WPC…Silhouette

WMSunsetSiblings

“As God is my witness, … I’ll never be hungry again.” -Gone with the Wind, Infinity Farm Version.

*snicker, snicker*

Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.

WordPress Photo Challenge is a weekly prompt to share a photo- I enjoy twisting these macro prompts to share our micro life here on the Colorado prairie. My photos are taken with my phone, on my farm. No psych, definitely not high tech.

You be the Judge.

WMNubeEyeBlue“Too bad about that half pass to the left.”

My horse and I were leaving the arena after my test, reins long and my trademark competition smile: Lips stuck on my gums above my teeth. I had a great horse.

The comment was made by a woman who felt no sympathy at all for that less-than-flawless half pass. We weren’t friends really but she smiled. She might not have shoved herself through the hoops required to show her horse and open herself up to the judgment of others, but she wanted me to know she was capable of recognizing wrong when she saw it.

The first year I showed, when my horse spooked at the letters and ran off with me in each test, she never passed a word my way. But now our hard work was paying off and she developed the habit of letting me know our shortcomings from her enlightened position on the rail. She didn’t show because she could never find a horse good enough.

No hard feelings, I was living my dream. I wanted to be here since watching the rich kids in 4-H at the county fair. It was before I knew there were kids even richer than those kids.

Some riders say they hate the show world, that all competition is wicked and evil. They will never show. Fair enough, it isn’t for everyone. The rant still rings of judgment. Reminder: Pre-judging isn’t the same thing as not judging.

Besides, you can be just as judgmental and not even have to leave the house. It’s open season on riding videos on YouTube. We have free speech, anyone can comment. If we aren’t face to face, is there any reason to hold your tongue? Threaten bodily harm if you want. The truth is that if we didn’t even have horses, we would be still judging other people’s appearance, intelligence, lifestyle. It’s human nature to notice. It’s how we learn and grow our perceptions. Most of all, in the process of judging others, we judge ourselves. Maybe it’s the need to label things as right or wrong that is the most damaging.

Disclaimer: I’m no angel. I have all kinds of judgement. It’s judgement that I even remember this woman’s comment from the rail 20 years ago. Beyond that, my work is about judgement. Giving a riding lesson begins with an assessment of a horse and rider, balancing clarity and honesty with as much understanding and kindness as possible. It would be easier to yell and name-call but I’ve had lessons like that and I notice I didn’t learn much.

Competing your horse is about being your best self when it matters. It’s hard. It takes discipline. It builds character. Maybe the best reason to show is that it changes the view from the rail. It changes who you are with your horse and it gives you a chance to change your view of others. Is re-compassionize a word?

There’s an old adage -if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. I go with that only if you are in such a rage that your eye is twitching and you spit when you speak. Short of that level of anger, I disagree. It makes us passive aggressive and we languish, lifting ourselves up by standing on others.

Yes, this is a parable. There are bigger things in the world than showing horses. It’s been a mean summer, stressful with lots of challenge and loss. And entirely too many harsh armchair judgements on anyone or anything that falls short, touted by pundits who have nothing on the line. It makes me tired. It will always be easier to shoot down someone else than find the strength to stand up and be vulnerable.

My first riding mentor was also a judge, and she was very clear. She said it was a cheap shot to look for faults. Any idiot could pick them out, it took no special perception to tell which horse was struggling. In the end, you would be left mitigating failures and giving the blue ribbon to the least bad. She encouraged me to look for what I liked and affirm that. Judge the best in the ride, let your eye rest there and ignore the everything else.

Being critical of others makes us earthbound with self-loathing judgement, thinly veiled in our criticism of others. And focusing on the worst just breeds more. How does that feel? Maybe it’s time to sit up straight.

Judgement is really a vote of how you see the world; how you want the world to be. The most votes win and you can vote as often as you like. Consider what’s at stake. Sometimes in the dark, rising up and casting an unlikely vote can change everything.

Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Texture

 

WMEdgareye

There is texture on the surface that is ruffled. It might be fluffy or prickly, sleek or unkempt. Some patches are chewed off and some stick straight up. It might even change colors.

There is a window we can look through to see the texture on the inside: velvety, mushy, feathery soft… Edgar.

Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.

WordPress Photo Challenge is a weekly prompt to share a photo- I enjoy twisting these macro prompts to share our micro life here on the Colorado prairie. My photos are taken with my phone, on my farm. No psych, definitely not high tech.

What does the horsie say? Seriously.

WMHannahHugOur barn rat, Hannah, didn’t meet the horses her first visit to the farm. She was only 3 days old. We waited till her second visit later that week. It was love at first sight for all of us. By the time she was toddling and learning to talk, she knew all the horse’s names. Her parents taught her the animal sound game, “What does a horsie say?” Hannah’s answer was a high-pitched, arching trill, “Nei-ay-ay-agh!” Her voice is so high that it is almost inaudible to anyone but the dogs.

Warning: Do not be fooled by the tutu. Don’t let the pink-themed wardrobe distract you. Don’t let the near toxic level of cuteness cancel out the message.

With the parent’s game over, Hannah wandered down the stall row and came to Grace’s pen. The mare met her at the gate with her nose toddler high and gave her one of those deep growl-y mare nickers. Almost a moan, slow and quiet. And Hannah answered her back. The toddler’s voice droped so low that she almost sounded possessed. Which she clearly was. But not in a bad way. “Uuh-oo-oo-uuh” came from behind Hannah’s belly button and barely cleared her lips. But Grace heard it.

Hannah is bi-lingual. She has one answer for humans, and a separate answer for horses. She is that smart.

Disclaimer: I think kids are kind of in the same boat as mini horses. They are fully complete, sentient creatures who know as much as anyone else and deserve respect, but we see them as pint-sized caricatures of the real thing and diminish them. What if Hannah shares that deep well of intuitive knowledge that horses do, and just lacks the superficial communication skills that we adults use? The horses seem to think she is communicating fine.

Most of us have had that experience of seeing horses take care of little kids. The same horses that are a total handful for adults who ‘know how to ride’. At the same time, we remember riding as kids, free and effortless. We knew less and got more from our horses. When did riding get so complicated? What have we forgotten?

Hannah is right, we do need to use a separate language for horses. They don’t speak English just because they can take a canter cue from the word Canter! Responding to a verbal cue is good, but was it the actual word they understood, or your body language before the word? We can chatter away at them; we can coo and cluck with our horses and feel just great. Don’t mistake that with a real relationship based in a shared language beyond words, spoken with our bodies and our intentions. A trainer can’t literally teach relationship, they can only try to inspire a rider to feel it, and then acknowledge it when a horse and rider have the experience. Trainers are translators.

If humans are the more evolved species (the jury is out on that but going with that assumption,) then it is up to us to move beyond our more limited senses and evolve our language to meet the horse. More importantly, if we want to progress farther with our horses, we have to communicate even more eloquently. Just getting louder doesn’t work.

How many times do we climb on a horse and then talk about him behind his back. We sit in the saddle and ignore him, while we have an intense mental conversation with ourselves about our horses. We check mental lists of technique and we put dark thought into anxiety or worry. Our critical thoughts run like a rat on a wheel, while we pander to our worst opinions of ourselves.

How is the ride going so far? Is this any different than texting and driving?

Let’s focus on us first. Take a body check. Are you sound? Is your body soft and open, or does tension in your shoulders cut off you off at the neck? Are your hips tight and restrictive on the ground? Don’t expect a horse to do their best work if you are lame or stiff.

Slow down, take some time and breathe. Inflate your ribs, let them be elastic. Exhale out the day’s drama. Inhale and know that you have all the time you need. Exhale out any erratic human emotions. Inhale and know you are fine as you are. Exhale and feel balance in your body. Here and now, reset yourself to less judgement and more acceptance. Less thinking and more feeling. Less correction, more direction. Be. Here. Now.

By the time you get to the mounting block, know that you are crossing a border into another country. You can play the ugly American, talking loud and looking for a McDonalds for lunch, or you can open your mind and learn the local customs. The best trips are the ones where both sides respect and learn. And the sum of these parts make a better world.

It’s the one thing that all my clients say they want most of all: A better relationship with their horse. Take a cue from Hannah. If you want to have a more elite connection with your horse, develop your nicker.

Meanwhile, Hannah and Grace are still at the gate. It isn’t about treats, and it isn’t that the mare can’t leave if she wants. They are being together. They are acknowledging each other by sharing breath, sharing time, and sharing their heart’s language. Existing in the present moment without expectations or demands is an art form. Respect the masters.

Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.

WPC: ZigZag

WMMane

A chestnut zigzag. Well, more of a wave pattern, but we are not very angular here. And this color isn’t one color, rather a range of color. Who cares? A horse mane, so what?

I am betting if you are a horse person, tried and true, this is your favorite place to put your nose. You want to lean in close and still, just inhale and be there.

If you are a horse person, you want this photo to come in a scratch and sniff version.

Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.

WordPress Photo Challenge is a weekly prompt to share a photo- I enjoy twisting these macro prompts to share our micro life here on the Colorado prairie. My photos are taken with my phone, on my farm. No psych, definitely not high tech.

Dressage: Cackling at the Canter.

WMBeachAttire

Beach attire for the serious dressage rider.

In the 80’s, I marched with the Ladies Against Women. Do you know the organization? They were a national group and there were two ways to join: You needed a permission note from your father, or a permission note from your husband. We marched in the Denver Do-Dah Parade, somewhere between the Lawn Chair Drill Team and the Basset Hound Rescue who had a dozen Bassets marginally harnessed and somewhat pulling an Iditarod dog sled. The Ladies Against Women carried signs with slogans like I’d rather be ironing. and 59¢ is too much. One of us was pregnant and barefoot, and we all seemed a bit shocked being out of our kitchens.

Things were going well until someone took us seriously and threw their soda. My pink sponge rollers got all sticky. And to think that feminists have a reputation for having no sense of humor… Pashaw.

Now here I am a few decades later, again affiliated with a group rumored to have no sense of humor. I’m not sure where Dressage got it’s stodgy reputation. Is it our age? We have been around for a very long time, being the mother of so many other riding disciplines. Is it that silly shadbelly coat and white breeches? It’s just tradition. I think you western riders understand that, taking so much pride in your hats the way you do. Besides, any rider who wears white obviously has a sense of humor.

In a way, a sense of humor is in our bylaws. The foundation of our Dressage Training Pyramid requires the horse has to be working through it’s back freely, relaxed and forward. Some riders read the small print differently, but we begin horses with the premise that a horse must be physically and mentally free from tension or constraint in order to use itself to the fullest. Give me a minute, I’m getting to the funny part.

Relaxed + forward = Happy horse. It’s a result you can’t get by fighting or intimidating your partner. If the horse needs relaxation, then the rider has to display it first. We carry all of our emotions in our bodies; in a sense we cue with our emotions. The horse hears the rider’s feelings louder than the actual cue most of the time. The best riding position in the world can’t make up for negative emotions in the saddle.

Are you in a perfection death spiral? The harder you try, the worse it gets, the more you want it, the harder you push, the harder you push, the more he resists. By now your sit bones are driving into your horses back like a cinder block and no kind of expensive saddle pad will lessen the pain. Your horse thinks you are a humorless Asshat. (Doesn’t that word make you smile?)

Be deadly serious about your riding. There is no denying how much it matters to all of us. But discipline yourself to laugh it off; find a way to ride with a light heart. If you want to control something, start with your emotions. Don’t do it for the judge or your trainer. Do it for your horse because a happy seat in the saddle feels better to him. Period. There is no better reason.

Riding appears effortless when we relax and ride like we don’t care. Yes, it is a lie, we all care too much. That’s the point. Spare your horse your elite riding dreams and play instead. Laugh your way to advanced movements. Yes, it’s counter intuitive, but riding is fun, remember?

The reason that we need to be serious about having a sense of humor should be obvious by now. You can’t force a horse to relax. Trying to force anything around a horse doesn’t work and makes you look like a jerk. Then the doorway to good work shrinks to the size of an eye of a needle. You can’t kick your way through that.  You are on a very slippery slope here and it’s your job to lead your horse to a better place. Yes, it takes patience and time to train a horse. But a sense of humor does make time pass more quickly.

Let your horse volunteer his best work, lightly and freely. Asked for by a light, happy seat and rewarded with a genuine smile and praise from the heart. Good Boy. Even if it’s not perfect, it’s a step in the right direction. Show your horse some praise and see what he returns to you.

While we are training them, our horses are training us right back. They teach us about humility first, humor makes that lesson easier to swallow.

The truth is to succeed at anything involving a horse you need a lightness of heart. Our passion for riding is deadly cruel without it. But serious isn’t the same as stodgy. Focused isn’t the same as dull. Most of all, forced isn’t the same as volunteered. Be deadly serious about riding, but do it with a chuckle and a guffaw. If nothing else, people will think you’re crazy and you’ll get more private arena time.

Crank up the music. None of the stodgy classical stuff, let your horse pick something out of your comfort zone on the AM dial. Find that saddle pad with the ducks on it and get out the rainbow leg wraps. Let out a howling whoop when you get that extended trot or cackle like a chicken at the canter. Wear a happy face on your full seat breeches and be a member of the Laughing Seat Riding Society. Your horse will write the permission note.

Lighten up, this is Dressage!

Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Summer Lovin’

WMLlamaFootSoak

In the Summer, we are Lovin’ a good foot soak. Longer daylight hours, more lessons taught and hot boots for toe safety, so at the end of day nothing eases like a foot soak. Belle usually beats me to it.

And yes, it is a stock tank, but the horses don’t seem to mind the flavored water.

Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.

WordPress Photo Challenge is a weekly prompt to share a photo- I enjoy twisting these macro prompts to share our micro life here on the Colorado prairie. My photos are taken with my phone, on my farm. No psych, definitely not high tech.