed."   In other words, the horse might be an awesome mount...for somebody else.  You might be a terrific rider...for a different horse.

Avoid my mistake:  If you are riding a horse that frightens you, change something.  Sometimes, changing instructors will help.  Sometimes, changing activities will make a huge difference--a horse who is an idiot on the trail might be brilliant over fences or working cattle.  Sometimes you might need to admit that the combination of rider + horse is just not working, and for everyone's happiness and safety, it's time to find another mount for yourself.

Bonus points:  Empower your friends to speak up and make suggestions.  They may be really worried about you, but afraid to hurt your feelings by telling you about their concerns.

Extra bonus points:  Of course, you should always wear a helmet.  You knew that, right?

6.  What I experienced:  I'm all stressed out because I have so many goals and aspirations!

What I learned:  Do less.  Cut back on competitions, or cut back on the speed/distance when you do compete. 

Avoid my mistake:  There's a wonderful Zen story about the student who wants to achieve his black belt in half the ordinary time, but the instructor insists that the task will, instead, take twice the ordinary time.  The reason:  "With one eye on the finish line, there is only one eye for the journey." 

Bonus points: The endurance vet Dr. Matthew Mackay-Smith says, "Never hurry.  Never tarry."  No kidding.

Extra bonus points:  Endurance is a sport.  It's supposed to be fun.  If you aren't having fun--if you're worrying, stressing, and losing sleep over it, why do it at all?


Okay, Gentle Readers:  now it's your turn.  What have you learned?  What are you learning?   Do you have advice for the rest of us?   The comment box is open and waiting for you to share!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

In which I share a story that you should send to your mother today

My mom returns this weekend from New Orleans, where she's been working with a church group rebuilding houses damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  This is her third trip, and probably her last--money for Katrina recovery is mostly gone, although more than 35,000 homes still need repair.  She says that next spring they'll probably go to Alabama and help out there for a week or so. 

That's the kind of mom who raised me. 

Here's a story I've told before, and today I dedicate to my mom.

A dragon swooped down upon the village late one night, burning the roofs, frightening the horses, making a huge mess...and when it swooped away from the village, it carried with it a little girl.

The King took immediate action. He called together his army, and selected the three fastest, strongest, bravest knights. "Go," said the King, "Go and rescue that girl!"

The knights galloped away on their fine warhorses. They followed the path of the dragon--not difficult to do, as it was a burned path 100 yards wide, still hot and smoldering. They rode fast for three days and three nights, and on the morning of the fourth day they saw ahead of them a mountain. At the top of the mountain they could see a cave, and coming out of the cave they could see smoke.

The knights were just about to gallop up the mountain to rescue the girl when they saw...

a woman...

coming down the side of the mountain...

carrying the girl.

The knights were astonished.

"How did you do this? We galloped for three days and three nights to battle the dragon and rescue the child, and yet here are you, with the girl in your arms!"

She looked at the knights, and she shrugged her shoulders and said,

"Well, you aren't her mother, are you?"