Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Everything I need to know I learned from my Cowhorse.

In these uncertain times, I have found that my experience training and showing cowhorses parallels life. I have been thinking a lot about happiness and success and every time I try and explain it I can liken it to a lesson learned from my horses. I reached out to my readership for their input and many of these concepts have come from their mouths as well. In the spirit of the New Year with your life and your cowhorse, keep these things in mind.

1. Perspective: Life is like the cow you draw, there are good days, ones you wish you could forget and ones you will never forget. Every time you walk in the pen, remember that you are lucky and thankful to be there, regardless of the score.
2. Timing: A good run, like a good day, is all about how you get started. If you come out of the corner late, it is hell to get caught up. You just end up chasing your cow through the rest of the run. Sometimes you have to just circle up, get out of there and think about your next run.
3. Trust: Your relationship with your horse is a partnership. Like any marriage you need trust, compassion and understanding. Both you and your horse have to trust each other and work together to make a run successful.
3. Practice is everything. If you aren't prepared when you walk in the pen, magic is not going to happen. Your commitment and time spent preparing at home is as important as the show day.
4. Talent is important, but it isn't everything. Hard work, focus and perseverance go a long way towards achieving your goals. If you want to be the best you can, you have eat, breathe and live it.
5. Risk: You have to be willing to take a few calculated risks. No one has ever become famous or successful by playing it safe. Don't be afraid to hang it out there and you may be surprised to find you are greater than you ever thought you could be.
6. Luck: Every once in a while you are gifted. Enjoy it and take advantage of it. It isn't really luck if you were there to receive it. Think of it as a reward for putting yourself out there. The same with bad luck, it happens to everyone and it isn't personal. When you fall off, dust yourself off and get back on your horse.
7. Confidence: Trust your horse, your training, your knowledge and your instinct. Believe in your horse and your ability to handle whatever comes out of the gate.
8. Focus: Never take your eye off the cow. If you keep your eye on your goal, no matter what turns life makes, you will be right there with it.
9.Courage: It is noble in life to try for something great. Whether horse or human this is the greatest of all the virtues. Heart. Sometimes you have to be brave enough to simply put your hand down and RIDE BY!
10. It's all about the ride, don't forget to enjoy it! "You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough." - Mae West

Monday, May 23, 2011

The difference a week makes…

Ten days ago, I was wringing my hands in frustration. I took a deep breath and changed my approach. I had The Situation turned out every day into the arena to run and blow off some steam. Normally, he gets turned out in our little bronc pen, but I started to think, maybe he was needing to stretch his legs more. For two days I watched him lapping the arena in the mornings at a dead run. He was better to ride the very first day. He was no longer looking for a fight and went loping around flicking his little ears. Sometimes even show horses need to be able to go out, cut loose and play.

I also made the decision to move him into a little leverage bit. I typically use a Billy Allen when I step a horse up. He will be shown in a smooth snaffle in the futurities, but it was time to change things up for him. Occasionally in a snaffle, even the handiest trainer can tend to get a little busy with their hands. I think that it can make colts a little cranky. I also think that it is important to switch things up to keep their minds fresh. I find that in the leverage bit, I let him pack his head more and I am lighter with my hands. It also helped me keep a little better control of his shoulders in the lead change.

The lesson to be learned here is that a few bad rides is not necessarily a set back. It is just a part of the growth process. It is your job to train unconditionally with a level head. So we are back on track, The Situation and I, and we are looking forward to getting in the showpen as soon as the horse industry is back open for business!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Ups and Downs

I thought I would pull my hair out yesterday, figuratively of course. I have a very nice futurity horse, The Situation, and he has been coming along so nicely. Physically, he is big stopping, quick footed and mature; The Holy Grail of futurity prospects. He is a bit broncy and still likes to be a little cold backed most days, but always works out of it, and has only almost lawn darted me once. We had two days of heavy rain, and he was stuck inside. He is a colt who does not come back after time off as well as some and yesterday was a prime example. Broncy, despite being thrown in the bronc pen, and literally was going to give me a fight whether or not I asked for it. He spooked at the pro cutter every time we went by and was looking for any excuse to grab his butt. He felt like a 2 year old with 90 days. By the end of the hour ride we were both dripping sweat and I wasn’t sure if screaming or crying was in order. I am sure each of you has been there.

The past couple of weeks I have been going through lead changes on my pony and it has put him under a a lot of pressure. He is responding the way most colts do while going through the lead change. I am so used to him grasping everything so quickly that honestly this is the first snag we have had. I have had so many futurity horses, and experience has taught me that there is an ebb and flow to it. Each time you step your horse up in their training you are pushing their comfort zone. It is the only way to improvement, and sometimes it is not an easy task and it can feel like you have taken 2 steps back.

I love teaching people, but I think sometimes it does more for me and my training program than it does for them. I have started to learn to follow my own advice. I am constantly reminding people that horse training is a day in and day out process that has peaks and valleys. Even with the most talented horse, there will be set backs. You have to control your emotions and not allow the fact that there is a tough spot let you get frustrated. Your job as the trainer is to evaluate what your particular horse needs without emotional charge. You must constantly be editing your approach and not let one bad day, or one bad week, get you down.

Today I am going to saddle up and treat it as a new day, giving him every opportunity to rise to the occasion. If he doesn’t, I am going to remember that the best horse training happens when your horse is difficult. If everything was smooth sailing, you simply wouldn’t be getting anywhere. If it was easy, everyone would be good at it.