Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Lyle's Curtain Call

We were all a little worried the night before the Tom Curtain horsemanship clinic. Lyle was stressing about being in an arena for two days, Hank couldn't bear the thought of Lyle being gone, and when I told Smooch she would be sleeping on the back porch instead of my bed, you'd have thought the world was coming to an end. I had my own list of worries and fears, but it did not include "horse trailer light failure at 5:30 am halfway to Albuquerque." I thought about waking up the guy who had recently rewired the trailer and demanding he come fix it, but instead twiddled my thumbs in a parking lot for an hour waiting for the sun to come up.



Despite the setback, Lyle and I arrived bright and early and still had an hour to chill out and recover from the trip.



The clinic was held in a huge, beautiful outdoor arena at the village park, lined by tall trees which provided some welcome shade in the afternoons. Gorgeous green soccer fields adjoined the arena, and this being Saturday, it was a busy place. Lyle had never experienced so much social interaction in all his life, and I was very proud of him for calmly handling the steady stream of bicycles, joggers, and dogs, and the cacophony of screaming children and their even-louder parents. He wasn't so proud of the way I was handling it and kept telling me to stop whining.



Most of the 16 participants were experienced clinic-goers, and it was a pleasure to be in the company of good riders who kept their horses under control and who respected each other's space. Tom was a long-time student of Ray Hunt and is a talented horseman in his own right. He tries to get his students to see things the way the horse sees them and uses lots of stories and demonstrations to get his points across.





At the beginning and end of every morning and afternoon session, we would circle up and he would ask each rider, "How you fixed?" (That's clinician-speak for what's working, what's not and do you have any questions.) And during the riding exercises, if he saw you struggling or had a suggestion to help you, he'd say, "come on over here and let's work on that." While I had plenty of questions of my own, I learned just as much from listening to his answers to other riders' questions and watching him work with their horses.



We worked a lot on moving and controlling the front and back ends of our horses separately to get them softer and lighter in our hands. Lyle was reasonably soft when we started out, but by the time we left, I felt how much softer he could be if I asked him correctly. It was a wow moment.

Now as for the demise of Mr. Crankypants... I had heard other clinicians say this same thing before, but it meant something different back then because Lyle and I weren't in the same place. So Tom says: When I was growing up and my dad asked me to take out the trash, I stopped whatever I was doing and took out the trash. There was no "I'll get around to it" like there is with kids today. And when we were going on down the road and there was a gate, I ran out and got that gate and ran to catch up with his truck to hop back in. I knew what was expected of me. Bet you didn't know this horsemanship stuff was so esoteric, huh?

The light bulb finally went off. Sometimes I'd been letting Lyle take out the trash on his own sweet time. And I was fearful of the consequences of asking him again, knowing we'd get into an argument I wasn't prepared for. So I worked on some rein management, getting quicker about gathering him up to deal with the consequences, and when he did say no, I let him know that wasn't an option. It didn't take but two or three reminders for Lyle to understand the new rules of the game. Now it's up to me to always play the game the same way.



At the end of the day, I trailered Lyle over to his motel. There was a mini-Hank stalled next to him to keep him company.



Sunday dawned just as bright and beautiful as the day before, and minus the soccer mayhem. Lyle's full attention stayed on me for the rest of the day, and we had many more wow moments.



The clinic was just the tune-up Lyle and I needed, and I can't wait to work on all the new things we learned. Mr. Crankypants will probably try to rear his ugly head again, but now I've got the knowledge and confidence to put him right back in his box.

24 comments:

  1. That's just wonderful - it sounds like you had an amazing weekend! It's always amazing to me how much of what the horse does or doesn't do is about our expectations - funny how that works! Great insights, and nice photos.

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  2. Nancy in NC9/22/09, 8:19 AM

    Glad you guys are working together. I'm sure Mr. Crankypants really wants to please ya!

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  3. I really enjoyed reading of your experience this week end, minus the trailer lights problem/that really sucks! I guess it all goes back to us being the alpha, and gently showing them how things should be done.

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  4. Awesome! I can so relate to those light bulb moments w/ your horse. Isn't it great when it finally clicks? I'm so glad for you & Lyle. Yay!!!

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  5. The TV show the Dog Whisperer, Caeser says that the owner is trained almost as much as the dog. I think that's true with so many things - horses as well :)

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  6. Sounds like your clinic was a huge success! So glad to hear it, although the trailer part stinks. I know that's a big stresser when you're driving in the middle of the night. Hope you got it fixed and it didn't interfere with your trip home too much. How did Smooch fare on the back porch?

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  7. Very interesting post. I glad you two got to go to the clinic. Worth the effort, I'd say.

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  8. I really love where his ears are in that last photo - he's both alert to his environment and attentive to you, which is (imo) exactly the right place to be.

    A partner!

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  9. Although I no longer ride, and haven't had my horse, a big ol' gelding in many years, your post about the clinic was most fascinating and enlightening. It all sounds well worth the trip. Congrats on taking away Crankypants' dominance. Enjoy the new Fancypants!

    Your photos are always superb!!

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  10. I'm so happy for you and Lyle.....you are helping him to be the best that he can be and he is doing that for you, too ! What a win/win !!!!!!!

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  11. Terrific!!! I'm so glad you two had a great time with lots of "ah-ha" moments.

    You'd better hope Mr. Crankypants doesn't go completely away, ever. He's there to remind you of your obligation to Lyle (the new one)...and Lyle's obligation to you.

    Good job!

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  12. It's always a good feeling when we get those wow moments. Glad you and Lyle had a great clinic and have lots of new things to work on.

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  13. Excellent! Sounds like the perfect clinic for you 'n Lyle. Being consistent each and every time is not easy and something I have to work on all the time...I get lax and lolly gag around and then the horse lolly gags around too. I always call it pilot error.

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  14. Hooray for you and Lyle. Top of your class. A-plus. And a gold star.

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  15. Yay, that clinic sounds great. Love those WOW moments...been having a few myself with Piper lately (on a much more basic level).

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  16. Michelle, Smooch did just fine on the porch, though she's still pretty tired. She must have stayed up late standing guard. My neighbor and her daughter came over to cover the two meals I missed and check on everybody.

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  17. I would love to have the opportunity to take a clinic like that one day. Guess I need my own horse first....I'm so glad to hear it was such a good experience for both of you. The clinician sounds like a real wealth of information.

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  18. What a wonderful opportunity that was for both of you. These new clinicians are amazing. We saw John Lyons and Clinton Anderson in Sacramento with several others, it was amazing..

    Pat Parelli is up in this area alot.
    Good stuff!

    PS..I just read your 4 part series of how you got to be the 7MSN, good reading.. Will there be more?

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  19. I can see the difference in Lyle's attention from the top "neck photo"and the last one. He is both more relaxed and alert. Great job to you all (including Smooch who kept the home fires safe!).
    Love your blog--my day is never the same without a dose of 7MSNRanch!

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  20. Love the stuff about seeing things from the horse's point of view! If you know what he's experiencing, it makes sense that you would communicate better with him.
    What's being demonstrated in that fifth photo?

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  21. June, the rider was asking Tom what direction his horse's hip would be moving for a "haunches in." Tom pulled out his knife and drew pictures in the dirt to explain it.

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  22. Good for Lyle, but bravo to you for schlepping him and dealing with all those Crankypants issues. It's so easy to get complacent and let things slide. Love the cowboy analogy of "taking out the trash" - I'll remember that one!

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  23. Great! It sounds like you had a wonderful weekend!
    Love those photos!

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  24. Wow. Just wow. I love this synopsis of the clinic. Doesn't it figure that so many of what we perceive to be our animal's "issues" actually come down to being because of the conflicting messages we're sending them? I was totally living vicariously through you as you described the other experienced riders around you and how they treated each other. I would *love* to do something like this. Knowledge is power. wow.

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