Monday, January 31, 2011

The Blank Slate

When you look at Betty, you can either see the glass as being half empty, or half full.

I'll admit it, on several occassions I've seen the glass as half empty. It's so much nicer (and EASIER) to start with a horse that's had a good foundation in the basics, like being halter broke, leading, tying, picking up feet, etc. I have especially enjoyed that good foundation with Paula. Except for the terrible lease situation, she's been in my care, custody, and control her entire life. I haven't been the best person at staying on top of training, but she was halter broke before she was weaned, knew how to tie before her first birthday and has been trimmed, bathed, and clipped for the majority of her life. Nothing is much of a big deal to her, so adding anything on top of that is not a huge feat. Couple that with her kind demeanor and life is pretty easy for us, as a team, I have to admit.

But Betty has led an isolated, albiet well-cared-for, life in a pasture with her momma. She is friendly and so very sweet, and she will allow me to put a halter on her (as long as I go slowly), but that's pretty much it. She's now two years old and technically not halter broke (because she doesn't lead). She is wary and lacks confidence and trust. So, I can see the situation either as a lost cause and we're starting so far behind that it will take so much to get caught up, or I can see her as a blank slate--an opportunity to train a horse that has absolutely no bad habits already formed. I choose to see her as the latter.

It is also a good opportunity to blog about our work. Now, I'm no horse trainer--I just play one on TV. Seriously, though, I've broke out a few horses of my own over the past nineteen years (good grief, that's a depressing statement) and I've worked as a show barn manager (aka "glorified groom) briefly, but I absolutely don't consider myself a trainer. In recording what work I do with Betty, I'm merely offering up a plate of raw ideas. You can take what suits your own tastes and cook them up yourself. I'll try to tell you if the peppers are especially sweet, or if the snow peas are past their prime, but in no way do I ever want to suggest that the way I do things is the "right way." As far as I'm concerned, the only right way is what works for that individual person with their individual horse.

That is my major complaint about most clinicians--they claim their way is the only way, and are sure to include that you must buy their "special" equipment, feed, DVD's, ropes, hats, clothing, and overpriced tickets to their events for you to succeed. They're just salesmen (and some are very good ones at that), so their followers fail to realize that what they preach isn't going to work in every situation. Soon the books and "special" sticks end up on Craigslist and the horse still sits idle, more confused than ever, with progress at a complete standstill because what the clinician said would work, didn't.

What has always made sense to me is to listen and read everything, from the top trainers to the everyday schmo, and then use what works best for you and your horse. I believe different methods work on different horses, because horses all have different personalities. I sacked out Paula in one day with one item before saddling her. With Fabian, I sacked him out with everything I could find, both with and without the saddle on. Fabian needed it, Paula didn't. Paula would have been bored to death if I had treated her the same as Fabian, and Fabian would have gotten me hurt if I had treated him the same as Paula. These are live animals, not automobiles. There is no Chilton's manual for horse training, and there never will be.

I used to love to work horses with my sister. Although we'd often get into fights (as teenaged siblings often do), we had the opportunity to bounce ideas off each other. If something didn't work, we'd come up with a plan to see what else we could try. No one taught us how to break out a horse, but by reading our horse magazines (before the internet), watching some VCR (yes, I'm old) tapes that mom had gotten us, and by just using our creativity, we broke out two ponies pretty well together. We'd talk about how best to take that next step with our young horses and draw upon what we'd learn between what we read and the lessons we had taken from various trainers. We'd not only train, but also learn, together.

I miss being able to bounce ideas about training back and forth with her. It seems since we've grown up and become adults, that we're all absolutely sure in our training methods and can't possibly need any help. Why would we talk about ideas when we have all the perfect solutions to every possible problem out there?

Of course, I'm being facetious here. But that's where we often gravitate to, even if it's not that extreme, isn't it? I know I catch myself doing it and I'm obviously not that unique.... I remember how much fun it was to try new things, and to explore possiblities with our horses. I say let's try to bring that back to the forefront. There are no solutions (horses aren't math problems, after all); there are just ideas.

So, in the spirit of a free and wide-ranging exchange of thoughts and ideas concerning horse training, over the coming months I will do my best to document Betty's training--the good, bad, and (hopefully minimal amount of) ugly. If you have any ideas I'd love to hear them as well! And of course, I love reading the blogs of those of you who make it a point to document your daily training exercises. There are tons of good ideas out there, and I, for one, appreciate that you take the time to outline your processes.

In any case, I will certainly make some mistakes, and hopefully have a few victories to share as well. This is a great opportunity to start at the beginning, and its a journey I look forward to sharing.

It's what you learn after you know it all that counts. ~Harry S. Truman

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Happy Kansas Day!

Today is the 150th anniversay of the day Kansas became a state and boy, what a day to celebrate! I believe we had record-breaking temps (on the good side--nice and warm!) over the past two days, which meant it was time to get some things accomplished!

I lucked out and was able to get off work at noon Friday, so I rushed home to get some painting done on the underside of the roof. Unfortunately I found the trim had not been done, which meant I'd have to buy some, so I couldn't get any painting done. That meant I'd have to "suffer" and ride my horses. Oh dang!

In case you can't tell, I am being facetious.

First, I tried my new show saddle on Paula without a pad, to make sure it fit and didn't pinch her anywhere.

It fits great! We're just about ready--I just have to buy her a tail extension.

Her tail looks so white from afar, but up close she has lots of gray in it, just like her owner.

In my hair, not my tail. Contrary to popular belief, I don't have a tail.

I rode Paula yesterday and she was just unbelievable. While most horses take their time off to completely forget most the things they were taught, Paula seems to think on her lessons and grow with time off. It had been a month since I had ridden her last, and yet she was slower, more collected, more responsive and more overall polished than she has ever been. Today I rode her again and found that she knows how to sidepass, which is kind of amazing since I've never taught her that.

To say Paula is willing is an understatement. She's the horse equivalent of an "easy button." I am so very thankful for her. She's a working girl's dream horse.

Earlier today I left for the big city nice and early to order another horse shelter!

It will be a lot like this one--same color and build. This one is a 24x12 shelter with a 6' tack room. The new building will be 12 x 18 without a tack room. It will go beside this one, about 20 feet away, and Dad and I will be installing continuous pipe fencing along the entire north side (and hopefully the front of the place as well). That will get me set up with a shelter for the "regular" horses and two stalls for the show horses and should tide me over pretty well until I can get a real barn built one day.

I've also been working with Betty some. She's such a good-minded filly. We've had a lot of lessons on giving to pressure and she's responding so nicely. She still needs a ton of work on her trust issues, but once she's over that, she's going to be such a great show filly. She's the cutest mover, too!

Speaking of cute mover, I was able to finally work Bambi under saddle again some. She's still a little skiddish but she picked up on the driving really well.

I also worked Fabian some. He's a little further along than Bambi is and he's a lot less skiddish. He loves to be worked with and always tries to make a game of it.

Fabian also caught onto driving well. He's nice and soft and responsive, too. My goal is to be able to take him trail riding on the anniversary that I got him--around the end of June.

It wasn't all work, though! The "kids" had plenty of play time. Paula and Moose ran around like banshees.

I love my beautiful girl (sorry, I just had to say it).

Moose says "I didn't see nothin," but I don't really believe him.

He looks guilty to me.

And dirty!!

See what I mean! Dirty tricks!!!

This was an "oops" shot when Moose got the in the way (Fabian wasn't too happy about it), but I think it looks kind of neat anyway...

Paula and Fabian face off....

It's sort of funny but these two like to play really hard. They definitely have a love-hate thing going, like most siblings do.

Moose can't even leave Fabian long enough for a good roll. What a dork!

That's it for the pictures, and the warm weather, too, I'm sorry to say. Kansas is such a tease...70 degrees one day, then 30 the next. Still, there's not place like home.

Off to see the wizard,

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Random Photos from my Phone

Having a phone on one's camera (strike that, reverse it) is pretty darned handy. I can whip it out anytime I feel like preserving an endearing moment. The problem is, though, while the picture preserves that memory in my phone, it does nothing to jog my own memory to one day do something useful with all those pictures I took.

So today, I resolve to do something about it. I present, for your consideration, several months' worth of phone pics.

(Don't worry, there aren't that many. I don't whip it out too often.)

Over Thanksgiving my dad and I visited my sister in Kansas City. She has two tuxedo cats--Bacardi and Soccer Ball. Soccer Ball is as round as his namesake and not quite as bright. Since he's twice the size of Sophie, we decided to try her Christmas sweater on him. What can I say--we are easily entertained.

He flopped down to the ground and gave us a dirty look, which only resulted in more hysterical laughter and pointing from my sister and me.

A couple of months later my sister came down to our neck of the woods to visit my grandma. She stopped by the farm and wanted to say hi to the horses, but Moose decided he'd say hi first. Then my sister ran away.

A moose once bit my sister.... (name that movie and win my eternal admiration :)

Last weekend Dad and I went to a sale and came home with nothing except this photo. This kitchen playset is exactly like the one I had when I was little.

While I had fond memories of pretending to bake brownies on it in my cute little playhouse in the backyard, seeing this playset brought back terrible memories for my dad of "being up all night long putting the damned thing together and Santa getting all the credit."

My dad tends to hang on to things. It's a good thing I'm not like that at all. *cough*

Sometimes my dad and I go out for breakfast on the weekends. We go to our local diner on the edge of town as our choices are limited to pretty much that or McDonald's. The local diner is actually pretty good, but to the mutual disappointment of my dad and I, they are always out of strawberry jam.

And day...there it was. Our version of the Holy Grail....

...and the people did feast upon the lambs and sloths, and carp and anchovies, and orangutans and breakfast cereals, and fruit-bats and large chu...

If you don't know that movie by now, then you must cut down the mightiest tree in the forest... WITH... A HERRING!

OK, I'll stop now.

Dad and I also went and priced the doors for the front of the house over the weekend. This one is going upstairs, on the second-floor porch.

And this one is going downstairs. It will lead from the kitchen onto the porch. Since it's an old farmhouse, the back door is the front door and the front door is the back door so although you'd normally not have a double door as the front door it makes for a good front door here because the front door is the back door. Right?

I also fully realize that I left off in the middle of my pedigree series. I still need to feature Betty and Moose, and I will soon.

I promise.

Sophie tends to hold me to my promises--at least my promises to her, anyway.

Like Charlie's promise to always let her use him as a couch, whenever neccessary. Here it was neccessary because they were at work with me (I had just gotten back from a trip and had to pick them up from the vet's and get straight into work), and Charlie just so happened to be the most comfortable place to sit, apparently.

Poor Charles...resigned to life as a rug, unwilling to stand up for himself or fight for at least a smidge of dignity.

When danger reared its ugly head, he bravely turned his tail and fled,


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

At The Movies

One of the items from my 101 Things in 1001 Days list was to go to the movies alone.

I know this really isn't any huge accomplishment or anything. It's not like, say...painting a replica of the Mona Lisa on the head of a pin while riding the Tilt-a-Whirl with a coked-up carny at the controls (or something like that), but it is something that some people just don't want to ever do. I hadn't done it before, so I thought, "I'll give it a try," and I got my chance during my week in Kansas City.

Probably the coolest thing about my experience was the theatre itself. I went to the AMC in the Power and Light District downtown. When I went inside, I never expected to see a stadium-seating theatre in a historic downtown building, but somehow they managed to pack several of them in there.

Other than that, my experience was about as interesting as this post is turning out (not very). I saw The Dilemma.

It was mildly entertaining to watch Vince Vaughn get the snot beat out of him, but as much as I like Queen Latifah, her lines were more disturbing than funny. The best part of the entire movie was the 1970 Dodge Challenger convertible. Rowrrrrrrr!!!!

[awkward silence]

Alright...speaking of disturbing....last night I had a dream that I ate this giant marshmallow, and when I woke up, my giant marshmallow was gone.

[crickets chirping]

No? OK, well now you know just how entertaining the movie was.

Sharing the love,

Monday, January 24, 2011

10 Things About Me in KC

1. Last week I was in Kansas City. I didn't get the schedule until well after I got there, so I couldn't plan out any visits after work was done. It was unfortunate because I wanted to see several of my friends and my chiropractor, too.

I know mentioning my chiropractor is completely random, but it's how I roll. Little known fact: spinal alignment is crucial to proper rolling.

2. Instead, I saw the gym. I did need to see the gym, but I would have rather seen my friends and a pomegranate martini.

3. At the gym, I found to my surprise that after months of not running, I'm still able to run more than a mile without my lungs imploding. That was good to know. It will come in handy in case I ever encounter a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

4. Every business meeting that I attend in Kansas City results in a blizzard. Yet, ironically, every business meeting that I attend in Kansas City does not result in barbeque. Therefore, we can deduct, that blizzards do not result in barbeque.

5. I reasoned that since I had been to the gym and I was snowed in for my last night at the meeting, that I would ring up room service and order the dessert that I had missed all year long--the fried cheesecake with raspberry drizzle. They told me that the fried cheesecake had been discontinued. I cried "You're all bastard people!" hung up, and bit my pillow. Then I called again and ordered a salad using a different voice.

I think the universe is trying to tell me that my butt is too big.

6. I did finally get my fill of sushi, though, at Nara in downtown KC. It. Was. Heaven. If I ever have kids, I might have to name them Ginger and Wasabi.

I guess it's a good thing I will probably never have kids.

7. Despite all this talk of food, eating of food, disappointment surrounding food, and generalized blogging about food, I did manage to still lose 2 more pounds this week. That makes me the shizzzz....

8. I'm going to geek out on you all right now and admit I have no idea what "the shizz" even means. I heard it used once and I hope I used it correctly. I assume it means "a person viewed in the most favorable light." But, it could have just been someone sneezing for all I know.

9. Maybe "the shizz" is what happens if you sneeze with a full bladder. If that's the case, then I'm not the shizz. I take it back.

10. I about didn't make it out of Kansas City alive. I was creeping along, watching people wreck right in front of me, trying my best to escape the blizzard with all limbs intact, when right behind me a snow plow blared his horn. If there's anything that will make you lose the shizz, that would be it.

Peace out,


Sunday, January 23, 2011

I Watch Way Too Many Movies

"One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas, I don't know." ~Animal Crackers

"Hello gorgeous." ~Funny Girl

"Sawyer, you're going out a youngster, but you've got to come back a star!" ~42nd Street

"I want to be alone." ~Grand Hotel

"La-dee-da, la-dee-da." ~Annie Hall

"Well, here's another nice mess you've gotten me into!" ~Sons of the Desert

"Get your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!" ~Planet of the Apes

"Rosebud." ~Citizen Cane

"I am big! It's the pictures that got small." ~Sunset Boulevard

"I'm walking here! I'm walking here!" ~Midnight Cowboy

"You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow." ~To Have and Have Not

"We rob banks." ~Bonnie and Clyde

"Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me... Aren't you?" ~The Graduate

"Here's looking at you, kid." ~Casablanca

"All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up." ~Sunset Boulevard

"I love the smell of napalm in the morning!" ~Apocalypse Now

"As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again." ~Gone With the Wind

"Go ahead, make my day" ~Sudden Impact

"Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room!" ~Dr Strangelove

"Listen to me, mister. You're my knight in shining armor. Don't you forget it. You're going to get back on that horse, and I'm going to be right behind you, holding on tight, and away we're gonna go, go, go!" ~On Golden Pond

"Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy night." ~All About Eve

"The stuff that dreams are made of." ~The Maltese Falcon

"Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship." ~Casablanca

"I feel the need—the need for speed!" ~Top Gun

"Made it, Ma! Top of the world!" ~White Heat

May the horse be with you,