There are two very important factors when determining what road to take when traveling. One, where do you want to end up. Two, where are you starting from.
Here we are at the end of summer. The time of year when many of us have taken on the opportunity to go on a trip. A vacation, chance to see the kids or parents, quick drive to somewhere interesting, a private getaway, see friends, a horse show or clinic. Any number of chances to hit the road in search of whatever purpose we have in mind.
When embarking on a journey, I still tend to make my route to destination the old fashioned way. I get out an atlas, or road map. For those of you too young to know what those are, they are books and pages made of actual paper with different colored lines drawn on them indicating the choices of roads you can take in order to get where you’re headed. Red lines, blue lines, green lines, black ones, and grey ones. I personally like this system. I get a visual of where I am and where I am going. With that, I can get anywhere. I can even get there different ways. I can choose to experiment with the black lines, or stick to the faster green and blue ones.
Recently I was given a little device called a GPS. It’s intention is to simply get me where I’m going. All I have to do is put in where I want to be and this British woman with a friendly voice will tell me at the appropriate time where to turn, and let me know when I arrive! I just have to turn on the engine and start moving. She’ll take it from there! Or so I was told.
One of our summer trips was to a place I had been before. A horse show (imagine that). We were taking horses of course, using the big truck and long goose neck trailer (remember the long part). Since I had been there before, I pretty well knew how to go, yet decided to check my atlas once just to be sure. Yup! I knew the way. This time however, I determined to allow my new British travel agent a shot at getting us there.
The destination was plugged in and the wheels started rolling. We proceeded to the end of the driveway where she kindly requested I make a right turn, now! Luckily I had patience enough to wait for the actual road before turning. Though her directions were a bit early, they were correct and we were on our way. After that however, there were discrepancies between her route and the one I had envisioned.
Apparently Anna Belle, the name given our English guide (also coincidently my mother-in-law), assumed we were driving a Mini Cooper and capable of making any turns required along her chosen path. Which by the way, is all it was, a path. Here in the East, there are many roads most of which are hilly, curvy, narrow and mapped out by George Washington and his troops as they made their way from one official Washington headquarters to another. I had no idea there were so many headquarters……they’re everywhere…..in nearly every town……on a hill…..next to a river…..and remarkably close to a gift shop. Anyway, I continued the quest as Anna Belle instructed right up until the road became an obvious grey line. No commercial vehicles, load zoned, narrow bridges, even a couple of covered ones! A scenic byway! Yea!!!
We had to turn around. No easy task given the size of the rig and the width of the path. After finally getting wiggled back the opposite direction, Anna Belle suggested we make a safe U turn. I ignored her. Soon she gave that up and suggested in point 2 miles I make a right turn. It was a T intersection from one cow trail to another. I ignored her again. This seemed to upset her. She had to recalculate a number of times! We proceeded to track our retreat to where the lines returned to a dark shade of black, meeting with British resistance the entire way. I now know how George must have felt..
Here we were, back to within a few turns of the Ranch, where I declared my independence! I would no longer be ruled by this twisted woman with the pleasant voice. I unplugged from the British guide who was obviously luring me into an ambush. A very sneaky ploy that I nearly fell for. With atlas in one hand and the other on the wheel I felt free! Free to read the map while traveling at 65 mph. Free to take the road of my choosing. Free to get fuel whenever I wanted to. Free to recalculate on my own.
I have since found good uses for my sweet accented guide. Restaurants and hotels are two of her specialties….after the horses are put away and the rig is unhooked. Until then…As for me, give me an atlas or give me death!
When it comes to riding horses, there is only one way to get where you want to go. You need a well written map from beginning to end. There is no GPS that will train your equine partner to high achievement. I call it your training r.o.a.d.m.a.p. R espect, O pportunity, A dvancement, D edication, M otivation, A chievement, and P urpose. This may not be the shortest route. It may not even be the most scenic, yet it will allow you to arrive intact with dignity and the freedom to adjust along the way.
Respect is earned by being patient and playing a fair game that the horse understands. Opportunity is accurately assessing both your and your horses abilities to go to the right place using the right tools and good judgment. Advancement is challenging you and your horse to a higher level of development, one step at a time using a proven program that promotes excellence and compassion. Dedication is having the personal desire to do the required work no matter what or when. Motivation is the thing that allows you to be consistent and excited about your plans. Achievement is when you trust that what you have prepared for is now, and you are ready. Purpose is what makes all the others possible. Come up with an excellent purpose for you, provide a sense of purpose for your horse, and you will have arrived at your destination.
It doesn’t matter if you choose to end up at a beautiful lake at the end of a days ride or take a shot at demonstrating excellence in a chosen horse sport at it’s highest level. As long as you follow the roadmap, you will get there…..the right way.
I challenge you to clearly define each and every aspect of the map. Know how you will get there and why. Right it down. Then close your eyes and see it happening. Begin at respect and finish with purpose.
I also welcome you to attend one of our upcoming clinics, read the eBook, watch our DVD’s, or arrange to come to the ranch for lessons and coaching.. We go beyond what to do. You will have a map to follow. If you would like to know more, search our improved web site for riding and learning opportunities. If you have interest in hosting a Let it Rein clinic near you, contact us. We are here for you. Our business is riding on your horse.
Let it rein, Craig
A number of years ago, at the prompting of a friend who thought I spent too much time with horses, I took up a hobby. I began playing pasture pool, more often referred to as golf.
Golf, as it was explained, is a fun game of hitting a little ball around a long trail course and into a small hole at the end of each set of obstacles. That was a great way to get me interested since what I had seen on TV really didn’t fascinate me very much. Oddly, I was able to make a mental connection between the game and going on a trail ride.
Practice was around the barn, the arena, the pastures, trees, and the ponds here at the ranch prior to venturing out to the actual course. It became pretty interesting how each club would cause the ball to do different things. The lower numbers would keep the ball low to the ground prior to sending it off to the right. The higher numbers tossed it into the air and toward the right sooner.
Eventually, distance, direction, and club choice began to take shape.. The arena was a sand trap, the pastures a fairway, the trees defenders (this is my game), and the ponds…..well, they are an imposing obstacle. It seemed no matter how close or how far from the edge of the pond, that little ball seemed to find it’s way right into the middle of it.
The first adventure onto an official course came about more because growing tired of mowing over lost balls and fixing the skylights on my barn rather than feeling truly ready, though practice did show signs of being able to play a round without anybody getting hurt.
A visit to the pro shop to sign in, get the score sheet, and a small bucket of golf balls was the next step. The pro was a nice young man who asked if this was my first time. Perhaps the old tennis shoes, jeans, hat, and confused look on my face gave it away. He asked if I wanted a lesson. Ha! Of all things. A lesson on hitting a little ball around a pasture? Please. Who would pay for such a thing.
A small bucket of balls was purchased, a golf cart was rented, and directions to the first tee were explained. Here was the first mistake. Probably should have picked a less busy time of day. It seems every avid and excellent golfer in the area was on hand for my first whack at the ball. From then on there were many lessons on golfing etiquette handed out by those playing behind. I learned what “can we play through” means. Also apparently “keep your driver in the bag” doesn’t mean have another drink before getting back in the cart.
Mistake number two was in not buying the large bucket of balls.. In just one 4 hour trip around the trail course and back to the barn (club house), just 2 of those nasty little white uncontrollable, water sensing things were left. But there were some left! So it was decided that quitting after nine holes was a necessity rather than an option.
Proudly, the little pail with just a couple of balls still in it, was placed on the counter in front of the pro, accompanied by a declaration that a good round and fun were had.. Didn’t even need the whole bucket! Obviously all the practice paid off. Standing there expecting some sort of refund, the pro announced that those golf balls were for the practice range and not the course. There was no refund.
He explained there was a difference between “shag” balls and regulation golf balls, and that they preferred we not use those on the course. It seems the “shag” version are pretty unpredictable, don’t carry as well, and are a cheap, often damaged practice ball compared to the fancy official ones. Obviously. He then reached under the counter and produced a small box of 3 brand new golf balls. I noticed the price. “Are you serious!!” It would take a bunch of those little boxes to fill up a small bucket. Enough to play a round.
Wisely, subsequent outings were a combination of old golf balls in my bag and 3 new ones to use in very well chosen spots and only rare occasions, like when someone was watching, such as teeing off. By the way, why is there always a big crowd at the tee box? Do they watch in the hopes of seeing a great shot or to feel better about their own game.
Over the next few months a round was played a couple times a week with slow yet measurable improvement. It was fun to develop a strategy, figure out the distances, and return with more left over golf balls. At this point I was getting rather hooked on this little game and found the concept of a lesson almost appealing and not so ridiculous.
Now comes the third mistake. The pro was hired and the lessons began.. We went to the driving range. Wow! So this is the place he spoke of way back when. It was a wide open pasture with markers and targets for distance and accuracy. A place where you could warm up, try out the clubs, and get a feel for how to hit those nasty little white things. Who knew? He spent the entire hour explaining all the things wrong with such a unique swing and tried to make adjustments. I thanked him for his time, paid him a donation, and we parted friends. Even though he mentioned on more than one occasion that people should take lessons in the beginning rather than waiting until bad habits had been established. Actually what had been created over time was a signature swing! For now it worked way better than what he was trying to show me.
For the next few weeks, thinking too much became a problem. Even though the pro’s concepts and techniques were consciously dismissed, there was that little voice inside that kept urging me to try it and change to what is considered the right way. What could be remembered from the lesson was slowly applied and over time there was improvement. The awkwardness subsided and a comfortable feeling took it’s place. So comfortable in fact, that it was time to invite a friend along to play. Up until now, I had only golfed by myself. Not counting all those groups who played through.
It’s funny how a golfing partner takes it upon themselves to also become your coach, score keeper, spotter, and that little voice of doubt. “You should hold it like this, use your pitching wedge, keep your arm straight, watch out for the water on the right!” Still, they are your friends and you trust them. Plus they usually carry another bag of extra golf balls that may come in handy. Unfortunately, they also count every shot.
On one particularly hot summer day my friend (we’ll call him Scott) and I went to out to play a round of golf. It was too hot to ride. It was actually cooler on the course, partly because we spent so much time in the trees.
Then there was this one hole that had challenged me for quite some time. I even had a name for it and it wasn’t number 9. There was water (streams) on both sides of the green with a narrow opening to the hole. Depending on where you hit from the choices were to ground it between the 2 water hazards, fly it over the water, or lay up short. Normally, laying up was the right play. My friend had a better idea. “You can make it over with a 5 wood from here easy.” Trust test number 1. He was wrong. From what we could tell, the ball went into the trees and down into the water, way right. He laughed, and then laid up short.
Eventually we ended up where we were sure the ball had gone into the water. We checked the edges of the stream with no luck. Just as we were about to give up, there it was, right in the center of the narrow and seemingly shallow creek. After reaching out as far as possible to retrieve the important ball (we were down to only a few left between us) it was determined that even using a club still left me just a few inches short of snagging it. Water apparently makes objects appear closer than they actually are. Scotts offer to hold onto my belt while stretched out into the stream for the extra distance seemed good at the time. Trust test number 2. Turns out he failed me again.
After the sediment from all the stirring settled out, the ball was successfully retrieved. Unfortunately, it wasn’t mine. It seems that one had rolled just over the back edge of the green and a safe put away from the hole. We never thought to look there. It must have ricocheted off a tree.
The remainder of the round was played with squishing shoes and a bit of a chill. The good news is that I soundly defeated my friend on this day. He couldn’t quit laughing long enough to hit a decent shot the rest of the round.
Playing the game of golf on a regular basis has since discontinued. If there is time for a trail ride, I’ll take my horse.
In all of the instances above there were always choices. There is also a root cause to every situation. Too often we are unable to see the results of the choices, or can clearly discover the root cause of a dilemma until after the fact.
As to the water hazard incident, was I wrong in thinking my friend would actually hold on or did it trace back to an earlier time? A different club would have changed things. Still further back, perhaps I could have taken lessons sooner that would have corrected my shots. And further back yet, I could have chosen stamp collecting as my hobby. Who knows where the root cause actually began. The lessons learned and the solutions discovered are actually more important than figuring out where you went wrong. Just be smart enough to adjust, and always carry a towel in your bag.
When working with your horse, similar opportunities present themselves on a daily basis. We all make mistakes in training, or sometimes mistakes are sent to us from previous teaching. It doesn’t really matter, it’s in the past. Fortunately most horses have a good sense of humor and will allow you to adjust and try again, like a mulligan!. It’s ok to mentally backtrack to places where you could have done something differently, yet in the end what you do now is the only thing that will actually matter. I recommend taking lessons to increase your chances of making proper adjustments. Going back is for reflection, going nowhere is for prevention, going forward is for perfection.
Let it Rein, Craig Johnson
Over the years, I’ve had a number of young men and women work for me. It’s hard to narrow down all the stories associated with each down to just a few.
It actually used to bother me to have to pay people to come learn. It was my opinion that it should be the other way around. They begin knowing nothing and leave with some concept of what to do. Sounds like school to me. That and the aggravation I’ve been put through, trying to fix the things that the people I have paid screwed up.
Then one day it hit me. I had a total shift of perspective. I am not paying for labor and assistance. I am paying for entertainment, and in the process… occasionally get things done. Now, I no longer concern myself with how poorly I may be spending my employment dollars, but delight in the fact that my entertainment dollars are well spent. In fact, I would have to say that through the years, my favorite employees have also been the most entertaining. For example, there was a boy who came to work for me who in his interview had mentioned his colt starting prowess. Of course, I know they all can do that. I’ve not yet had someone in their effort to gain employment at a training facility neglect to mention their amazing young horse and colt starting talents. Yet this young man had the right hat, so I gave him a try.
As luck would have it, I’d just gotten a handful of horses in to start. All the typical things occurred. Ground work, round pen tactics, a bit of driving, saddling…etc. The boy was actually doing an average job, which given my previous entertainers was a big step up. After spending several days in the round pen, I mentioned to him that it was time to hit the pastures. I guess I misread him a bit and blame the hat. This was arena boy. Apparently the only pasture riding he had done was on a four wheeler. A couple of the colts were good natured enough to deal with his discomfort. Yet one seemed to enjoy the challenge of breaking this new kid in as to how a horse really thinks. For several days in a row I’d look up from whatever I happened to be riding and see this colt streaking across the yard back to the barn with this boy clinging to the saddle like a grass hopper on the hood of a speeding car.
Finally, I’d had enough of this entertainment. I mentioned a couple of ideas to him as we both rode out to the pasture together. My pointers included for one, how to steer. Grateful for the advice, he booted the colt off into a trot , which of course turned into a gallop shortly. Then I saw the colt start heading for the driveway which leads through the trees and up to the barn. Now, the only clearing in the trees was where the road went through, otherwise it was pretty thick brush and mesquite. For those who don’t know, mesquite is a very thorny tree before it becomes excellent wood for cooking with. I saw the boy start applying my steering tips, and got the colt headed in a different direction…right into the thickest part of the brush. I rode over to see how this would turn out. I discovered the point of entry as a result of finding his hat lying on the ground. In the woods I could hear rustling, branches breaking, and the occasional hoot, followed by a plea for “whoa”. I yelled in offering encouragement, and also to give him some clue of where “out” was. Soon here he came. Through the brush, up out of the creek and back into the pasture where I was waiting. As I looked him and the colt over I saw twigs hanging from both. His clothes had been given a more stylish ripped look from apparently trying to gather some of that good cooking wood, while still in its natural state. I was about to ask if he was ok, when a big grin came on his face as he began to explain how much my steering tips had made a difference.
YOU SEE USUALLY HE JUST RUNS RIGHT DOWN THE ROAD
Now that’s entertainment!
The Lesson: When you can’t change how things are, perhaps a change of perspective will give it a more positive twist. At least it could make it more entertaining.
A highly trained domesticated horse is no different in their goals of daily life than a wild mustang. Surviving in their world using natural and learned instinct. The difference for any horse, in how they relate to today’s circumstances, is that which they bring forward with them what they learned yesterday. Therefore they carry no perceptions but those placed upon them from the experiences of the past as lessons on how to respond in the now. There are no future pressures, only present comfort, response, or resistance, fight, flight or freeze..
Horses are being constantly trained, either by professional or unfortunately, non professional predators, by nature or by man. By chance or by knowledge. By cause or by effect. They are very open to suggestion and totally aware of positive and negative reinforcement. It is what allows us as humans the opportunity to teach a horse to accept strange new experiences and become confident with them in the face of distraction and pressure on a consistent basis.
We can, as teachers, train them to accept various obstacles, distractions, performances, athletic maneuvers, jumps, crowds, noises, lights, flags, banners, and any number of things that may naturally cause them discomfort. Therefore natural horsemanship is in reality a way of coaching a horse into accepting an unnatural circumstance by using methods of reprogramming them to willingly and confidently accomplish OUR goals. We can actually alter the future by simply changing their yesterday. Of course, I consider the well adjusted and cared for horses to be the lucky ones. Nature may be natural, but it is a tough way to live, survival of the fittest. It is our responsibility to improve their experience, survival of the rest. In fact, it is generally the rest that make the safer horses for us to ride.
I recently watched a TV show with an interesting concept. It was basically about doing the things which are in opposition to your own personal comfort level and current thoughts about how things should be. For example, one wealthy couple was instructed to live in a homeless project in a large city for as long as it took for them to learn the lesson of what it means, to the assessment of those who truly live it. For the first days it was incredibly uncomfortable for the couple. It was obviously doubtful that they would make it very long in the face of sleeping on the sidewalk, standing in meal lines, wearing the same clothes daily, being surrounded by uncertainty and people whose street senses were based on harsh survival. But there was only one way out. They had to change their perceptions. Long story short, it was three weeks later that they were able to sit in front of a group of homeless people, able to describe the experience and what they had learned to the satisfaction of those who live it everyday. It changed them.
Obviously we can see this as educated people, by using our abilities to reason. Can horses do the same? Often times natural is misunderstood as a way that we as humans, should leave horses alone with no consequences to inappropriate responses while living in OUR domestic environment. Wrong. It is however, a way to integrate them into our goals by using ways they understand naturally, using their language….. creating confidence, trust, fairness, dedication, determination, consistency, effort, willingness, guidance, and change. Most humans would need a lengthy course in survival training in order to have confidence, trust, and the ability to survive in a wild “natural” world.
One of my personally favorite horses is Sailing Smart. He was born with the right bloodlines to create a World Champion western performance horse. Together, we accomplished that. He is a World Champion reining horse, a reserve World Champion working cowhorse, and is an accomplished cutting and steer roping horse. We competed on a Nations Cup international reining competition for the US and won a Gold medal. He handed me his heart more times than I can count. He trusted my training, therefore he allowed me my goals. I consider it a good story when a horse actually accomplishes what he was born to do and be in relationship to what our chosen ridden goals are for them. He was not born to race or jump. He was born to rein. That also happened to be my purpose.
We purchased Sailing Smart as a well started 2 yr old and had him in training with us for the next six years, accomplishing the mentioned awards and so much more. He was also the horse that I trusted my young daughter and her elementary school friends to ride without concern for their safety. Pretty remarkable for a stallion. Eventually we decided that he had accomplished enough in the show ring and determined it was time to retire him. At that time we partnered with Pat Parelli and sold him part ownership. That summer, Sailing Smart was shipped to Pagosa Springs, CO to the Parelli center where he would adjust to life in a more “natural” surrounding. No more stall, No more fans. No more fly system. No more athletic pampering. No more competitive performance rules.
He had a large outdoor paddock all to himself with complete view of the mountains, wide open spaces, and hundreds of other horses. His performance tasks became that of simply being ridden in a non regimented way. It was to be fun.
After a month or so I would get reports of how crazy the horse was. What??!! Was this the same horse that traveled the world competing in multiple events at high levels and would babysit my little girl? He was bucking…with Pat! He was acting like a squealing stud. He was losing weight and becoming something very different than I had come to know. I couldn’t believe some of the stories.
Now, before you make any judgments toward either direction, I am a fan of the Parelli methods and am the approved Parelli friendly reining trainer. I appreciate all methods of “natural” horsemanship. In fact, I imagine myself as a natural horseman, and whole heartedly believe in the concepts as handed down by the legends such as Tom Dorrance and Ray Hunt, all of whom I have had the great pleasure of learning from. Pat and Linda, and myself and wife Lyn are good friends. I would not have sold or partnered on this amazing horse with anyone who I did not believe in.
At the end of that summer Lyn and I were invited to the Parelli savvy conference to do some demos and teaching with Pat and Linda. We took the trailer, as previously agreed, to bring Sailing Smart home to Texas for the winter as well as the early breeding season. I did see a very different horse than what had departed a few months previous. He was not as focused, very distracted, and seemed somewhat lost. Why! He was now in a natural state, according to enlightened thinking. Or was he? Based on his string of yesterday’s up until that point, he experienced natural quite differently. To him, being outside sucked. Similar to the wealthy couple who had to live a homeless life for a time.
When we returned to the ranch in Texas with him, his same stall was bedded knee deep in clean white pine shavings, mints were on the pillow (metaphor), it was dry, the fan was on, there were no flies, and it was quiet. It was funny to watch his reaction. He walked a few circles around the stall with his head down, much like a dog getting it’s blanket arranged correctly. He’d then lay down and slept for seemingly days. When ridden, he would go to the arena or track and perform with focus and confidence. Just like he use to, with no period of adjustment. He was back to his version of natural, and liked it.
Since then he has remained with the Parelli’s and has become accustomed to the changes and is totally comfortable in that environment now as well. Once again, changing yesterday and ending up in a new today.
Of course, I have also experienced this same phenomena in reverse. A horse who comes from the wild and now is adapting to a life of fluffed pillows, no flies, and year round temperature control. Both methods are acceptable, both methods are loving, and both methods are natural according to a period of adjustment, training and adapting to a different yesterday.
By one definition, a horse is a beast of burden able to carry incredibly heavy loads great distances that a human by themselves could not. More amazingly, they are also capable of carrying our burdens or problems. They can be our therapeutic release from stress and anxiety. On the other hand they can quite possibly add to it. It depends on your view. It depends on your experience. It depends on the need that the horse is filling or the lesson they are there to teach. It depends on how much money you have. These things are determined by you, not the horse. For most, the comforts of the creature and the lifting of burden far outweighs the added responsibilities . Beast of burden…..creature of comfort, all in one.
Perhaps we could learn a lesson in how to alter our future from a horse, by actually changing the only day we really can…. yesterday. Don’t waste it, you’ll wish you hadn’t. It will be today before you know it.
Let it Rein, Craig
Many of us horse enthusiasts live in certain parts of the world where location allows winter to place it’s firm grip on all that we do. Snow, ice, cold, dark, wind, blizzards, and worst of all, indoor arenas.
I grew up in Northern Iowa where winter is more than a passing season. It’s that space in time between when the corn is taken out, and when it’s planted. It doesn’t take long for corn to grow. My parents were horse trainers, breeders, sellers, and competitors as well as farmers. I guess it gave us something to do while waiting on the corn.
Dad built one of the first indoor arenas in the state of Iowa. It’s still there and in my opinion should be listed as a historic landmark, mostly for the reason that it was initially a local mystery. First it was thought to be the worlds largest machine shed. Odd since we only had two tractors. Then it was rumored to be a new style combination of machine shed, hay storage, and corn crib all in one. Eventually, the area spies discovered there was nothing inside but a layer of sand. It was a place to ride horses. After all these passing years, horses are no longer ridden in there. It has finally become the world’s largest machine shed, hay storage, and corn crib all in one. At least now we can be cleared of all accusations concerning the family sanity. Well, most of them. There’s still suspicion surrounding the use of good corn ground for horse pasture.
The Rafter J arena was a wonder of modern construction. A full fifty feet wide, clear span wooden rafters, 160 feet long! Tin roof and sides. Roping chutes at one end, bucking chutes at the other. No insulation. It was where we could train horses year round without concern for the weather. Did I mention no insulation? It seems the tin roof and sides allowed for maximum cooling in the winter, as well as efficient heating in the summer. I’m guessing no insulation had something to do with it.
It was, however, the place where we learned fantastic things about horses. A place where we could experiment on a daily basis, those things that were supposed to work. Some did. We halter broke the babies, started colts, roped calves, trained cutting horses, pleasure horses, and reiners. On certain days we bred mares, and on occasion lived out our bull riding fantasies on board a few of Dad’s wild cows.
The one thing that always puzzled me about the indoor arena was that, no matter how much time and effort you put into getting your horse really broke, when spring came and you were finally able to ride outside, all previous lessons the horse had learned were forgotten at the first sight of nature. Natural horsemanship? Please. If being ridden in nature were natural to a horse, why would the flight response kick in at the first sight of wide open spaces. It seemed odd that a horse who just the day before, could do wonderful feats of athletic achievement with total focus and confidence, would turn into a nickering prancing tail waving idiot in the space of 20 feet. If it weren’t for the fact that most of the shows were outside, and that I was developing claustrophobic twitches and frostbite, I would have stayed in there year round. And yet it was those twitches that eventually drove me out into the sun. Out where birds chirp, trees sway, squirrels run, dogs bark, and horses forget. Of course, they eventually acclimate and all is well.
Many of you will never know this experience. Those who do, know what I’m talking about. Oh, and snow slide! The thrilling sound of thawing snow sliding down the length of the arena roof and falling to the ground. Similar to a 747 taking off, and then crashing. Always a fantastic seat builder. These are just a few of the main reasons we moved to Texas and trained there for 30 years. Most people loved spring. I had a fear of it.
These last 3 years we left the heat of Texas and have been building some wonderful opportunities and friendships in the Northeastern US. The people are friendly, the cities are amazing, the summers are pleasant and the food is fantastic. And yet, they have the two things that brought back the twitch and caused my fear to resurface. Indoor arenas, and spring. I had almost forgotten the sense of helplessness that these two conditions would create.
On a positive note, the arenas are now much bigger and insulated, but still, they are inside. Just the other day, after months of snow and weeks of mud, the outside riding areas were safe to tread. The sun was shining brightly and the temperatures had risen to a comfortable two layer degree of warmth. It was at that moment that it all came rushing back. Equine amnesia still exists and apparently has something to do with a vitamin D deficiency. Fortunately it’s snowing again today and we will be back inside where I hope to recover lost files of information that should have been downloaded to the hard drive.
Lesson learned: Horses need to be exposed to all kinds of different surrounding and circumstances in order to be learning the art of maintaining focus and respect in challenging pressure situations. It will serve you well to present something new and different to your horse on a daily basis. If you’re trapped inside for weeks on end, there are many creative things you can do to assist your horse in raising his tolerance to new surroundings. Twirl ropes, drag logs, ride over tarps, work cows, pony other horses, hang banners, play music, build fake judges, or purchase any number of horse toys to play with. Roping dummies, cutter flag systems, and other such tools that will allow you to expose your horse daily to something that can distract him, therefore helping him to grow up mentally. Don’t let your training environment become so sterile that they succumb to every little thing that comes their way. It’ll take the sting out of spring.
We are grateful to both Santa Hill Ranch and Foxx Creek farm for making our stay in the Northeast memorable, exciting, and rewarding. But I’m leaving. I concede. We are going back to our Three Circles Ranch in Texas with the hope of calming the twitch and once again overcoming the fear of spring.
Sure, Texas has it’s own challenges as well, yet being prepared, experiencing claustrophobia, and equine amnesia were not among them. Ok, there’s the occasional snake, spider, scorpion, chiggers, heat wave, tornado, and 40 inch annual rain fall 6 inches at a time, 7 times a year….. I feel so at peace there. Plus there’s cows, an accent I understand, and people who are fixin to do something. It’s home.
We are looking forward to once again training for the public from our home in Gainesville, as well as offering our new unique riding programs and learning opportunities for riders that will be based from there as well. On our ranch, we have cabins, RV hookups, and a high probability of all the outdoor riding you can stand, year round. There is an indoor arena, yet it’s mostly for afternoon shade. We are excited and energized about being back at the ranch, where we invite you to experience western riding at it’s best.
Check out our web site at www.craigjohnsoninternational.com for details concerning the move, and how we can be of greater help to you. We offer coaching, training, lessons, sales, home study training, and riding camps. Most of all, we are implementing the Craig Johnson R.I.D.E program to help you enhance what you already know, or experience the thrill of riding a reining horse. Complete details coming soon, so check the web site often.
Our popular FUNdamentals clinics will also be headquarted out of Texas, and from there to the world. Gainesville is just a short drive from DFW. You can easily get to us, or I can quickly get to you.
Finally, be sure to come see us at the Equine Affaire in Columbus, Ohio April 6-9. We are presenting 4 new concepts for the advancement and development of both you and your horse. You won’t want to miss it. It’ll be magical. Drop by the booth and say hi. I look forward to seeing many of you there.
Let it Rein, Craig