Friday, March 5, 2010
Over Confident to Humble
About two years after I started team penning, one of the penners was riding in a small competition, and doing quite well. During the “call backs” the team he was on had pushed out two of the three cows, and Bill had just found the third cow. Bill got between the cow and the herd, and began pushing the cow towards the pen, when the cow turned back to the herd and made a dash for it. Bill’s horse turned like a top and blasted to the fence to cut the cow off. As the horse did this Bill was left right where he was when the horse turned, only on the ground. Then I saw the most incredible thing. The horse continued without the rider! The two other teammates gathered the other two cows and together, with the rider-less horse, they penned all three. Bill’s horse was right where he needed to be, just like Bill was riding him and guiding him. After that episode, we all teased Bill about not really knowing what he was doing, and it being all the horse. In reality though, I think Bill really was a great horseman. Only a great horseman would be able to help a horse understand his job that well. To me, now, horsemanship is helping your horse to become a willing partner. This happens when your horse understands what the task is and wants to accomplish the task as well. When this happens, both the horse and the rider can be a successful team. This begs the question of how you get your horse to want to do it?
I believe most horses want to learn their job. I don’t think they want to be micro managed anymore than the office worker in a cubicle. I notice my little mare really likes going down the street. When we do, we usually just meander quietly, much like anyone just taking a walk. She knows what her job is when we go down the street. Therefore she is not her “turn and burn” self that she is everywhere else and she can relax. I once took my daughter down the street, riding double on her. On the way home Foxy was going along so quietly that I could ride her side saddle [bare backed] and double, without even touching the reins. I was ignoring the reins while picking leaves off the overhanging trees, allowing her to stop here and there for the snack I offered her.
As I began riding with more people who were involved in competitions, and getting to see some of the things they accomplished with their horses, I realized I knew, relatively, nothing. I was getting discouraged fast. Of course these people I am talking about had the time and money to invest in training. This was not a luxury I could afford. I was a single mother of three and a single income supporting those three kids and seven horses! I still am progressing, but at a much slower rate than if I had a knowledgeable mentor by my side. Somehow some way, my little Foxy is learning what I want from her and, for now, my little victories are hard won and well celebrated.