Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Share the Fun

One thing I've learned from all my years of riding horses is that fun is more fun when shared. What's fun? Reading a mystery that will make you laugh, gasp, and lose track of your bedtime -- all for FREE! Starting today, Tuesday, July 10, 2012 through Thursday, July 12, BushWhacked, my new Thea Campbell Mystery is available in e-book format for FREE! Do I want you to snap it up? Darned right! Fun should be shared. It's more fun that way. Go on, go get it! You don't even have to have a Kindle, don't have to even buy one. Amazon lets you download Kindle for your PC for FREE. (Hey, you spend all that time on your computer anyway, why not enjoy yourself?)

Monday, May 28, 2012

It's Just Routine, Ma'am

I have a tendency to jump right into the middle of things with little preparation. My knee-jerk preference is to charge ahead and if I get stuck, stop and read the directions – if I can find them. I would do this when I ride, too, if it wasn’t so glaringly plain this is not a knee-jerk preference for the horses. They simply don’t operate that way, and they will not be persuaded otherwise. Therefore, if I want Eddie (for example) to do well, I have to make sure I spend time, each and every ride, devoted to obsessing over getting organized. I must allow him the time to go through the steps needed to warm up. He has not varied from this requirement in the entire eighteen-plus-years I’ve known him.

Yes, he’s a little one-way about the whole thing.

Eddie, doing his job without me interfering
... yay, for me!
He doesn’t like it if I try to do his job, or expect him to do mine. We have a very distinct division of labor in our relationship and if I forget what it is, he will remind me. He doesn’t do this in a mean way. He simply gives me what I’m “really” asking for, and the usual result is me feeling like an idiot.  

Here’s a relatively benign example: it’s not up to me to hold his posture together, despite the fact that I know what it should be. That’s his job, and he can’t do it if I skip steps getting there and try to put him in place before it’s time. He will lean on my hands and remind me how much more he weighs than what I’m capable of lifting. Sure, I can remind him if he quits doing his job, and I can show him how I want him to conduct himself, but I can’t do it for him. Simply stated: He will let me. Times ten.

Horses are creatures of habit and routine. They need the sameness of a familiar warm-up in order to be assured they are doing the right job, in order not to be over-faced with demands from the rider. Routine is knowledge and security. Routine keeps the stress at bay.

Come to think of it, we humans need routine, too. As much as I hate to admit it. A big job becomes manageable if I break it down into a progression of steps I’m familiar with. Even well-known tasks can be overwhelming, like writing a book. If I remember to take it a logical and progressive piece at a time I can conquer what had previously appeared daunting.

I should remember this, since my horse insists.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

When You're In A Hole, Stop Digging

Success equals mental preparation -- that's what Henrik pointed out at the instructors' seminar I attended. I can't argue with that. All things being equal, I can achieve my future goal for my horse only if I am sufficiently mentally prepared for each day's lesson and have a route planned to my vision of the future.

It sounds simple enough. Know where I'm going, pull out the road map, and learn the route.

Simple. Right. Ha, ha.

How many times have I ridden my horse thinking I was doing all the right things only to realize progress toward my goal had not only stalled out, but was deteriorating by the minute?

It's kind of like driving down a road, full of confidence my destination is minutes away, and then, after a while (a really long while), wondering why the scenery hasn't changed. Come to find out, I've been stuck in the mud, spinning my wheels. How did I not notice? It sure explains all those people standing around, exchanging glances and whispering among themselves. I could tell them I meant to get buried up to my axels, but we'd all know better.


It's about that time I start to realize, yet again, part of mental preparation is becoming familiar with what should be happening all along the way -- not just at the end when I've reached my goal. The route includes my ability to recognize the boggy places when encountered or, better yet, beforehand so they can be avoided.

Having someone point those mucky spots out is invaluable. But that can't happen every time I ride. Part of this learning process is to recognize, more quickly, when I get stuck. With luck -- okay, with sufficient mental preparation and luck -- I'll remember the tools to help extract me from the bog. Then, at some time in the future when I've experienced my quota of muck, I'll be able to avoid digging myself in. I'll have learned to see it coming and plotted the route around. Better yet, I'll have found the road without the potholes.

Until then, I'll have to be vigilant: Keep my goal in mind without seeking out the problems. I'd really hate to find out I've been planning a route from one problem to the next instead of my goal.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Plan: Have A Plan

Late last month I had the opportunity to ride in a dressage clinic with Henrik Johansen. I love riding in clinics with him. He's a wonderful teacher. I always leave excited about riding and knowing where I need to improve. 

This time was no different. I rode my friend Fable because Eddie, although back to work again, is not far enough along in his rehab to endure the demands of a weekend clinic. I've ridden Fable in the past couple of clinics and it works well, since I bring the lessons I learn home to Eddie. I did this time too, of course.

As I was riding one of the exercises Henrik had coached me through at the clinic, I started thinking about something else he'd said. "Ride with a plan. Don't ride by reacting to the horse."

Was I doing that?

Well … sort of. I had a plan, but I was very intent on figuring out if Eddie was actually doing it. 

I changed my thinking. I took a deep breath, squared up my posture and let go of all that "gotta do it" tension.

"I am doing the exercise correctly myself," I said, not entirely believing it. "And when I do it right, it feels exactly like this." (insert active imagination here). 

Then the most amazing thing happened: Eddie improved in one step.

Go figure. Although I should have known. After all, it's not news to me -- I "talk" this stuff all the time.

Guess I don’t always "walk" it.

And that got me to thinking -- is that what I do in my daily life? Do I fret every minute to be sure everything is "just so," checking to see if all my ducks are lined up properly? Do I have a plan I focus on, or am I reacting to each moment, watching for things to go wrong?

Maybe I should just march forward and let all my ducks line up behind me while I lead the way. After all, not all of us can follow. Somebody has to get out in front. It's my life. It might as well be me.