Friday, April 30, 2010

Fluid in motion, sound in mind.

I have been thinking about this post for a long time. I know, I know, thinking and doing are two completely different things. But the reason that I have been thinking about this post for so long is that I really did not want it to sound like the same old drivel that I seem to sometimes say.

The reason that I finally decided to write this today, was, there was a woman that was riding by our place on her horse and she was having a few issues with her gelding. I was in the front pasture fixing some fence, and made a comment about her horses lack of cooperation. Not a Rotten comment, more like a factual comment.

You could visibly see how this horse was leaning on the bit and trying to pull the woman out of the saddle. She did ask me what I would do and yes, I did tell her. So I gave her a little lesson on what I would do.

Like I always say, we worked on softening the horses shoulders, getting the rider to lighten her contact on the horses mouth and start using more leg. When the horse did not respond to her leg,I told her to turn her toe towards the center of the ring and use the widest part of her lower leg. After a few gentle tugs on the reins, and learning to use her legs, the results were almost instantaneous.

So why is this called Fluid in motion, sound in mind you may ask?

Many years ago in 1974, I had just turned 11 and I wanted to learn to start horses under saddle. There was a old man, actually at that time he was not that old, that grew up on a ranch and had been starting horses since he was very young. The old guy knew what he was doing on a horse. I had to beg him to teach me and to let me start a few. For the most part I followed him around all day and asked a lot of questions hoping that he would finally give in. And he did that summer. He put me on a young paint horse and let me start him, and as he saw that I had some talent, he started to put me on a few more.

The thing is, I would always watch him work a horse, I was amazed at how fluid the horses were in their movement. When Arnold asked for the lope, the horses just rolled into the transition, they never had to lift their heads up to move into it. His downward transitions were the same,it was as if the horse fell out of the lope and back into the trot.

The horses minds were also sound. It was like they knew that they would never be forced into anything that they did not want to be forced into. When the horses decided it was ready to learn something new, that is when Arnold taught him something new.

I asked Arnold how he did it, and he said he painted a picture in his mind of what he wanted the horse to do and how he wanted the horse to look and worked to, for lack of better words, paint that picture on the canvas.

It was pure art! There simply is no other way to describe it.

I knew then, that I wanted to be a horse trainer.

I when I am working a horse, I always like to close my eyes and picture what I want that horse to look like when I am working them. I like to picture the horse having a fluid motion, on all fronts, be it in transitions, spinning, working a cow or going over jumps. Then as I work the horse I start to make small adjustments until I can feel that we are making progress towards in my mind, what would be the ideal training session for both myself and the horse.

Since I learned that from Arnold, I have always taught my students to close their eyes for a moment and take pause and picture the ideal work session for them and their horse. A sort of meditation when they first get on their horse.

Today, when I gave our neighbor some help, I told her to close her eyes and picture how she wants her horse to work and then work towards that goal. She did and she told me that it allowed her to relax more and let go and focus more on the positive and less on the negative.

She also told me to write a book, so I referred her to the blog!

So, tonight, in a somewhat party atmosphere, I raise a pint to Arnold, wherever you may be, I am forever in your debt for teaching me the one thing that has always been with me throughout my 30+ year professional career in the horse business.


fernvalley01 said...

Her's to Arnold! he taught you well!
One of my favorite tricks to help me get settled on a horse is to close my eyes for a few strides ,seems to help to center me somehow.
Glad to see a new post , and it is never drivel!
btw, FIRST!

SFTS said...

Cheers, Arnold! Is there a party celebration in the Rotten Neighborhood again? I do believe we all could use a party. ;)

GoLightly said...

Yes, please.
Pour me a screwdriver?

Great post, JR, as usual.
Beautiful title.
The title flows like the horse should.

To The Lucky Horses.
Thanks, Arnold.

PrairieFarmer said...

Kick-ass post Mr. Rotten. I'm going to try this technique. After I drink a pint or two, but of course...

kestrel said...

Sigh, okay I'm happy now! What a great post.

When I'm training a horse I always try to keep in mind the beautiful cooperative beastie it'll be when I'm done. Keeps me from getting so frustrated with the day to day misunderstandings involved in getting them from here to there.

Kids are like that, too. The picture in my head of the incredible adults my kids would turn out to be kept me from drowning them as teenagers! (I must fess up, they were great teenagers and are now fabulous adults.)

phaedra96 said...

Here's to Arnold--lifting coffee mug high! I love grabbing on to bits of sage advice and using it as a mantra to live by. And, yes, Kestrel; they do survive. And, so do we. I have yet to figure out how, but we did. Funny thing, while I do not always agree with what they do.....I really like all four of them!!!

rosesr4evr said...

Great post JR!! Keep 'em coming, Lily will be coming home soon and there will be lots of work to do.

Dena said...

You outdid yourself with this one JR.
Is the house across the street still available?
I could use a cutting and a reining coach.
Is it close enough that I could stand on my steps and yell, "Hey JR CnJ just called and she said...?"
Gives you shivers just the thought doesn't it? Forget the rolled up newspaper and the hose. Think cattle prod with a lot of voltage.:)

cattypex said...



Actually, it WAS really great.

Visualization is so very strong, and so many people never even go there.

I guess maybe it's why I love the Centered Riding book soo much.

Your Arnold... wish there were more like him still kickin' around.

JohnieRotten said...

Yes CP

I wish the Arnold was still around. Pretty much everything he taught me I still use today. I just add my own little twist.

And tonights toast goes to Bruce Crockett who I apprentces under in 1983 in Van Alstyne Texas. He too taught me a lot. And slap Floyd Brooks who was another great.

The joys of my youth were that I learned more than I can ever teach.

windingwinds said...

Great post MrRotten, now if I could just find a trainer like you in Indiana. It's so hard to have someone describe things and actually put them into use. Though when we come into that ah ha moment it's totally worth it.

cattypex said...

So true... it's great when someone "speaks your language." I've done a little bit of studying of learning styles, which helps me communicate and listen somewhat better than I used to. Thanks Mom!

And in Eastern Indiana, there are far too many trainers who are no more than peanut roller 4-beat specialists...

rosesr4evr said...

See JR???? I told you that if you moved here you would have a ready made market. Indiana is close enough to Illinois that you could have a full client roster in no time. Plus, it's green here with lots of grass! Always a bonus! Oh and it rarely gets above 90degrees here. Come on! You, CNJ and the girls just move here already! hee hee