Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Take Time to Observe: Part Two

Last spring I had the chance to observe a bit of a clinic by Kathleen Lindley. Two weeks ago I found this book, In The Company of Horses at a bookstore going out of sale and was so excited. It was by Kathleen Lindley! I hope to ride in, or at least just audit, one of her clinics next year.

Kathleen was Mark Rashid's assistant for a while and this book is a kind of journal of her experiences. It is a bit philosophical or pyschological in nature. I am really enjoying it. Here are a few quotes from the book that I found thought-provoking.

"We don't think our horse has anything of value to communicate, we misinterpret what he's saying, or we don't let him finish his thought and then speak for him. This desire the horse has to communicate with us is one of those things that we sometimes try to take away from him when we're working with him. I know when I was growing up with horses, I didn't really care why they did what they did (buck or throw his head, for instance); I just wanted them to stop it. These days, I wonder why a horse is spending all that energy on that kind of behavior, when he's a prey animal designed to conserve energy until it's needed in a flight situation."

 {photo credit: Ranch Boy's 5 year old daughter}

"I wanted my horse to move, to do athletic things, but I used equipment to hinder his movement. I knew my horse was smart enough to figure out how to open a gate latch, but didn't think he was smart enough to pick up the correct lead. I saw him gallop and play energetically in the pasture, but thought him lazy in his work. I spent so much time thinking about what he wasn't doing for me that I couldn't see what he was doing for me."

"As much as we horseman talk of 'partnership' with our horses, I feel like we don't really want  'partnership' in the true sense. We don't want to work with an equal, we want our 'partner' to be subordinate. At least that's how it looks to me, from where I am. We call our horse a good 'partner' as long as he does what we ask and as long as he allows us to hold the upper hand in the relationship. A horse that won't allow that is called 'rank', 'stubborn', 'lazy', or disrespectful.' But I think the very same horse could be asking the rider to do better, to find a clearer way of explaining things, or improve his horsemanship in some way."

Something Buck Brannaman says in his clinics, and in his movie, is that "our horses are a mirror to our soul." Funny how My Boy didn't want to be caught and in general is a bit stubborn. Sounds like someone else I know....

{photo credit: Ranch Boy's 5 year old daughter}

In thinking about how much our horses, and their behavior when we are handling and riding them, are a reflection of ourselves can be summed up in these thoughts from Kathleen's book:

"Because horses are they way they are, if we're serious about our horsemanship, I think that we end up living our horsemanship. Mark calls this idea 'horsemanship through life.' As an example of this concept, if we find we're not very patient with our horse, we're probably not very patient in the rest of our lives. If we are perhaps really good at sensing a horse's needs, we're probably pretty good at sensing the needs of people around us. Horses have a funny way of exposing the areas in our lives that need work, and I don't think that they buy it when we live our lives one way and act another when we're around them. I think they can see that coming a mile off, and they don't like it. When I began working for Mark, I sometimes heard him say, 'How we practice is how we'll go.' I think in part he meant that we can't, say, live our lives in turmoil and then expect to be calm and thoughtful around our horses. We can't expect to bring to our horses the skills and qualities of character that we don't practice in everyday life. If that's true, maybe the time and place to practice our horsemanship is not just in the two hours we're with the horses, it's also in the twenty-two hours of the day that we're not."

I hope you have enjoyed these reflections and thoughts on horsemanship and observing horse behavior. If you are into this kind of thing (and not everyone is, I realize) try reading Kathleen's book or one of Mark Rashid's. I think the more perspectives we learn about when it comes to understanding and partnering with our equine friends, the better horseman we'll become in the end.

I think at times we all feel frustrated, like we'll never be the great rider, trainer, horseman that we aspire to be. I don't think that I'll ever be great, but I know I can be better and build on the foundation I have. I can learn to read my horse better, to communicate my cues to him better, to develop a sense of feel and understanding when it comes to applying pressure and release. And most of all, to take time to observe him, understand how he ticks, so that we can find some common ground and have a partnership to enjoy for years to come.

Have a great weekend everyone. It's Rodeo time around these parts and I can't wait!!

Ranch Girl


Crystal said...

I have heard alot about Mark Rashis and he sounds very good. i do agree we need to listen to our horses more to find out what we are doing wrong that makes the horse misbehave and how we can fix it for them.

Reddunappy said...

I will have to look up Rashid.

I was lucky to meet Buck at his movie premier in Portland, He signed both of my books by him. The movie was good.

Anonymous said...

I've been fortunate to have ridden with Mark on a number of occasions over the past 7 years, and to have audited other times - I try to ride with him or see him work every time he's in our area, and have taken horses to Colorado twice for week-long clinics. When I started riding with Mark, Kathleen was still his assistant, so I've worked with her too.

Mark's way of working with horses is extremely effective, and his way of thinking about horses and life has make an enormous difference to me. If anyone's interested, there are posts about the three most recent clinics I've audited (2009 and 2010) and ridden in (2011) on the sidebar of my blog.

I've never seen Harry Whitney work, and very much want to get to do that some day.

baystatebrumby said...

thanks for posting these quotes! I also like Mark Rashid. I have several of his books. Some of his stories can bring tears to my eyes.

Laura said...

interesting stuff -thanks for posting. I'll have to look into those books - kind of nice to have some different ways of looking at things.

C-ingspots said...

Loved these thoughts...and your pictures!!