Wednesday 27 January 2016

Misunderstandings, mirrors and musings about "naughty" horses

As a child I was ridiculously shy. I find it funny now but let me tell you, I sure didn't back then. Going to the shop was a freaking ordeal as I had to ask for the stuff to be passed to me which was pretty much as nerve wracking as sitting on a bolting horse heading for a motorway. The days I could go to self-service places were Christmas and birthdays all rolled into one. I hated making phone calls to people I didn't know and starting any kind of conversation was just painful.
I also much preferred to listen and watch rather than talk which I do think somehow had helped me be fairly ok at my job now (at which I do waffle a lot of course! ;) ).
However, this created an interesting misunderstanding...I kept going on being that shy kid who just didn't initiate any chat until a mother of one of my school friends told me I was very arrogant...It was a bit of a news to me! I quite dreamt of being a little bit arrogant! Perceptions vs reality can be very much apart.

On Una, a mare with an interesting character, personality and various training challenges. Whenever my teaching and riding schedule allows, I only ride her first or last as she likes it so ;) Always full of surprises and questions but incredibly rewarding horse to work with. 

Onto horses now. Maybe it's my own experiences and maybe it's the fact I like to know exactly how things get to be as they are and why they are so but I have never been keen on making horses into some supernatural creatures that plan to be "fc***g annoying" and "d*cks" , "tw**s" and "being difficult" and "putting a show on" etc etc

The way I see it, in most situations (for sure there will be some exceptions) horses learn what works, and what doesn’t work. They are intelligent animals that quickly figure out how to get what they want whether it be grass, field mates, food, peace of mind...They have emotions that can override their judgements of situations and they have instincts that can override everything they were ever taught.
They almost always are our mirrors whether we want it or not or whether we realise it or not. Now, don't get me wrong, I am not saying we are afraid of carrier bags and that piece of wool on the floor that is slightly different colour to the rest of the arena surface. We do, however, carry many subconscious thoughts about huge amount of seemingly little details - about ourselves and about the horse we ride, about other people "judging" how we perform, about how we think we/the horse should look-so-it-looks-like-it-works-well etc - and I bet one could condition any horse owner to be a little anxious when presented with a Bag For Life if they always sat on a flighty horse during the sighting ;)
Horses mirror our emotional state, our state of mind and ability to deal with it or not, our level of confidence in own skills and in general meaning of the word. They also seem to understand when the rider really wants to help or is simply demanding something because "this is how it's got to be".

Some riders prefer not to ride when they don't feel 100% or when they feel irritated or angry. Sometimes this is a good idea. Sometimes maybe it would be a good lesson to try to empty ones mind of all thoughts and just ride, feel the horse and be in a moment, like they are.

I used to school horses for other people on regular basis but learnt that it was not always beneficial to describe what I did with them even if the owners asked and *thought* they wanted to know. I learnt that what many of those horse owners really wanted was results, not to know how they were achieved...

Nowadays, I only agree to school horses if the owners are willing to at least try to continue to work with the horse along the similar lines. With some exceptions, I limit my feedback to essential information and noticed that it works just fine.

If you try to do something logical, learning theory based or emotionally neutral with horses it's often perceived as weak or hippy or nicey-nicey. Basically no good in "proper training".  However, if it works and the horse improves, all is fine in the world.
So - if you work with horses using methods other than those based on the belief the equine species need to be dominated by an alpha member but your methods work, I would say keep on them and only chat about some main stuff that you do ;)

It's an interesting concept in itself as to why many owners prefer to have their horses' "shit sorted" and "put in place" rather than for them to be understood and trained. Perhaps it's not that dissimilar to choosing to stereotype a shy kid as an arrogant one...but hey ho, I decided it's a problem that's not for me to solve ;)



Monday 18 January 2016

Settling in, answering your questions and Instagram project

I'm writing to you from my little cottage and the silence here is such a wonderful change after sirens filled London air. It's 1am ish, Sunday night and I have a changed schedule with no teaching tomorrow, just a bit of admin and tax duties to see to, none of each require an early morning alarm so I am making the most of the night time peace and quiet to bring you a little update ;)

Cottage :) 

Let's start with answering your questions. I don't know whether it's because it's winter and people lose motivation easily but I got a few emails recently asking if I ever feel like I don't want to teach anymore or don't want to ride anymore and if I ever feel like getting a different job. 

The short answer is: no. 

However, I would lie if I said I never ever have any moments of doubt and wondering if I am doing the right thing. Of course I do. Those moments are not necessarily related to teaching or riding but to many activities one has to focus on when being self-employed. Organising my teaching schedules, times, horses, commute, accounts - none of these things are something I enjoy much. 

There are jobs that save lives. Mine is hardly that. Once in a while I might entertain a fleeting thought of giving it all up, packing a backpack and hitting some trails. Escape all problems, decisions, responsibilities. I reckon my riders might miss my lessons for a bit but there are many very good instructors out there. Sooner or later they would find the right person to teach them and have equally good time they have now. 

So yes, I do have these thoughts sometimes but they never last. I think that if you find something to do in your life that brings some joy to others and inspire you to be better and better in what you do, you will never have strong enough reasons to quit. 

If you have those questions and doubts over and over again, you probably haven't found the right path...If you have them once in a while, I think it's normal. It's just your own brain trying to keep your stress levels down by tempting you with less demanding options. Tell it to shut up ;) 

So that is that. As honest as it can get ;) 

As far as updates go I am relieved to finally move everything over to one place and I am looking forward to settling in for a bit! I might be a nomad in everyday life but I love having one place to come back to. There is potentially a very exciting opportunity on the horizon about which I am both intrigued and unsure. It is one of those things that can turn up as life changing or life destroying ;) I will let you know in due course if anything comes out of this. 

A few new riders will start their adventures with the Academy this month and I hope I will be able to open more places soon so I don't have to turn people away due to lack of suitable horses or time slots. All these enquiries make me wonder what I could create if I had the right facility to work on! 

As this blog stays quieter this year I thought I would try to get Aspire's Instagram account going and try some photo updates for those of you who miss the blog posts. 

Here is the link if you would like to follow: - they say a photograph is worth a thousands words so hopefully this photo project will do as a regular posts replacement ;) 

I am counting days to my puppy! It might need its own Instagram when it's finally here! (Only joking ;).

Until next time!


Monday 4 January 2016

Day 365/2015 - Day 4/2016: New Year's Re(v)olutions, living between houses and making things happen

For the last month and a half I've been doing part-time flat sitting in London for a friend and part-time dropping in at our new cottage. This has meant quite a few back and fro, a LOT of packing and preparing the flat for viewings in between the packing chaos. I feel like I moved not once but twice in a short space of time ;) Not exactly a novelty for me but still quite a few logistical challenges to deal with. Not my forte.

Today I managed to leave my phone, bank card, Oyster card and advanced train tickets at the cottage after getting a lift back to London. I got off the car and strolled into the tube station just to realise I had no way of getting to the London flat with no Oyster Card, no bank card and no phone to call anyone. It is just as well I tend not to take life's troubles too seriously because I think I would be quite close to just sitting down in the middle of the road, cry and beg a random taxi driver for a lift for free ;) It occurred to me that women who cry easily over anything have it sorted in life :-P
Not my forte either.

Instead I had a little chat with a Tube attendant (about the weather of course because in England, even if you are facing 8 hours walk to your destination, you still got to chat about the weather) who laughed at me but of course would not let me in. Having searched through all my pockets and backpack I scraped enough for a single tube ticket so managed to get back to the flat (Tube attendant seemed relieved I didn't plan to camp at the station), get some next day's organisation in place (thanks to my fab friends here) and reminded myself not to be an idiot in the future and not to keep all the essentials in my phone case! And have some cash on me sometimes for god's sake.

So yes. That aside I thought I would share some of my New Year's Re(v)olutions seeing this is my last "daily" post on here for some time. It seems right to finish the 365 posts project with the plans for 2016...

In my head, I shall call these plans Revolutions because let's face it, who ever sticks with any resolutions beyond 31st January...

My non-horse-life plan for this year include...:
Learn to get the most out my new camera and take more interesting photos. Catch more moments.
Buy some acrylic paints and canvases and paint again. Just for fun.
Get a puppy.
Make the cottage into a nice little home.
And a few more but hey, it's a horse blog after all so I won't bore you with the other stuff ;)

The horse-life plans for this year include:

Continue to develop the Academy project by involving two more instructors to work alongside me on regular basis. Make sure I work with the right people and not let them go ;) - the right people are the making or the breaking of any initiative.
Take on 2 more Academy horses/schoolmasters
Open more places on the programmes to more riders.
Continue to learn and always keep improving my teaching and riding skills.
Make my riders' 2016 goals happen
Make the Brackenhill training camps into a regular feature for riders across all the Academy programmes.
Organise more training camps at interesting yards/venues around the UK.
Keep my business head on with the monthly brainstorm meetings with S and G.
Keep searching for the right base yard in the right location for my London riders that could carry the project to the next stage.

The "maybe" plans include...

Buying a project horse to train and to keep as Academy horse...

The "always" plans include...

Stay true to my training values. Always. No matter how much someone is willing to pay for short-cuts...
Never settle for the "good" for too long. Strive for the "better".
Be brave to keep making changes. Even if at first they are hard to deal with.

This blog plans...

Come back with updates each month :) Share some stories. Thoughts and views. Keep you all happy :)

Have a great year! Speak soon....

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