Doesn’t Matter

Me and Jim Dorsett after my fall
Me and Jim Dorsett after my fall

Admittedly it took me smashing both my legs and spending a year in a wheelchair before I felt empathy for fearful riders.  Although I knew all the catch phrases to try and teach someone that was afraid,- “he’s not going to do anything”, “nothing’s going to happen”, “doesn’t matter”, I really didn’t understand that it was a physical problem to be frightened, not a mental one.

It’s easy to stand on the ground when someone is fearful and logically explain why they have nothing to fear, or even what to do if they experience loss of control.  These are things most people can understand and conceptualize, however; when a person has been hurt, or just has a fear of being hurt no logical understanding overrides the blast of adrenaline that shoots through their body causing a cold sweat to break out on their forehead.

If you are trying to teach, or help someone that has this fear, understand that they want to get through it or they wouldn’t be there.  If possible get on the horse first and show them how quietly he goes around the arena without spooking or falling.  Sometimes it’s helpful when the rider is on the horse to get them talking about something else in their life, maybe their family or their job, to distract them from the situation for a minute.  This will keep them from over analyzing their ride.  Put a grab strap on the saddle or a stirrup leather around the horse’s neck for them to grab if they feel the need to.  If they become overwhelmed with fear and feel like they must get off the horse try to be supportive and understanding, even if you have never felt this way yourself.  Everything doesn’t have to be conquered in one day.

If you are a rider that has experienced a bad fall or is fearful for some other reason, realize you are not alone.  Many people feel fear and express it as anger or frustration.  Don’t be embarrassed to talk to your trainer about your fears.  This will save a lot of time and confusion if the fear is getting in the way of training.  Never feel “less than” because you are afraid.  Eventually most everyone gets to experience this most unpleasant of feelings.

It took a long time after I began riding again to feel confident enough to train a horse again as opposed to just sitting there fear struck.  Fear can be overcome but it never goes away completely once it  becomes a part of your psyche.  If you have a bad day just spend the time on the ground with your horse and don’t let one uncomfortable feeling keep you from what you love. Get back in the saddle tomorrow, it will be a better day.  I promise.

 

 

Check the Frequency

“If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.” ~ Nikola Tesla

frequency

 

Whether you’re looking for a new horse or just lucky enough for the opportunity to ride many different horses it is important for a rider to gauge the “frequency” or energy level of the horse to be ridden.  People with a lot of experience or particularly good feel do this, on a subconscious level, by sensing tension in the horse’s body and observing body language and facial expressions that indicate the horse’s reaction to the rider or environment.  A misjudgment of the frequency can not only make for a bad ride but can be dangerous to the horse and rider as well.

Like the horse, a rider carries an innate level of energy.  A particularly fearful, or frenetic rider carries what I would describe as a high frequency. This type of rider generally does well on a lazier, or low frequency horse.  With little effort the lazy horse moves more forward when paired with the high frequency rider.  This same rider on a high frequency or hot blooded horse causes chaos and runs the risk of being out of control.

Similarly the low frequency rider, one that is not easily rattled and carries themselves with a sense of calm, is best suited for the high frequency horse.  The pairing of the low frequency rider on a low frequency horse generally makes for a painfully sluggish and boring ride.  This rider lends a calming effect to the high frequency horse, pulling the frequency down to a ridable level.  To be able to successfully ride all types of horses a rider must be able to control and alter their own frequency level.

Like most exercises, learning to alter your energy level begins in a contrived fashion; however, with time and practice this becomes second nature.  Using imagery and breathing techniques common to meditation, practice exhaling tension out of your body and relaxing your muscles consciously when your horse’s energy level rises, even if you are mentally anxious.  Expect that when you exaggerate your relaxation it will pull the frequency level of your horse down, closer to a level where communication can continue.  If your horse is lazy, a low frequency type, imagine an electric current vibrating through your body and mentally increase the voltage until you notice your horse reacting to your aids more promptly.

Whether it is learned or inherent in a rider, a relative gauge of frequency  is necessary for effective communication to be achieved.   Understand the frequency and master controlling it and you will positively increase the level of communication you share with your horse.  Better communication between you and your horse causes good vibrations.  Ohm…..

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Back! Back in the Saddle Again….

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Thanks Dad, for everything

 

Well, Back to the blog again anyway! It’s been quite a hiatus and I’ve missed my readers and fellow bloggers, but like true friendships a time lapse won’t matter.

I’m in a different state now, geographically anyway, and spend most of my day caring for my elderly father. Although it has altered the way my horse career operates I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am fortunate to have a career doing what I love because my family made the sacrifices necessary for a horse obsessed little girl. For that I will always be grateful.

This change in schedule has given me less time to teach, but more time to write and I’m hoping we can resume the conversations I have always appreciated with my old friends and hopefully some new ones too.

Sometimes it’s easier to sit than post….

It looks likes it’s going to be another blogging year.  My first attempt at blogging brought many unexpected results and events.  Some of the changes brought about feelings of pride and a sense of self-worth.  Other changes, while still enlightening,  forced reflection on aspects of dressage, or organized horse-sport in general,  that I had never before contemplated.  While I feel overloaded with ideas to blog about, my less naive side now worries that every story will read as either self-aggrandizing, cynical or sales pitchy.  When these feelings start making me avoid the vulnerability of writing this blog my new inspiration is to go back to the relationship between the rider and the horse, a relationship without angles or agendas.  Following is a letter from a student that I received about a year ago.  When the distractions of competition, politics and profits get me down, letters like this one, and others from students past bring me back to that concept of what “success” in the “horse industry” means to me.

This is published with permission from the author.  Thanks Jess, your unabashed sincerity humbles me.

Excerpt from an humble “expert”

“I hate writing, I love to have written.”  Dorothy Parker

Writing this blog, originally a writing exercise imposed upon me by my roommate, an avid birder that blogs daily at thebirdhousechick.com, has brought about many unexpected benefits and pleasures to my life.  While it sometimes seems like a chore to sit down and torture myself with self-doubt and criticism just to get three paragraphs completed, once it is finished I feel a sense of relief and am usually inspired for my next topic.

In addition to the cathartic experience of sharing issues that are dear to me I have met so many other bloggers, and many other riders that stumble across the writings and share their comments and insights. Some of them are professional trainers and many of them amateur riders that are passionate about their journey with riding.  Without the global reach of the world-wide web I would never have met these kindred souls that share my love of dressage or horses in general.  The comments and e-mail I receive as a result of my small blog have inspired me and made me feel part of a community in which I have never felt included.

It was a great surprise and admittedly a source of confusion when I received an e-mail from Frances Keller, an organizer from the historic and distinguished Dressage at Devon horse show.  The correspondence was an invitation to attend Devon as an “expert commentator” for the Prix St. George class held in the famous “Dixon Oval”.  My first response was that the e-mail must have been sent to me inadvertently so I replied to Ms. Keller to inquire why I had been included in the group of experts that featured top judges and top competitors from across the United States.  It seems she came across my website and blog while looking for Scott Peterson, a great trainer I have listed on my resume’.  After reading the site Ms. Keller invited me to be a commentator as she felt that some of the listeners may relate to my point of view as a contrast to the great judges they have scheduled to speak.  I am very humbled by the invitation and hope that her instincts prove correct.

Although I am nervous about the prospect of speaking to such a large audience without the time to edit and rewrite that I am afforded by writing a blog,  I am more afraid of “flinching out” on an opportunity to be included in such an esteemed panel at such a dignified event.  So Thursday I board the plane to face my fears and hopefully offer a perspective that remains true to myself and resounds with others.

If any of my fellow blogging friends, or others that follow the blog are going to be in attendance at Devon please let me know so we can finally meet.  I consider you all part of my journey and wouldn’t be included if it weren’t for your kind words and inspiration.

Check out the page of “experts” here.

It’s nice to have Connections….

It’s no coincidence, the spring weather appeared and the blog posts disappeared!  Break’s over now and I’m back with enthusiasm!  Much of my enthusiasm has been influenced by two, yes two! awards bestowed upon me by my blogging friend, Bree Nicole at Cavalli Connections.  I couldn’t be more pleased with my awards, The Beautiful Blogger award, and The Classical Riding Awareness Award, an honor that Bree will be granting to one blogger every few months that she feels demonstrates compassion for horses, a thirst for equine kowledge and dedication to the classical principles of training and riding.  I hope I can live up to these admirable standards.  I certainly aspire to.

When I began Tango Dressage Blog in December ’09 I’m not sure I even knew what a blog was.  It seemed like a good way to overcome anxieties about writing, a problem I have sufferred from since childhood.  I didn’t realize that I would grow to enjoy the process and the people associated with it.   I have come to believe that the blog format will bring about a sense of honesty and sincerity in journalism.  The blogs I enjoy are not only as informative and well written as any magazine articles I read, they are generally less wordy, and less biased by advertisers (since there usually are none!).

If you haven’t already, please check out Bree’s blog, Cavalli Connections and the others I have listed on the right margin of this page under Blogroll.  They are all excellent blogs written by people that are so passionate about horses they are willing to put the evidence up for the world to read.  You may even want to start one of your own.  As a condition of my Beautiful Blogger award I must pick some beautiful blogs to bestow the award upon.  I don’t think this will be a problem, there are so many I have grown to love.  There will be a post listing them shortly.

Before I sign off to rest up for the horse show tomorrow I want to thank Bree once again for her kind words and thoughtful consideration.  I greatly admire her writing and passion for horses and consider her recognition of my blog a real honor.

Check in tomorrow for some horse show blogging!

Taken out of Reference….

On occasion I receive calls from prospective  schools or employers wishing to verify the integrity of  a current or previous student that has me listed as a personal reference.  These calls are usually unremarkable, a few sentences verifying how long I’ve known the applicant and a couple of obligatory questions regarding their work ethic.  Earlier this week I received one of these reference check calls regarding a student I have known for ten years, Lindsay Hildebrandt.  The business owner calling me was Linda Miller from Elkhorn Ranch in Montana.   Ms Miller’s warm sense of humor and sincere desire to hire the right person for her ranch made this call anything but unremarkable.

I have never been to Elkhorn Ranch but have many times thought I would like to take a summer off from teaching and spend it as a guide, or wrangler, taking people out on horseback treks through mountain passes, and enjoying horses without the pressures of daily commutes or the underlying intensity of competition training.  Unfortunately, however, Ms. Miller didn’t call to ask me out to Montana to be a wrangler for the summer, but instead to find out if I thought Lindsay Hildebrandt might be right for the job.  “You would be crazy not to hire her”, was my initial reaction, and I stand by it still.

Elkhorn Ranch, Montana

I assured Linda that Lindsay was nothing if not determined and hard-working.  Anyone that has ever met Lindsay’s horse, Prophet, can testify to that.  As charming and talented as Prophet is, I have never met a more challenging or difficult horse to train and Lindsay has persevered on him through the years, training him as a showjumper.  I’m sure there won’t be any horses at Elkhorn like Prophet, but if Linda needs any help with training horses for the trails, she’s getting her money’s worth with Lindsay.

A talented artist, Lindsay has designed logos for me, given me drawings and paintings that I cherish and created a beautiful wire sculpture of my horse, Wango Tango.  Before the advent of blogs I recruited Lindsay and her best friend Amber to write and illustrate my first newsletter, Hot2Trot.  It was a lot of work for the kids but they did a great job!   If Linda is as sneaky as I am, Elkhorn may have some new signs and artwork before the summer is up!

Wire Sculpture of Wango Tango

I could go on and on about traits that make Lindsay a great candidate for Elkhorn Ranch but I’d rather let Lindsay update us herself.  She’s leaving in June and staying for the summer.  I have a great feeling about Linda, she seems like a genuine person that cares about her guests, her horses and her staff.  One day Nickel (Wango Tango) and I hope to make it out to Montana to meet her and her horses.

Lindsay, good luck at your job and have a great time.  You have been promoted from Hot2Trot illustrator to blogospondent for Tango Dressage!  Send us updates and photos from your trip and put in a good word for me, I’ll be a wrangler one day soon!

Click here to visit Elkhorn Ranch Homepage