Wednesday, February 6, 2008

An Epiphany

epiphany: a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.

We had Tivo'd Chris Cox's show and it was a repeat. There was nothing else on so we decided to watch it. It was one with October Hill farms. They breed and train horses for the highest level of dressage. Chris showed the place off first, then they had a horse they were having a problem with. Now, this has to be a million dollar facility. The owner has horses and trainers and a beautiful facility. She probably has decades of experience with horses. She had taken this horse to the Grand Prix level of dressage.

She was having a problem with this eleven year old fighting the bit, charging, and being nervous. Chris got on and did one of his most basic maneuvers, flexing with one rein. He then did his vertical collection exercise, again one of his most basic exercises. The horse started to behave like it was supposed to in a very short time and that's when it hit me: It's not how much you know, it's how much you know well.

Clinton Anderson has probably everything one needs to know about horses distilled in two series of DVD's all I need to do is study them until I know them completely. I'm likely to never get to work five horses a month to gain the experience someone else has, but I don't need to. My experience will most likely be with one horse, my horse Jessie. I can do the best for her if I know what's on those DVDs inside and out.

I had had my first horse Tex for about nine months. When I started riding him he occasionally would kick up and sometimes even buck. It was a sissy-kicking buck and I never felt unsafe. Well, I eventually had to put Tex down due to severe navicular in both front feet, but he taught me alot. One afternoon we were out riding and I wanted to lope small circles. He didn't want to. I insisted. He had enough. He dropped his head and gave a buck I never knew he had in him. I hung on for the first one, but he was determined to get me off. He bolted a few steps, turned, bucked, dived, bolted again, stopped and bucked and I came off. It probably didn't last more than ten seconds. Now, up to that point I had taught him the one rein stop and he knew "whoa" so well he was almost sliding to a stop. Did I try either of those things in that ten seconds? No. I knew them, but I didn't know them well.

As humans once we get the concept of something we want to move on to the next. I started with disc one of Gaining Respect and couldn't wait until I got to disc two, then three, then the next series. It takes practice, practice, practice to become really good at these techniques. And, yeah, you have to fight the boredom of repetition and find ways to keep your horse engaged, and that's just another challenge. I heard the Beatles played the same dive in Liverpool for over a year, two shows a night, six nights a week. They were probably bored at times too, but they also used that experience to hone their skills.

There was an old horseman, Bill, who ran an automotive shop next to our store. His dad had started it. Back in those days someone would come in for a tune-up and Bill's dad would change out the parts that were needed. Bill tells the story that when the customer came to pick up their car and ask how much, Bill's dad would start by saying, "Well, the labor was five dollars, let's see I changed some plugs, that's eight dollars, some wires another two to make it ten, tuned the carb add four dollars..." and he would keep going until the customer said, "Wow, that much, eh?" That's kind of my impression of the horse industry. There's always more you need to add and there are plenty of people to sell it to you. I think I have all the necessary tools to get a good, soft, well-broke horse I can use for anything I chose. My job is to learn how to use those tools as completely and efficiently as possible and that's what I going to try and do.
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