Tuesday, February 12, 2013

It takes as long as it takes.

There is a big difference between "Take the time it takes so it takes less time" (which of course is true) and "It takes as long as it takes." The later has nothing to do with getting it done faster.  Its about accepting however skilled I am as a horseman right now.

Watching Buck ride and work with horses for so many hours over the last year and a half is a double edged sword. It makes me better because I have been able to see in 3D what I'm after. (And yes...I've gotten to ask him a million questions.) My results with my horses have gone through the roof. I never dreamed I'd be able to understand what I understand now and be able to do what I can do. Its torturous though, because he gets changes so quickly that I often try not to blink when he has his hands on a horse.

Its taken me a while to accept, but, getting the horse centered emotionally, physically and spiritually can still take me a while. If that's what I'm after then, it is what it is. What takes Buck 5 minutes to help the horse find, might take me 5 weeks or even 5 months depending on what the goal is and of course where the horse is at to start.

The time it takes is directly related to skill and experience. We all know that the better the horseman, the better their timing and the faster a horse can change. And I mean really change. Change on the inside. In the end that's what makes the horse's outside results consistent.

I can't magically speed up the process. The only way to do that is to study hard and to practice which takes...time! I need to just be grateful for the opportunity to learn what real quality is....what true unity looks like. Better yet, a little bit at a time, I'm getting to feel it.

The rub is that I can't settle for anything less. A canter depart is not just a canter depart. A back up is not just a back up. Standing still isn't even standing still to me anymore!! It has to feel turned loose for me to be satisfied. Thanks a lot Brannaman.

Its ok though. I'm accepting it. It takes as long as it takes. Which is longer than Buck. But I'm hunting the same feel he has and that is what is important to me.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Keystone Horsemanship Habits.

So I'm re-reading (ok listening) to a book called the Power Of Habit. Very intersting stuff. I was thinking, of course, about how it relates to horsemanship.

The author Charles Duhigg talks about keystone habits. The ones that once established create a cascade effect and can reshape our whole lives. An example of a keystone habit is exercising regularly. Even once a week. This one activity seems to cause people to eat more healthfully, to smoke less and even to be on time more!
My best buddy Beth and I have long been using habits to help us progress in our horsemanship. There are many people who dream of success with horses. They can talk a ton about it, belong to all the right clubs, read a pile of books, watch a million dvds and yet...somehow they don't get anywhere. We really really didn't want to fall into that trap.

Our most famous habit forming system was the gold star program. We kept it simple. If you get on your horse, even for 5 seconds, you get a gold star. We just tried to fill up our calendars with them. We focused exclusively on this one action.

It worked. It was what is know as a "small win". The more of these we racked up, the more we became accustomed to the pattern of making time to ride our horses and feeling successful doing it. We weren't measuring success by our ability to do anything fancy. Just get on our horses. If we did this we were successful.

The thing is...if you get on your horse, I mean, you're already up there right? Might as well get something done. I think we were both shocked at the wave that carried us to our Parelli Level 3, off to exciting courses, riding in excellent clinics and doing some of the things we'd always dreamed of with our ponies.

Its like a virus when you hit upon the right habits. The action spreads. Brilliant really when you think about it. Just do one thing and it will cause you to do a whole bunch of other things that you've been wanting to do. The hard things become easier and then easy things become effortless.

So this year, we decided we'd start a 12 Week Horsemanship Challenge. Beth just got a new horse and I have one that I've been meaning to get to. So again this time we kept it simple. Spend 50 hours with one horse. Saddle them 40 times and bridle them 40 times. Plus load them into the trailer 25 times. These can seem like such small things. It can also seem like cheating to pull your horse out of its stall at 9pm saddle them, bridle them, undress them and kiss them goodnight. But we know better.

The habits we are creating are precious. They are carving out extra horse time in our lives. They are proving and prioritizing our goals into real tangible actions. We designed this challenge with Keystone Horsemanship Habits in mind and we think they'll have that cascade effect. It ended up that 41 people joined us in this challenge and I just can't wait to see the results that we all get with our ponies.