Directive one


 

The stalling point

 

So the arena has been stalled at an unusable point for a month due to the construction crews moving to a cow/calf operation project that had to get done before calving. Um, arg.    This has effectively eliminated any chance of riding to days when the footing happens to be perfect in the pasture or on the gravel roads, which doesn’t happen with frequency in February in Iowa.  Of course, before the indoor arena project I had an outdoor arena which I could use with some regularity in winter, but the location of the indoor is where the outdoor was, so I am now effectively hamstrung for riding, until construction begins again in mid-March.

So I’ve been reading.  The latest book is “Dressage Masters, Techniques and Philosophies of Four Legendary Trainers”.  It is an interview book, simply written and it is really wonderful.  I bought it because it has my dressage hero, Klaus Balkenhol, as one of the four, but I’ve found also that the other trainers – Ernst Hoyos, Dr. Uwe Schulten-Baumer and George Theodorescu are equally admirable.  It makes me feel good every time I realize that all good trainers sound fundamentally the same.  They all have first a love of the horse.  That seems obvious, until you meet a trainer who doesn’t love horses.   I bought this book for my Kindle for like $15 or something.

 

Ellen Schulten-Baumer

The quote from it that I want to share with you was spoken by Ellen Schulten-Baumer, whose father, Dr. Uwe Schulten-Baumer, trained her.  She currently has 5 Grand Prix dressage horses in her barn that she and her dad trained from 3 year olds.  I’m just going to share this quote and get out, because I can add nothing to it.  Rock on, people.

 

“I learned something very important from my father.  When a horse doesn’t perform a lesson as expected, I first have to ask myself whether the horse is capable.  If the answer is yes, then I must think about how I apply my aids.  I must use them better so the horse understands exactly what I want.  This may involve riding more preparatory exercises.  If I can’t get it right fairly quickly, then I go to something else.  It is unfair and unproductive to drill a horse; this causes too much physical and mental stress.  I tell my students this also.  If they just can’t get it right, they can think about their aids overnight and try again tomorrow.  Then the horse and rider get a fresh star together.”

 

Bino

 

I took a client’s horse in to ISU Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital today to have radiographs on his front hooves.  He’d been pointing one front leg or the other intermittently over the last few weeks and finally we had to know what was going on.

The radiographs indicated moderate navicular and the prognosis is continuing deterioration and discomfort for the rest of his life.  I’ve had some second-hand experience with navicular disease and I know it isn’t fun for horse or human companion.  I’d suspected navicular and talked with my client yesterday about our options should that be the diagnosis.  We agreed that donating to the vet school for educational use for the students would be an option that at least would yield some benefit to society.  So when I got the news, alone with the vet in front of the glow of the radiographs on the lightbox, I considered a moment and told her of our wishes.  She agreed that navicular can be a difficult road and said she had to talk to administration to see if they were in need of horses right now.

She went off, and after I wiped the tears from my eyes after a sob, I went over to Bino’s stall and rubbed him in all the places he likes to be rubbed.  It isn’t fair, this business of good-minded, gentle souls being placed in bodies that hurt them.  But I didn’t cry around Bino.  I talked in my usual low voice and fed him cookies from my pocket.  He doesn’t need hysterics, he needs a friend to take his mind off his aching feet.  And a real friend to make the hard decision to take the pain away entirely for this lifetime.

The vet came back and said that there was a class starting in 2 weeks where the 4th year students would be learning catheterization and ultrasound techniques.  Since Bino is a good sort, he was a candidate.  They would administer pain killers so that he would not hurt in any way as a result of their occasional misfires in the learning process.  At the end of the term, they would euthanize him.  This wasn’t quite what I had envisioned.  I was thinking of them doing a practice colic surgery and just not reviving him at the end.  But I could get my mind around this plan too.

Difficult decision made, sniffles abated, but the class doesn’t start until October 27th, two and half weeks from now.  He could stay at the vet school or I could take him home and bring him back then.

I brought him home.  We’re going to have cookies.  We’re going to use bute.  We’re going to trail ride every day possible between here and October 26th, when I have to deliver him back to Ames.  I am going to continue to be his pal, even though he is really “only” a training horse to me.  His mom lives pretty far away and may come to see him, but she won’t be here daily.  I’m going to smile and notice butterflies and watch geese fly south from his back during the next two weeks.  I’m going to sing cowboy songs and let him be my hero horse.

And I won’t cry around him.  When my dad was terminal he seemed to really be uncomfortable when people would cry because of his situation.  Of course.  They were thinking of their loss, not really of him, or they’d have brought cookies or board games to cheer him up, even if only momentarily.  So I made him a funny fake news show about John Deere tractors at the television station I worked at during that time, and brought it to him.  He was a JD salesman.  He loved it.  He forgot his troubles for a moment.  It made him remember who he was and made him laugh.  There was time for crying after he was gone.

And the same is true for Bino.  We’re going to put on the big girl panties and enjoy these two weeks with walks in the soft ground of the harvested soybean fields, and I won’t cry in front of Bino.  There’s time for that later.

I run a training barn, so have had horses boarded at my place for a long while.  However, usually I am the one doing most of the riding.  The horses’ owners show up to visit, observe or take a lesson, but mostly, it is just me and the horses.  One of the horses I trained is recently being leased by a person who will be coming out and riding the horse at my place.  She asked me if I could provide a list of barn rules.

Barn rules?  Hmmmm…  Now that’s a good question.  I’ve always disliked barn rules that started with “No” and “Do not.”  They flash me back to the dour church of my youth that emphasized the “Thou shalt not” commandments and glossed blithely over the “You-shall-love-your-neighbor-as-yourself.-There-is-no-commandment-greater-than-this” passages.

I’m just sayin’ that there are two ways to look at communicating rules.  One is to tell the listener what not to do–a written game of “Hot and Cold” with an emphasis on the ‘Cold’– or the rule-giver can provide general guidelines to tell the audience how to decide what to do.  When the rules audience is allowed to take ownership in deciding what to do, it eliminates the need for the myriad “Do nots.”  It also encourages the audience to think about the positive results of their actions, rather than trying to avoid the negative result that is associated with breaking the rules.  Ahhhh.  The joy of clear direction and trust.

In the movie Seven Pounds, there is a scene where Will Smith’s character is watching a hockey practice where a fight breaks out.  The coach whistles loudly to get the players’ attention.  Then he asks the boys where they are.  “This is church sir!”  they yell in unison.  The fighting ceases and they are back to practice.  Where many coaches would have punished the two boys for fighting, thus showing them clearly what they ought not to do, this coach simply reminded them of how they should decide what to do–in this case to use the same set of behavioural rules that they would in church.  He reminded them of the general philosophy of how they should be, rather than punishing them for being what they shouldn’t.  Genius.

So I thought seriously about applying this philosophy to barn etiquette and came up with this to post on the barn door:

Field Day Barn Etiquette

You are entering a sanctuary.

Directive One: Treat all animals, people and equipment with love and respect at all times.

Treat the lawn as if it was the churchyard. If possible avoid taking horses across the lawn when it is wet. If you must cross it when it is wet, go along the west fenceline where the ground is a little higher and dries out more quickly.

Bring cookies.

If possible, leave things a little nicer than when you arrived.

Pitch in where you can.

Praise often.

Change the radio station if you like. Be comfortable.

You can ride on our land. Let us show you where our neighbors have said it is ok to ride on theirs.

Enjoy your horse fully and love on the other ones if you like.

If you borrow something, return it promptly in clean, working order.

If you borrow supplies, replace them promptly with somewhat more than you borrowed.

If you mess up, fess up, quickly and fully. It probably can be fixed if caught early.

If you need help, ask.

If you can give help when asked, do.

When alone and in doubt, ask your Higher Self.

If the gate was closed before you went through it, close it behind you

Communicate quietly and privately if you have a critique or request.

Communicate as enthusiastically and publicly as seems appropriate to you if you have praise.

Greet people.

Smile.

Exhale.

All rules are subservient to Directive One.
Camie


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 33 other followers