Monthly Archives: July 2014

Mind Over Matter describes that as having will power over obstacles.

It’s a great title but I’m not sure if that really has to do with my subject.  I guess, in a way it might.

With age I notice I’m having trouble with my mind.  It just doesn’t keep up with me anymore, and in most cases my friends are having the same problem.  For those of you who are young, a warning, it stinks.

But this post isn’t about old age, it’s really about the minds of children these days.

If you’ve worked with children for any period of time you have noticed a big change in their attention span.  Between working with the children at church and with the horses, it’s really becoming more of a challenge.  We hear more about A.D.D. and A.D.H.D.  When I was a kid, back in the stone age, we never heard anything about this stuff.  For that matter, kids were kids and really didn’t have these problems.  We were outside every chance we got, played hard, got tired and went to bed.  Now a days, both adults and children have their nose buried in some kind of technological wonder.  There is no eye contact with another human being, they will sit in the same room and text each other.  Games are now all downloaded and played constantly.  Things move so fast on the game board that children, when confronted with everyday life, find it extremely boring and slow.  As with adults, they want everything now.  Frustration comes in when things can’t be accomplished immediately and boredom sets in if the information isn’t passed along in a split second.  So how do you teach something that requires patience and time.

Aghhhhh!  I think that came from a stone age cartoon character in the comic strip B.C.  More recently it’s become my way of voicing frustration with the computer age children.

Our horses didn’t know anything about instant gratification.  They are still in the mind-set of walk around and find something to eat.  We are now putting a clock in their heads, just like our children, by putting them on a feed schedule.  They now paw at the gate or door if dinner is late, or if they want attention. To avoid this, keep hay or grazing available all the time.  Keep them as close to nature as possible.  We’ve conditioned our children and animals to become impatient and demanding, and truly, we do it to ourselves.  When I was a child there was the lay-a-way plan (which is making a comeback in some form).  If you wanted to purchase something, and you didn’t have the money, you gave the item to the clerk with a deposit and paid a little each week until it was totally paid for and then you took it home.  Now you take it home and then pay for it.

It’s time we took back control of our children, animals, and our lives.  We are so much in fast forward that most times we don’t even know what day it is.  I think that’s why so many people find peace when riding their horses.  To stay safe and enjoy we must slow down and stay in the moment.  If you get on your horse with the “to do list” running through your mind, your horse will feel it and become worried.  This could become dangerous because you are not aware of things going on around you.

Stop and smell the roses.  They may not be there tomorrow.  Take back control of your life and time.  Show your children that there is life out there.  Teach your horses to be horses again.  Trust me your horse will be more receptive to the idea than your children will.

In order to work with a horse, or teach children about horses, they need to slow their minds down and connect with another living, breathing, being, not a computer.  Horses don’t text, they need one on one time, and truthfully, so do we.

Life, right now, is like a run-away horse, take the reins, and take back the control, before it’s too late.

Stay in the moment, or you’ll miss life as it happens.


Teach What You’ve Learned

“Teach what you’ve learned and one less horse will suffer from ignorance, and never stop learning.”  This has always been my philosophy.

We all may not do things the same way.  It may be right, it may be wrong, or it may just be different.

Sharing what you’ve learned and comparing notes may be a learning experience, not only for you, but for others.  Of course we all feel that our way it right and the only way to do things.  But then we might just learn an easier, or another way of doing something.  Always file information in the back of your mind.  You may not need it at this moment, or with this horse, but you never know when a situation will present itself, and puff!, you’ve got just what the doctor ordered.

I love teaching, especially children.  I love explaining things in a fun, thought-provoking way.  There is nothing as satisfying as watching your students learn.  Not to just go through the motions, but really get it, apply it, and know why they are doing it.

I know that I have done my job right, when out of no where, I hear them explain to someone else, word for word,  why something is done a certain way.  Or they diagnose an ailment right off the bat without you even being aware that there was a problem.  I can’t begin to explain how proud I am of them.

Perhaps it is because of how my brain functions, I teach differently.  In order for me to grasp something, I have to know what makes it tick.  Some babies just learn to say NO!  I always asked WHY?

I want my students to learn to ask why.  But I also need them to know when the tone of my voice shouts a command, not a request.  Sometimes I see a disaster in the making and can avoid it by a simple correction, but I need them to respond, now!

I don’t remember the circumstances why we did a lesson on the ground one particular day, but it was one of the funniest, and most rewarding lessons I had ever given, or for that matter, ever received.  I was going to be a first time rider at the barn and they were going to give me a lesson.  What it did show me was exactly how much the girls had learned and retained.  Emily was my, to the very last detail person.   The depth of her knowledge and descriptions of what was to take place was way beyond what a beginner could handle.  Lexy became frustrated when she was trying to get her point across and I had no interest in what she was saying.  Diana made the announcement that she would never be an instructor, to which they all agreed to the same after much laughter.  Hannah, always in charge, was trying to make order out of chaos.  Bottom line was that these girls knew and retained everything I had taught them, could explain it and pass it on.

Emily touched my heart one morning while getting ready to ride.  She came and told me that Desert just wasn’t himself.  Emily and Desert were so in tune that she picked up that something was wrong before there were any clinical signs.  The signs followed hours later.

This is what I strive for.  Listening to what your horse is trying to tell you.  Sensing, feeling, listening, communication without words.  The horse is always trying to tell us, or teach us something.

The horse whispers, are we listening?

Who’s On First

Now that’s really showing my age, the old Abbott and Costello routine.  It still amazes me when I hear it.  But truly, who’s on first between you and your horse?

When we were hunting up north, we’d come in totally frozen.  All we wanted to do was to get into some place warm and get something hot to drink in our bodies.  When we come in, down here in Florida, we’re all normally overheated.  You want something cool to drink, and to take off as many pieces of clothing that is legally possible.  But before we did anything for ourselves, our horses would be totally taken care of.

Who comes first in your partnership?  Your horse of course.  Before your own comforts your horse should always come first.  He/she has served you well and their needs should come above your own.  They can’t take care of their own needs, so it all depends on the caregiver, you.  Of course here in Florida, I always recommend removing your helmet to let the heat out and to drink some water first or you will pass out, and be of no use to your horse.

Up north, in the winter, we’d take the saddle off and put a blanket over their backs to keep their kidneys warm, check legs, liniment and wrap if needed.  In the heat we take the saddle off and get some cool water on their bodies, as soon as possible, to bring down their body temperature (don’t forget to scrape the excess water off, or it becomes a hot bath instead).  In either case, when their body temperature, pulse, and respiration return to normal, offer water, some hay, or pasture.  Make sure all their needs are met before your own.

Now it doesn’t matter if you were hunting, showing, or just trail riding.  Once all your horses needs have been taken care of, go in and take care of your own.  You will both be more comfortable knowing that all is well.

Take care of your horse first, and your horse will take care of you.

How Do I Know I Have The Right Instructor For My Child Or Myself?

This is a question I’m asked often.

This is what I do.  You can use it as a sample as to what to look for in an instructor.

First question I always ask the child is “What do you want to do with your riding?”  Then I can either give them basics, and when they are ready, send them to an instructor who is going to further their particular riding interest (such as barrel racing), or continue teaching them myself.

When I send them off to another part of the state or to another state I first try to locate an ARIA certified riding instructor in their area.  ARIA stands for the American Riding Instructors Association.  When I certified with them in 1998 I was astonished at how high their standards of testing really are.  Safety is their main concern, as it should be, but the amount of knowledge that you needed to pass the tests were totally amazing.  If someone is ARIA certified, they know their stuff.   There are people out there that are excellent instructors, who have never tested or certified, it just requires more discernment on your part.

Anyone can hang out a sign saying they give riding lessons, but how much do they really know.  Just because a person hangs out a sign that says “Doctor Is In” doesn’t mean they know a hill of beans about diagnosis and treatments, you really had to pass the exams and had hands on time to be a real doctor.  Why do people trust their children’s lives to someone who just wants to make money at something they think is fun.  Someone may have been riding their whole life, but that doesn’t mean they’ve been doing it right.  Do they know how to see what the problem is and know how to teach the correct method of accomplishing the goal?  Do they know their horses, and do they know how to keep your child safe.  Some people have the gift of explaining things, and some don’t.  We all had teachers in school who made learning easy and fun, and other teachers who knew their subject, but just didn’t know how to get it across to the students.  The same with riding instructors.  There is a saying, that I don’t agree with –  “Those who can ride, ride, those who can’t ride, teach.”  Riding is the easy part, teaching requires that you know how to ride, understand the horse, and know how to explain how to accomplish the task at hand.

Riding can be a dangerous sport, you need someone who can keep your child safe, and make it a fun learning experience.  If it’s no longer fun, stop doing it.  Don’t push a child into riding because you always wanted to do it as a child.

What I tell the parents is “If it doesn’t feel safe to you, it probably isn’t.”  Yes some parents are just prone to worry, but most parents know when something is extremely dangerous to their child.

  • Don’t hesitate to ask about the instructors teaching experience, and if you would like, ask for references
  • Watch the instructor give lessons to other people
  • If they have a web site, go there, are there pictures of other children, are they smiling and having fun
  • Look around, does it look like a safe environment.
  • Is the equipment in good condition
  • Are the horses well cared for
  • Do the horses look fearful or calm and happy
  • Is the instructor focused on what they are doing or are they distracted or on a cell phone
  • Are they relaxed and confident in their job
  • Do they have a lesson plan in place before they start
  • Do they listen and are they really hearing you and your child
  • Are they prompt and professional
  • Do they get to know your child before they start teaching
  • Do they keep you informed about what they plan to teach and what they seem to notice about your child’s fears and performance
  • If you follow them to a show, are they screaming at the children or do they give them uplifting comments of encouragement.  Are the children having a good time or are they afraid of making a drastic mistake
  • Is all that matters the blue ribbon, or are the children praised for the good job that they did that day

Take the time to find the right instructor.  You need to know that the person you have chosen, is safe, are kind to their horses, knows their job, and connects well with your child.  There are different techniques of teaching, find one that works for your child.

A little knowledge on your part,  goes a long way.