Thursday, May 28, 2009

Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone

After attending the May Women’s Confident Leadership Camp many students of horsemanship on my yahoo chat group have been discussing the fact that getting out of their comfort zone at camp has changed their lives.

This morning I was reading the latest Savvy Times. There was an article in it about Katie Drake, Pat's Niece and Mary Ann Kennedy writing a new song. Here is a little from this article: It is very appropriate for a discussion on getting outside of your comfort zone.

Lyrics from the song:

"When you keep on doing what you've always done, you'll keep on getting what you've always gotten. The winds of change are runnin'through my veins, but this voice inside me, it keeps on talkin".

The article says: "That voice inside talking me out of change is none other than the familiar voice of FEAR! Afraid that taking the step of change in my life would lead to failure, I stay stuck in a perpetual cycle of procrastination and avoidance. The times when I've been able to take a step at a time, no matter how small, I've been able to break free from fear's stronghold and move toward my dreams."

How often do you get talked out of change by your fear and the feeling that the mountaintop dreams we have are unattainable?

Katie hopes, “this song encourages those who hear it to consider what they dream to do, and that it inspires them to start on the incredible journey, be it one small step at a time."

Are you ready for change?
I have been adding change to my horsemanship skills by going to more clinics myself this year. I am studying with Kirsten Nielsen, Karen Rolhf, and Bryan Neubert. I am learning how to help my horses stay in more correct posture and balance with better energy mixed with relaxation. It is turning into quite a lovely ride and more beautiful picture. Plus I can tell my horses are more eager to please because they are feeling better in their physical body as I work with them.

I am finding that quality movement in an exercise is more important than just going through the motions of the exercise. The changes in my horses are very significant. I am also discovering more about riding posture and how dramatically it effects not only the efficiency of movement of the horse but his behavioral issues also melt away as the rider improves posture, feel, timing, and balance.

So if you haven't been to one of my clinics in a while, I promise you are going to learn something new which will change both you and your horse for the better, if you apply the principles and skills.

Here is what Alison had to say about her camp experience:
For those of you who have attended a Women’s Confident Leadership Camp, I imagine you will agree with me when I say…WOW!! For those horsewomen out there who have not attended and are thinking of it…GO!! I knew this would be a tremendous experience of learning, bonding and growing with my horse Snap, but it exceeded my expectations. I had a horse who needed some “remedial education” with respect issues and in a short amount of time working with Sherry (and a time out!) Snap was changing for the better and so was I.

Sherry’s level of commitment to each student is amazing and the atmosphere of caring and support (during tears of frustration and elation) from Sherry and the other women is something I will carry with me for a long time. As the days pass, I am reflecting more and more on how this has changed my relationship with my horse and how I view fear in my life…this was life changing for me. The camp setting is terrific- peaceful and pampering…no worries about anything, a total escape. The food was wonderful and so was the hospitality from the Switzer’s. I have been able to take what I learned from camp and transfer my new skills to working with Snap at home…what a blessing!!

I’ve had Snap for 3 years, I do feel like we’re starting over and the best is yet to come!! I’m mad at myself for not “moving closer, staying longer” a couple of times at camp as I know my confidence would have grown even more. Snap was fine, I was in a safe learning environment but my head was thinking negative thoughts from Snap’s previous behavior. I wasn’t living in the moment but now I know how to do that. I can still hardly stop thinking about camp and how much I enjoyed it, even the rough spots because I was learning something…what an experience!!

Cindy’s thoughts on the comfort zone:

I think I've learned the most when I am OUT of my comfort zone. Just a little out, not way out! But you will get better at that as you do it more and more. Don't have regrets, hang on to those positive moments that moved you! Just going was a big step. Now it will only get better and better! It is hard to turn off the light bulbs of camp isn't it!? I honestly feel like I have floods of information swirling around my little head, and as time goes on, more and more soaks in. Especially when the fear is gone.

Lois talks about her camp experience:
I think it was a lot easier to push out of my comfort zone with all the support and encouragement we had at camp. I also learned so much as well as found I was making things a lot harder for myself. I am definitely thinking more now and am more aware of the responses I am looking for.

Everyone was sooooo right. What an experience and you had better believe I will be telling everyone about it. Very much worth driving 7 hours. I learned so much and really saw what a great equine partner I have. Moose was like a giant sponge and was like, "OK what are we doing next"...Goes to show...where the issue

Anyway my biggest aha was to focus on when I work on doing something and I am not thinking about a spook or fear. Got some great things that we can work on at home and even went on a trail ride.

I do have to say Sherry is like the energizer bunny...she goes and goes and goes...she worked way harder than the rest of us and did it with a smile and let me help you. I feel honored to have had the chance to come to a camp and you can count on the fact that there will be another. I am hooked.

Question about clinic topics:
I had someone ask me what will be covered at the clinic this weekend, here is a brief overview. But it can change when the riders and horses show up, because I take people and horses from where they are. I don't try to put everyone into the same mold. Any behavior issues will be addressed as needed as well as rider confidence.

The clinic will have ground work in the morning, to help your horse relax and pay better attention to the handler, to syncronize with the handler while walking, trotting, stopping. The horse will be asked to find self-carraige on the circle with smooth efficient transitions which would be easy for the rider to ride. We will seek the kind of self-carriage that will empower the horse and make it easier to carry a rider, plus harmony and fluidity of movement will be a goal, as well as impulsion.

In the afternoon the riders will be instructed on getting and keeping their horses attention, executing a proper one-rein stop, and efficient mounting and dismounting. Better seat control where we help the horse stay straighter left to right and front to back again for staying power, relaxation even when using energy, and better self-carraige. Directing and redirecting the horse (left/right and forward/backward) will also be evaluated.

If you have any further questions, don't be afraid to call, it is FREE to ask questions.

Happy Trails,
Sherry Jarvis

"Horsemen share knowledge. Showmen hide it in a corner and go home." -- AQHA Judge Dale Livingston

Learning From Young Horses

As many of you know I did not make my monthly trip to Omaha and Lincoln this month for lessons. I had the privilege to stay home and start some very nice young horses with my intern Erica. It has been a lot of work but very fun. At the beginning of the month the owners spent three days with me preparing their horses for their beginning. Erica and I developed them into real nice riding horses in less than 30 days. The owners are coming back to get their horses today, and we are real excited to take them trail riding on their new horses. Here is a report written by Julie Williams about her observations from the clinic at the beginning of the month with these young horses.

What a wonderful day everyone had at Sherry's today. The sun kept things warm enough, the wind blew but it was tolerable, and the everyone learned a lot. I took photos all day, and it was fun to see how much progress the young horses and their owners had! Sherry is so good at explaining things!

Thought I'd share my observations from a colt starting clinic I attended on Friday. I was photographer for the event and while I was only there Friday, it did continue through the weekend. I've been very impressed by her communication ability to help people learn to work with their horses.

We are quite unconscious of the importance of our body movements; we intellectualize communication thru language. 92% of our communication between people is body communication, yet we are unconscious of it---it is unconscious. Presently, we are even more focused on words, written or spoken, to convey meaning because of our techni-digital era. Horses are creatures of movement and intention, not words; and most people desensitize their horses to intention through sloppy, inconsistent or ignorant body "language".

Horses don't use words. This morning's CBS Sunday Morning program gave a feature on Helen Keller, showing a scene from the old movie w/Patty Duke where her teacher was using the water pump to teach the girl her first signed word "w-a-t-e-r". The teacher pumped the handle, water gushed out onto Helen's hand holding a pitcher, and the teacher signed the letters into Helen's other hand. It struck me, as I watched the news feature, how like Helen's ah-hah moment was like what I saw at the colt starting clinic. Our communication with horses is like this movie scene.

When Sherry demos with someone's horse, it usually begins as though they are deaf and blind to her. Then she commences. Sherry uses the lead rope and halter, her body, etc. to get the horse's attention---and she translates her intent with deliberate consistency and simplicity. When the horse give the slightest try it is rewarded with a dramatic withdrawal of her pressure. Eventually the horse has his own Helen Keller "Ah-Hah moment"--as when Helen connects the miraculous connection of moving fingers in the hand to the water gushing over her. W-a-t-e-r mean this liquid wet stuff. Sherry's body position/motion means halt, go, slow, look at me, etc., etc.

Half way thru the first day the horses are truly getting their ah-hah moments with their owners and it shows in the photos I took-- in their eyes, on their faces. At this point the horses have realized that movement means specific things. There are expectations, intentions. They start looking at and to their person for meaning. The face, the eyes are searching for "what is next?". They no longer look bored or anxious, but very interested.

Several weeks ago Linda Parelli was working with a skittish horse on a TV show, and said that for these fearful flighty horses you have to be aware of every movement of your hands. That the slightest hand gesture or wiggle means things to the horse. Sherry teaches this.

90% of owners are clueless about what their undisciplined body language produces. Even when they are fairly experienced around horses they are allowing a constant series of inconsistencies. The horse who steps ahead of you on the lead rope as you slow down or stop is the horse who is going to run thru the bit when you ask for a halt, says Sherry. (Learning these skills would give a horse person invaluable insight when horse shopping. You'd understand that certain ground manner behaviors would translate to specific under saddle problems.)

I could see this quite clearly with the students. There is a photo of the owners standing on tires with the horses on a lead rope facing them. In this scenario, they are teaching the horse to stand at relaxed attention, ears forward, eyes on them, goal being for 30 seconds, working up to minutes. Eventually they are also asking the horse to lower its head in relaxation with head below level of withers; then to the ground. The goal, as we work, is to get the responsiveness of the lead rope transferred to liberty. That requires another serious adjustment to both minds.

Attention span for people is harder than attention span for the horse. Lackadaisical attitudes are tough because it says "I don't want to be bother with crossing my tees and dotting my I's" right now, I'm tired/don't care" etc.

Thru Sherry's instruction, she correlated ground work with your in-the-saddle experiences. She taught to use your body, seat, legs, hands---just as if you were in the saddle. Several times I heard her say to someone "you just got bucked off"; "your horse just ran thru the bit". She emphasized this correlation over and over again. You could not take this clinic w/o having your equitation riding improved too.

Part of the first afternoon included leading the horses out onto a quarter section of pasture land---a tenuous but confidence-building time of learning trail riding. How to keep the horse's attention, how to build the partnership, how to be the leader and not the victim of a runaway. I followed them out onto the windswept prairie and after the first mile, waited at the gate for them to return, the destination---a windmill in the distance. The horses and owners came back quieter and more confident than when they headed out. An effective trail ride is built from correct ground work. Safe and happy in the saddle starts on the ground---the ground work means everything!

If the weather had remained sunny I would have gone the other two days. I've photographed many of Sherry Jarvis's local retreats and clinics, and I learn more each time. The women who attend are a friendly and non-judgmental group---always there to learn and support one another. What a great time---laughter, good food, camaraderie.

Thanks for such a great report Julie.

Happy Trails,
Sherry Jarvis