Blah, Blah, Blah

We were visiting with another couple at dinner one night when the conversation turned to upcoming horsemanship type clinics and then to past clinics. This couple had watched several of the past clinics and were commenting on the differences in delivery of material by the various clinicians.  Because of this couples background, they hone in on teaching styles that work well for them.  If the delivery fits them, the material seems to make more sense.  They feel like they “get it” better.

I think that we are all that way to some degree. We may not be able to verbalize why a particular teacher can reach us while another doesn’t  but, we know it when it happens.  Amy and I have been helping people become better horsemen and horsewomen for quite some time now.  We’ve tried to develop ourselves by learning how to better understand what Tom Dorrance and Ray Hunt had presented for all those years.  We feel like we can only teach to the level we’ve reached ourselves.  If we truly understand what we are trying to present, it’s easier for us to put it in a form that our student can understand.

We may all have been put in a learning environment with an instructor that was just repeating what they had heard or read. The learning experience is lessened for many of the students because the instructor hasn’t lived what they are teaching.  There is no comparison between that instructor and an instructor that has lived what they are teaching and made mistakes living it.  That second instructor can really impart what’s important in a lesson because life has helped them sort out much of the static.  And, that good instructor has probably practiced what they teach so they can not only verbalize what’s important, they can perform.

In adult education, the adults have often chosen the subject matter they are willing to pay to learn. In horsemanship, there are as many opinions as there are horsemen.  It’s not hard to find “salesmen” telling you that their “method” is the one true way to better horsemanship.  Amy and I prefer to let the horse serve as the screen that filters fact from fiction.  We watch the horseman’s horse.  If that horse has a good expression, is relaxed, and stays in a good frame-of-mind when performing, we listen to that horseman.  If not, what that horseman is saying comes out blah, blah, blah.  If it’s not real for the horse, we’re just not interested!

A horseman’s horseman is coming to our area November 7th for 3 days.  Joe Wolter is one of those rare instructors that is as interested in teaching as he is in his horsemanship.  His horses happily perform at the highest levels, a sign that he truly understands how to reach them.  He’s lived what he teaches and can not only talk about what he’s learned; he can do what he talks about; he can communicate to you what you need to know.  His clinic will have 3 classes:  colt starting/green horses, horsemanship, and cattle working/ranch roping.  If you ride in one, you’re welcome to watch the others.  Don’t miss out on a good opportunity to experience horsemanship at a higher level.  The clinic will be held at Spicer Arena.  It’s one of the premier facilities in Colorado and the folks that operate it are super to work with.  If you’d like more information, contact Amy LeSatz by email at amy-steve@bridle-bit.com.  We look forward to riding with you!!

The Comfort Zone

We attended a couple of after Christmas, after New Year parties on Saturday afternoon and evening. Thank you to Kristi and Christy for being such wonderful and gracious hostess’.  Believe it or not, we are not really very social people.  We love visiting with people one-on-one but, crowds in non-business social situations are pretty overwhelming to us.  This year is a year where we’ve vowed to stretch ourselves out of our comfort zones and give things that we normally shy away from a chance.  A real chance, not the “okay I tried that for 10 seconds” kind of chance.  These parties were the first of many situations we intend to put ourselves in so we can teach ourselves how to be more comfortable where before we were not.

While working with a young lady and her horse this week, we had a similar conversation.  The mare she rides has been with us for about a month and we’ve worked to try to get her to be less defensive in a few areas.  This mare had been stretched way out of her comfort zones pretty early in life and had learned how to defend herself by getting pretty crabby when she thought someone was going to try to stretch her again.  So, the conversation we were having was about when is it appropriate to push a little and when should we back off a little.

No easy answer here.  Experience and feel will tell you the most and give you the best judgement.  But, as the old story is told, the best way to get good judgement is through some bad experiences, so you may have to push a little too far to find the line.  Likewise, you may back off a little too early and create some stuff you work through later.  In general, when I’m asking a horse to do something out of its comfort zone, I offer it to them the best way I know how and try to let them find it.  As long as they are trying, I’m good with continuing to just offer.  If they quit trying, I find another way to make the offer until I find the one that makes sense to my horse.  Keep in mind, I’m not asking for something that’s impossible, just a little something that my horse hasn’t seen before.

So, we’re going to push ourselves out of our comfort zones as much as we can this year.  I think we’ll learn a lot about ourselves by doing it.  Maybe, like the horse, we’ll end up more confident and more comfortable in more situations.  We’ll have a much larger comfort zone to work in!

It Doesn’t Have To Be That Way

Yesterday, Amy and I had the opportunity to work at Blue Roof Equestrian Center.  We had the chance to get our hands on a couple of horses that we hadn’t worked with before and a couple that we hadn’t worked with very much.  I know that it sounds a little crazy but, we live for the chance to try our “stuff” on horses that haven’t been exposed to us.  It’s really re-affirming when we see some nice changes in new horses in a short amount of time.

One of the horses I rode was a really nice bay mare.  This mare had been injured and the owner had spent a lot of time bringing her back.  She’d done a great job in spending the time to allow the horse to get sound again.

One of the things that showed up as we were working together was that the mare wouldn’t hold the trot.  She wanted to speed up and then lope.  When she found the lope she got more comfortable so, would stay at about the same speed in it.

This mare has been ridden with contact on the bit most of her life.  It looked to me like she’d learned to live with it, and ignore it.  She and her rider were leaning on each other and any signal given through the reins wasn’t making it to her feet.

When I got on this mare, she got pretty excited and really wanted to move her feet.  It gave me the opportunity to check out how much it was going to take to get her thinking back to my seat through the reins.  I didn’t pick up on the reins unless I wanted a change in her feet and I started with changing my seat before I touched the reins.  Wow!  What a difference it made.  In just a little while, she and I were trotting around the arena on a loose rein.  She really began to listen to my seat and would transition down softly, soft in the face, soft in the feet.

She was a great example to me of how amazingly adaptable the horse is.  She also showed me how much the relief of the release really means to the horse.  Just because she had been ridden a certain way most of her life didn’t mean to her that she needed to be ridden that way for the rest of her life.  She knew that it didn’t have to be the way it was as soon as it was offered.

Thinking Time

This time of year I have too much time to think.  My day gets filled with more of the routine chores that are necessary to keep a ranch running and less of the activities that keep me busy doing what I need to get done now so I can get to the next 10 things on my list for that day.  In many respects I enjoy the slow-down in activities.  My body gets a chance to recover from the months of over-exertion and I have time to work on projects that I was too busy to do when there was so much to do.

It’s a good time of year to catch-up with people that we don’t have a chance to see when we are all running so many different directions and paths seldom cross.  For us, it all starts around Thanksgiving with family gatherings and continues through Christmas, New Year celebrations, and the Western/English Sales Association (WESA) market in January.

When I get to visiting with people about what they are doing, so much of it sounds good and like a lot of fun.  I want to join in.  The problem is that I don’t take into account that their situation is often very different from ours so, what they do works well for them but, wouldn’t work well for us.  It takes a while for my mind to catch-up with that reality.  In the mean-time, I have too much time to consider all the possibilities and I make myself a little more crazy than I already am.  The good news is, sooner or later, I come back to reality and a sense of balance.

I think the same thing happens to people and their horses.  Riders will talk to other riders about what they are doing with their horses and they want to give it a try.  Good!  As long as the activity is appropriate for the type of horse they are riding and that the horse has a good foundation.  My goal is to have horses that I can do just about anything on.  That doesn’t mean that on the first try we’ll be any good.  But, it’s a little test to see what part of the foundation needs to be improved.  As the foundation gets more solid, I expect the outcome to be better.  For me, it’s the return to the foundation that’s important.  If I’m thinking about what part of the foundation will help improve my outcomes, I’ll never get to far away from what works.  But, like I said, I think too much this time of year.

 

Why Attend A Clinic?

Amy has been working on our schedule for the first quarter of 2013.  Each year she tries to make sense out of a mish-mash of events that we know will occur, those that may occur, and those we’d like to make happen.  She looks at other events that are scheduled in this area and the other areas that we work.  She tries to weave us into the fabric of all of the other horse activities.  It’s no easy task and she struggles for days to try to make sense of it all.

We’ve explored the question of, “Why do people attend clinics?”  In answer to that question we’ve looked at education, exploration, and socialization.  There are the folks that really want to improve their horsemanship, riding ability, and/or partnership with their horses.  Other folks are looking for something different to do with their horses and a clinic or two exposes them to something different.  Others are seeking a place to enjoy the company of other like-minded people enjoying their horses as a means of recreation.  In my mind, all three reasons are valid.  Therefore, any combination of those reasons would be valid too.

What people expect when attending a clinic is something I know that I don’t have a good handle on.  Expectation is a funny thing.  For me, when I attend a clinic, I’m looking for one thing that will help me become better with many horses.  I’d bet that for others, they are looking for several things that will help them with the one or two horses they ride often.  I don’t think that those expectations are at opposite ends of an expectation scale.  Rather, they are probably pretty close together depending on the experience of the rider.  The same nugget that I glean from my clinic experience may give another less experienced rider several nuggets.

I don’t know that I’ve answered the question about why people attend clinics but, I hope that I have added to the discussion.  We would be very interested to know your motivations and expectations.  I do know that we appreciate very much those that attend our clinics.  Each of you add immeasurably to our education.  Whether teaching a clinic or attending one as a student, we are always in a learning mode.  We hope to see you at one of our clinics in 2013.  Bring a friend!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all of you from all of us at Bridle Bit. We’ve got our big inventory clearance sale going on today. Hope you can come by and save up to 70% on some really high quality gear for your horses and some really nice clothing and jewelry for you.

Speaking of you, I spend a lot of time in this blog talking about horses and how we try to get them better. A real fact of horsemanship is that the horse will always meet you at your level. What I mean is that a really well-trained horse will operate at a lower percentage of his knowledge and skills with an inexperienced rider while a very handy rider can make a pretty green colt look very experienced. My point is that I hope that we can all resolve that in 2013 that we’re going to spend a little bit more time and resources on ourselves. Getting ourselves more comfortable using more of the resources our horses have to offer us. GO YOU!!

I heard on the radio this morning that the best and the brightest, yes I mean our elected officials, caught us a tiny little branch sticking out from the side of the fiscal cliff wall. I know that they knew that the branch was there because they built the cliff. It’s just amazing PR work when you can convince people you’re saving them from something you created while denying that you had anything to do with the creation. I want some of that moxie!!

That situation made me wonder how many “cliffs” I’m building for myself in my world. I think I’ll take some time this year to clean-up some of my messier corners. And, I’m going to watch for “cliffs” with the horses I ride in 2013. No shortcuts, good foundations, great working partnerships.

Last thought for the day…..I resolve for 2013 to remember who my partners are and to spend the time it takes to get council from them. No matter what the world says and does, I’m going to do my best to remind myself that God is in charge and is my greatest ally. I can relax and let the world go crazy around me because I can take comfort in Him. Amy is my greatest earthly partner and together we’ll work our tails off to go the direction God points us. We’ll knock on the doors, we’ll go through the open ones and accept the closed ones. My horse partners still have so much to teach me this year. I resolve to listen! Happy New Year!!

The Offer

I’ve been riding a nice, smart, athletic Arabian gelding.  His owner had asked us to ride him to give her an idea of what he was best suited for and to “fix” some of the behaviors he had that made her and her daughters uncomfortable on him.

He was easy to catch but, didn’t really offer any kind of feel back to me when I approached.  He mostly tuned me out.  He led pretty well if you like to be led and he wanted to set the pace and direction.  He didn’t know much about working on the end of the lead or disengaging his hindquarters.  As soon as I asked him to move around me, his head would go to the outside of the circle and he would zone-out.

When being saddled, he would stand nicely for the saddle to be placed on his back and while I let my cinches down.  I use my forearm touching a horse in the girth area to let them know that I’m reaching for the cinch.  He was good about that but, when I started to draw the cinch up he kicked at it.  He didn’t move off, just kicked.

Given everything I just described, I thought that he would be hard to get to concentrate when ridden.  I expected him to zone-out, take-over and fall-through with his shoulders.  I was wrong.  He was fairly attentive, tried hard, and fell through with his shoulders.

The neat thing about all that was going on is that while I was finding out who he was, I was also offering things to him to let him know who I was.  The offer I was making was, I hoped, for something better.  I wasn’t worried about the mechanics of how he was operating.  I wanted him to feel back to me when I made an offer.  If I could get him to feel back, I could get him to think.  If I could get him to think, I would have a better chance of getting his feet where I needed them when I needed them.

He proved to be as smart and athletic as any horse I’ve ridden for a while.  He began to hunt up what was being offered.  He began to get more balanced throughout his whole body and in his movement.  He became more confident in his transitions and in his environment.  He felt good, inside and out.  I felt good too!

 

The Brand

The Bridle Bit brand is an old Wyoming brand used by the Swan Land and Cattle Company  back in the late !800’s and into the early 1900’s.  The brand is actually read, “7 mill iron reverse 7”.  For more information about the Swan, this link will give you a good overview. http://www.wyomingtalesandtrails.com/swan3.html.  The pictures displayed on that website are of the area where Amy grew-up and where I got a good deal of schoolin’ on horses and cattle.

Amy’s Grandfather Brown purchased a ranch at Chugwater, WY from the Swan in 1947.  The Bridle Bit brand and several other brands came with that purchase.  Amy’s Dad, Jim, used the Bridle Bit to identify his cows and some of the other brands to identify calves or cattle he bought when re-stocking the ranch.

Most people in the west understand how livestock brands are used as a means of identifying livestock and how the only legal transfer of ownership comes with a brand inspection and corresponding paperwork.  What they don’t understand or maybe just don’t think about is the meaning and significance the brand imparts on the ranch itself and likewise the owners and operators of the ranch.  There is lot of pride associated with that brand.  Not the “boastful, I know everything kind of pride” but, rather the “I’ve worked hard to make this place what it is” kind of pride.

By using a brand with so much history to identify our business and ranch, Amy and I take a lot of pride in and put a lot of try into doing the Bridle Bit brand justice.  We ride for our brand everyday and everywhere.  We treat people like we’d want to be treated.  We are honest and up-front with people.  We provide our horses and cattle the essentials.  We maintain our property to keep it safe and looking good.  And, we try to go the extra mile whenever we can to show that we really do care!

We are blessed to have the place and business we have.  We are blessed to have the history and family behind what we do each day.  And, we are blessed to have the clients and friends we have.  For us, all of that comes together and gets identified by a single symbol, the Bridle Bit brand.  We are proud to be a piece of the brand’s history and future.  So, in 2013, you’ll find us still riding for the brand!

 

Working On Me

One of the most interesting parts of working on improving on my horsemanship has been the working on me part.  The horses have literally changed who I am.  They’ve done that by showing me how certain approaches work while others don’t.  I’ve had to change the way I react to less than stellar results, I’ve had to quit forcing my will into the situation, I’ve had to learn to improvise, adapt, and overcome.  The mere thought process change that I adopt to improvise and adapt is a big step in conditioning myself to overcome my old reactions.  I’m learning how to step back when things aren’t going well, re-think and re-asses, and then start over.  That same process has also given me a better chance of slowing down and noticing smaller tries and smaller changes.  Good stuff when you’re trying to work with a horse rather than work on him.

On Christmas day all of our kids were able to be home.  It was fun to have them here and to see the wonderful differences between them.  During dinner, the oldest commented on how his mother and I had become less intense and less anal about stuff.  We took it as a compliment and, for me, I credit the horses for getting me to soften.  My German/English heritage can cause me to, as one friend put it, “light my hair on fire and run around”.  I used to be considerably shorter tempered and I used to react negatively when a project was going south.  Okay….I still do those things….just a little less often.  But, the horses have taught me that staying even-tempered and going with the flow of things gives much better results than flying off the handle and scattering things around.

It’s not just me.  Talk to anyone who is working on improving their horsemanship and having some success in doing it and I’ll bet they’ll tell you the same thing.  That the biggest “break-throughs” with their horses have come shortly after they’d discovered and “fixed” something about themselves.  Tom Dorrance talked about horses having people problems.  Ray Hunt talked about being the horses lawyer, standing up for the horse, helping the human figure him out and make some changes in themselves to be able to get with their horse.

As we approach another new year, I’m thinking that my resolution will be to keep working on the parts of me that my horses point out as needing work.  Join me??

Twas The Day Before

It’s Christmas Eve at our ranch and yours.  All kinds of preparations are being made.  Preparations for loved ones coming to visit.  Food preparation that can be done ahead to make tomorrows meal easier to get on the table on time.  And, preparation for the livestock to be comfortable with the weather that’s predicted to come in tonight.  But, for us, the biggest and best preparation we make is to prepare our hearts to remember that we are celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  For us it’s like other days of remembrance but, with very special meaning.  It’s a time to rededicate ourselves to the acceptance of the unbelievable gift God gave all humanity when he sent his Son to live with and as man.  To remember the faith that it took for Mary and Joseph to raise a child together and accept who He was before it was proved.

In our horsemanship we talk and live preparation.  Preparation is the key to the next step with our horses, our businesses, our families, our lives.  Taking the time it takes to properly prepare for the next transition makes the transition easier, smoother, seamless.  Improper preparation soon teaches the value of proper preparation.  It seems too basic, too simple.  And, that’s the beauty of it.  When we focus on the things of real value and give them the time and the dedication they deserve, so many of the complicated things in life become easier to see through and handle.  Ray Hunt talked about a “finished” horse being one that is really good at the basics.  When we focus on the foundation and polish it until it shines, the end product is fantastic.

For us the basis of our lives is focusing on and accepting through faith the foundation that Christ laid out for us.  He laid down his life for all of us.  His birth was just the beginning of the preparation for a very big transition.  We pray that all of you have a very Merry Christmas surrounded by the joy and love that this time of year brings.