Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Road To Becoming A Horseman (Part 2)

In last months newsletter I described how I have been guiding a small group of women over the past four years down the road to becoming better horsewomen by their attendance at the annual Oct. Alumni Women’s Horsemanship Camp. The article explained how we explored confidence for both the horse and rider the first year. Then the following three years we studied the emotional, mental and physical aspects of becoming better horsemen. In Part 2 of this article, I am going to continue this discussion by expanding upon the nuts and bolts of what I am currently learning and teaching.

Because I am a retired school teacher I find it helpful to divided learning into smaller chucks so that it is easier for the student to digest. I believe that there are (four main categories or roads) we need to take in order to become better horsemen. I have also discovered that progress is much quicker and improvement enduring if we take these roads in a specific, sequential order. Therefore we avoid getting lost on the journey.

When we become proficient in one category then our experience on the next road will be much easier. In other words the road to becoming a better horseman will be a lot smoother when we build our skills with purposeful progression. It is when we try to take short cuts that the road becomes very bumpy and more difficult. While it may be possible to jump onto any road (or category) at any time, and sometimes it may even be necessary depending upon the situation, it does help to go in an order. Traveling in this manner is a lot more pleasant for both the horse and rider plus the results are far superior to anything I have every tried in the past.

We need to develop skills in these four categories on our road to becoming better horsemen: 1) Develop a Learning Frame of Mind for both horse and rider.2) Advance Groundwork 3) Improve Rider’s Posture4) School the horse for Optimal Movement and Self-Carriage

Within each of these four categories there are different levels; beginning with the easiest and most fundamental skills and building up to the most complicated aspects of training. It doesn’t matter where you are right now, or if you ever want to achieve the most complicated and advanced maneuvers with your horse. What matters most is that you have a general understanding and skill set in each of these categories so that you can be safe and have more fun with your horse.

Here are some of the things I have realized about each category on my own road to becoming a better horseman.

1) Developing a Learning Frame of Mind
What is involved?

  • It is so important for the rider to have an awareness of self.
  • It is imperative the rider be very attentive to the horse.
  • It is valuable to know how to get and keep a horse’s attention.
  • It is foremost that the rider has great intention and focus.
  • It is essential for the rider to be a calm leader in a variety of situations.
  • It is significant that the person be able to read a horse and understand behaviors.
  • It is vital the person breaks through any defensive behaviors in the horse.
  • The central key is developing a relationship with the horse which means a healthy happy partnership. It doesn’t matter whether it is a young or old horse, a problem or challenging horse, a remedial or rescue horse, because all horses will appreciate this and therefore become more willing.
  • It is crucial that the person have an open mind to new learning.
  • It is necessary the person is willing to experiment and learn from mistakes.
  • The attitude the rider has towards the horse will have a great influence on everything you do with him.

2) Advance Groundwork
What is the focus?

  • Developing the balance, feel and timing of the rider is just as important in ground work as what we are doing with the horse. Everything we do on the ground is transferrable to riding for both the horse and rider.
  • Balance and communication are best developed in the context of groundwork because the separation helps clarify “issues” that are most often the result of miscommunication or misunderstandings between horse and rider.
  • How equipment affects communication and motion is best assessed in this category. A rider can become fully aware of various training equipment, ropes, halters, whips, sticks, saddles, padding and bridles and how to use them better because they do not have the added things to think about while being on the horse’s back.
  • The difference between aids and contacts is clarified and both the horse and rider learn their specific roles in the partnership.
  • Undesirable behavior issues can be dealt with in a safe way. The change of behavior on the ground can and will transfer to riding. Get it better on the ground and it will be better when riding.
  • Habits are created, which will affect either positively or negatively the daily handling with your horse, from vet care to trailer loading.
  • Three layers of advancement in the horse and rider:
    Emotional balance (calm and attentive during exercises),
    Mental balance (understanding exercises and skill development)
    Physical balance (energy, relaxation and self-carriage within the exercises).

3) Improve Rider’s Posture
How do we do it?

  • Focus on the rider’s balance and position through awareness exercises performed in a specific order.
  • Separate the rider’s balance from the horse’s balance so that the rider can become more aware of exactly where and how the horse is struggling and then offer better assistance.
  • As the rider¹s balance improves, feel improves and then the timing of the aidsprovides clear communication that is recognizably useful to the horse.
  • Ideally this begins on the ground using exercise balls and reins for simulation exercises.
  • A safe lesson horse is an invaluable tool where the rider is on a longe line without reins.
  • Once in the saddle, this category of training focuses on the rider finding their own point of balance and working from their core on the back of a horse.
  • A video tape or a set of professional eyes on you with constructive criticism are priceless learning tools about your posture. This can be a painful process but you will learn more about your posture from these experiences than any other.
  • Correct posture also helps a rider feel safer. A feeling of security allowsthe rider to be more confident with calm leadership from the saddle which the horse is looking for.
  • Having a sense of balance that is independent of the horse’s motion is what professional riders have that gives them the ability to ride a variety ofhorses very well. While this level of quality is not often taught to non-professional riders I believe it is imperative for all riders to learn because the correct development of a horse depends on good rider posture.

4) School the horse for Optimal Movement and Self Carriage
Why is it necessary?

  • Focus on helping the horse achieve balance while carrying a rider.
  • Finding correct use of the body while bearing the weight of a rider is a learned skill for a horse and one that is often ignored.
  • Although a horse can and often do what is asked while out of balance the cumulative effect of riding an unbalanced horse can be lameness, illness or behavioral problems.
  • Understanding the difference between the most advantageous motion and acceptable motion helps the rider understand WHY the horse is behaving poorly, performing poorly or having chronic health issues.
  • It is a simple matter of (basic physics) between the rider’s body, the horse’s body and gravity. When these dynamics work together then harmony is achieved.
  • By helping the horse achieve his best possible movement with self-carriage under saddle we show the horse that his need for safety and comfort in the exercises we ask him to do are as important as our own agenda of pleasure or performance.
  • The fundamental skill of helping a horse find his finest movement with self-carriage which is not forced but is relaxed with balance and energy is crucial for the health and well being of a horse whether he is only ridden on the trails once a week or is expected to go to Grand Prix.

    As we travel down the road to becoming better horsemen these four categories will help give us a proper road map which will lead us to our desired destination. The better our learning frame of mind is the better our ground work will be, the better our ground work is the better the horse will ride, the better the rider’s posture is the horse will be able to move with more freedom and proper self-carriage, which is the kind of ride that dreams are made of whether you are a recreational trail rider or competitor at any level.

Happy Trails,
Sherry Jarvis

Author of Win Your Horse's Heart (And Be a Better Horseman)

“Good better best, never let it rest, make your good better and your better best” – George Burns

"It's been a long, long road but it's paying off, baby."--Calvin Borel

"High achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation"--Charles Kettering

Limited Views

Limited Views

Hello Horse Lovers,
Last month I wrote about taking time for rest and play. And I have been practicing what I preach. I have taken time to baby sit and play with my nieces and nephews, I have played cribbage with my Dad, painted with my Mom, spent more time with Keith and my own horses and enjoyed fellowship at church again. During this pause from my regular work schedule I reflected on what has happened in the past ten months, tied up the loose ends of the year, and started to think about and plan for 2010. In fact the 2010 CAMP SCHEDULE is now on my website.

As I reflected on this past year, I discovered that it has been my most productive year to date. I also realized that there are some important things I can do in 2010 to make our services even better. One of those areas involves the young horse development, apprentice program, and mini clinics with free trail rides at my house. The main improvement that is in the beginning planning stages is accommodations for both you and your horse. If I can pull it off I am going to invest in a small lodge for horse owners and new corrals for the horses.

The housing to date has either been in my spare bedroom, at Wagner’s Bunkhouse, Snyder Street Cottage or Calamus Outfitters, all of which are very nice. However, I feel that having a small lodging facility here at my own place especially for the apprentices will be very advantageous. Making this dream reality is the next step. The design is on paper, and the estimates are coming in. The next thing will be figuring out how to finance all of this. I know that if I work smart and hard this too will happen. This will be a great addition to your experience here in the sandhills with me. I will still continue to have camps at Calamus Outfitters because they have the indoor arena etc. But for individuals or small groups of 2-3 and the apprentices it will be very convenient to have this option available.

The other thing that I am going to concentrate on in 2010 is another book and making some DVD’s. These are all big projects and I may be biting off more than I can chew. But I also know that progress will not happen unless I have the vision. I wonder how long it will take for all this to happen and I don’t have an answer for that yet. However, I do know it won’t happen at all if I limit my vision of these projects. And in fact, the more clear and detailed I am about the vision the quicker it will happen.

There is a term that highway engineers call a “limited sight distance”. Simply put you will drive at a speed that is proportional to how far you can see down the road. A curved hilly and wooded road is a dreamy landscape. But the traffic movement is predictably slow and erratic when the driver’s views are limited by trees, curves and hills. Drivers must reduce their speed to compensate for the unclear path ahead, especially those not familiar with the road.

As I map out my strategy for next year, the same thing can happen if I don’t have a clear view of where I am going. My pace will be slower the more limited my view is. The detailed plans and goals that I am putting down on paper will be the visual I need to reduce my limited sight distance and drive my business full speed ahead with the new roads I am going to build and travel down in 2010 and beyond.

Everybody seems to be in a hurry to get to their destinations these days. I know I won’t be able to move at optimum speed with the plans I have for 2010 if I have limited views. So I am working to make the views as clear and detailed as possible so that I can keep moving forward without traffic congestion.

For the rest of 2009 I will still be taking private lessons at my house or the mini clinic with FREE trail rides on Wed. throughout Nov. (weather permitting).
There will also be lessons available:
Nov. 8 Broken Bow Lessons/Play Day
Nov. 13-16 Omaha and Lincoln Lessons
Nov. 28 Broken Bow (Play day)
Dec. 6 Open House Christmas Party at Sherry’s in Burwell
Dec. 11-14 Omaha and Lincoln Lessons

The 2010 Lesson and Camp Schedule are now on the website and clinic schedule will be developing soon. So if you want to host a clinic, let me know as soon as possible, as I will be very, very busy next year, and I will do my best to fit in everyone who wants to take advantage of our services.

The clear and detailed plans that I am creating on paper for the 2010 calendar year is a de-cluttering process which will improve my sight line toward my 2010 goals. Without it I will have to be prepared for stop and go driving, inconsistent speed and plenty of deer in the road. But with it I am equipped to move forward and keep on trucking down the road because my view is not limited.

In closing don’t limit your views, make a clear path, so you can achieve your goals. Then set out a road map of how to get there and you WILL DO IT !

Until next time,
Sherry Jarvis
Heart in Your Hand Horsemanship LLC
308-730-2150 cell
“The only limitations you have are those which are self-imposed”. – I don’t know who said it but I’m sure I heard it somewhere.

"The most pathetic person in the world is someone who has sight, but has no vision." -- Helen
Keller"People only see what they are prepared to see." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Let me tell you the secret that has led me to my goal. My strength lies solely in my tenacity." -- Louis Pasteur

"The question isn't who is going to let me; it's who is going to stop me." -- Ayn Rand