Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Putting in Time

I'm not sure if it's because I didn't grow up with horses or get to take a bunch of lessons, and I kinda had a late start, but I always feel like I need to make up for lost time with my horsemanship.  And one thing that always bothers me is the poor reputation barrel racers have for horsemanship.  There are some mighty skilled horsepeople out there running barrels, however the stereotype of "whip, spur, kick, yank" is there for a reason... there are plenty of that type of barrel racer out there as well.  While I may love barrels right now, I've always loved horses and want to be a horseperson first and foremost.  
So when I had the opportunity to take part in a clinic with John & Jamie Tilley (Tilley's Custom Colts) I was pretty excited.  I have heard nothing but good things about their program and liked what I saw on Facebook, and this quote from John helped cement that opinion "Of all the things your horse will wear, their expression is the most important".  So I was pretty sure going into it that this clinic would be a challenge for me, but I also knew that if I got anything out of it both my horses and I would be rewarded and I'm happy to say that with the homework I took away to work on I'm fairly confident that will be the case. (as long as I can apply it lol *I* need a lot of work!) 

This weekend was exactly what I needed, a good get away with friends and my horse (we camped at The Valley) and lots of learning.  It was really nice to meet the Tilleys.  John and Jamie came across as honest, kind hearted, well meaning, and hard working and that came across in their horsemanship as well.  And while some clinicians are good with horses but not so great with people John was able to both work with horses *and* teach us humans.
I really loved that we worked in our group and were encouraged to watch the other groups and ask questions.  You learn SO much by watching!  And with so many other types/levels of riders and horses there were always new things happening. Having John teaching in the arena and Jamie on the sidelines was nice because you could ask her questions about what was going on without interrupting what was happening in the arena.
*small disclaimer, this is what I took away from the clinic, it's how I understood things.  So, as I learned from Ed, what I understand isn't necessarily what was being said/taught lol*
Now anyone that knows me knows that I don't like a lot of things about the modern "Natural Horsemanship" trend.  It's too gimicky, there's too much selling you STUFF, and it's too "fluffy" (which in turn is potentially dangerous). Several times this weekend John mentioned Tom Dorrance and Ray Hunt, what I consider the founding fathers or "old school" natural horsemanship.  We may want things to be soft and easy but sometimes things need to get worked through to find that, you have to be willing to be firm but fair to your horse.  He talked about finding your feel and timing and how it would help things smooth out, which was something I struggled with (feel has always been tough for me, and of course that effects your timing).  About making the wrong thing difficult and the right thing easy, which is often said but seeing examples of that while doing ground work and while riding is another thing.  About not getting mad at your horse if/when things go wrong, and while that is an easy thing to preach it is different to follow through with which John did with patience when a mare fired out at him. He just went back to working like nothing had happened.  

We worked in 3 groups of 6-8 riders.  Friday was 2 hours per group and focused on ground work.  I learned a few things, or different ways of doing things, which I'll be adding to my "tools".  We worked on getting your horse to follow a feel, I noticed a difference in Lefta as the session went on and even more so the next morning. 
The next two days we started with some ground work and moved on to under saddle work for about three hours total (with a break for the horses). I liked that John let us work through our difficulties and coached us through things without immediately jumping in, but if things were getting a bit hairy or we struggled too much he'd step in.
Something I've been struggling with is getting Lefta to become softer and rounder and another is  picking up her left lead and being relaxed when loping circles to the left.  The soft is definitely still a work in progress but John explained a few things that started to click.  And probably my proudest 'personal goal' moment was when we were all working on spiraling down and back out at the lope in different parts of the arena at the same time.  Lefta was pretty good going right, but when I tried the left she'd get all tight and stiff and leaning in, I could feel her starting to get anxious and worried.  John was helping another girl so I just stopped for a few moments.  Things were getting worse and I didn't want to end up frustrating myself and my horse both beyond where we already were.  So while Lefta was airing up I sat and waited for a chance to ask for help, and I thought about what we had been talking about and practicing and it clicked... I gave Lefta another moment and then we went back to work and it happened.  She started to get stiff and anxious and instead of doing what I've always done I tried (remembered to try! lol) what we had done earlier.  Use my inside rein to round her and have her follow that feel, outside rein and legs to support the direction we traveled.  Lefta relaxed, she got round and suddenly things felt so much better.
This weekend made me even more certain that this is the direction to horsemanship that I want to take... but it's going to be a long journey with lots of work to put in.  I almost feel like I'm not giving the clinic a completely fair review, it seems like there's not a lot said about it here.  But it's honestly because there's still so much more from this clinic swirling around in my brain that I'm sorting, processing and digesting.  I love it!
I think almost everyone walked out of that clinic with some new ideas and confidence (almost, because there usually seems to be someone that can't accept changes start with them).  I'm already looking forward to next year's clinic and sending Shine to the Tilley's to start when it's time!  I'm waiting until she's 3 to have her started (2019) so that gives me a few more years to get my poop in a group lol  

At the end of each group's working time on the last day John recited a poem he wrote.  I really liked them both and thought it was a nice way to cap off the group.  There were two and I asked for permission to share them with you, so here they are:

Take Time
Take time to take time, you won't get it all at the start
Take time to take time and feel of your horse from your heart
Take time to take time and let it soak into his mind
If you take time to let him digest you'll be amazed at the answers he finds
Take time to take time and let him get ready to go
If you take time to let him shape up when you want him soon he'll just know
Take time to take time and wait on his feet to move back
If you take time to teach him your feel soon he'll go when you pick up the slack
Take time to take time and enjoy him when he's not caught or up in his stall
Take time to rub him out in the pasture for no particular reason at all
Take time to enjoy your horse in moments that won't cost you a dime
If you take time to take time it'll take you less time next time
John Tilley
May 14, 2017 

Making Friends
It's kind of a comfortable feeling,
a goal you work hard to get
To the time he might be called finished from the moment that you first met

The colt is young and wild and doesn't trust people, but he will sometime you know
If you take the time to let him figure things out and be there to direct him and show 

Cause he's not sure about that saddle you want him to wear and the cattle you take him to chase
And it's darn sure a frightening moment when those grouse flutter up in his face

Wire gates and 60 foot ropes are a scary thing to see
But you have to remember that he's just a kid and don't see it like you or me

But if you take the time to direct him along through scary times like these
He will soon become your partner and you'll do your work with ease

It may take a year, a month or a day it kind of just depends
Only the rider that sits on his back will know when he says "let's be friends"
John Tilley

**photos courtesy of Jamie Tilley** 

1 comment:

  1. They sound like nice people. It helps to stay well-rounded. The 'stereo-types' are almost always the ones who are not and refuse to learn anything that isn't directly related to 'going fast'. LOL


Wordless Wednesday ~ new trailer!