Sunday, 18 February 2018

Believe..an evolution.



Yesterday I read a post penned by a lady who is currently fighting her own battle with the grace and dignity of a true warrior. Her words seared into my soul with such ferocity that I awoke this morning with them resonating in my ears and on the tip of my tongue, and as such spurned me into action and I achieved something today that I truly believed I wouldn’t be able to do again.
Now this mountain of mine would seem trivial to some and wouldn’t even feature on others radar. It didn’t on mine in years gone by, before I seem to have misplaced my brave knickers. But to me now it truly seemed a distance dream.
Today I hacked Archie around the village on my own. Without any nerves, trepidation or hesitation. Ok so maybe a little to start. ..but I buried that with a beautiful rendition of twinkle twinkle little star and then gabbled away to my beautiful grey boy, watching his ears twitch back and forth listening to his overly chatty rider and taking everything in his stride. I felt the cool misty morning air on my face, watched clouds of his warm breath billow as he strode along, enjoying the birdsong and intermittent game of ‘Where’s Wally’ as elderly residents pegged their washing or emerged from the light morning mist like extras from Cocoon.. I tuned in to the swing of his hips, the rhythm of his hoof beats and I beamed like a slightly demented version of a Cheshire Cat. Most of all I felt so happy to be alive, in this moment with my very best friend and just being together. It felt right. It felt like home.
So the words that woke something in me were:
“Believe in your horse and your horse will believe in you” (Ray Hunt)
I’ve heard these words many a time. Heck I’ve written about them in blogs before but these words, written by this special person and coming from her perspective of life and horses, shon a completely new meaning on them. I thought I knew what they meant but only now do I truly understand. You are a beautiful person inside and out my friend, much love to you, and thank you for your inspiration xx
Archie was praised as if we had just gone round Burghley and looked rather pleased with himself but humble at the same time, like all good heroes should 💕
I’m now off to swan about the house grinning and worry the children with my unusual megawatt permasmile.
See you on the flip side xx
#roadtobuck #horsebloggers
Pics courtesy Dana’s Doodles

Saturday, 3 February 2018

We don’t need no education

Well we do, but with a hefty dose of common sense, and possibly sanctions against the health and safety police.

I have just spend some time this morning having a conversation with the equine and animal studies lecturers from a college local to me.  We discussed the discrepancy between practical skills held by their students, and the academic training they offer.  Now myself coming from a generation where the YTS (youth training scheme) was still up and running and I learned on the job for the grand total of £14.75 a week, if you had said to me a few years ago would I have done anything differently I would have bitten your hand off and declared YES! Send me to an equine college where I can submerge myself amongst capable horse people and fill my brain with the delicious knowledge I seek! But upon reflection I am now grateful for the path I took and here is why... health and safety.

Now the college I spoke to today is a further education college, so kids aged 16 plus who have done their GCSE's and are in academic limbo before going to University or out into the adult world.  When I think back to myself as a 16 year old, coming from a non horsey family I had spent weekends working at yards and riding anything I could. So, in retrospect I was pretty handy from the point of view that sure, I didn't have any refinement and probably didn't know a leg yield by its name, but I could sit a horse and get some things done, and I could have told you what a leg yield felt like even if I didn't understand what I was feeling.  I could drive a tractor, clean tack, muck out 3485 stables before lunch, get horses on and off a walker, tack up, boil linseed, wash bandages and numnahs, strap and groom and assist in lessons.  Yes, I was permanently grubby and used to eat in the haybarn covered in muck and although I may have grumbled at the wage, what I was learning was actually priceless.   In comparison now we live in a world where targets and pre requisites are needed to be met, and students turn up at college having possibly ridden all their life and do not know how to tack up a horse.   There are so many restrictions now with child labour laws prohibiting kids being able to help out at stables,  a coddled society not permitting children just to 'be' around horses and therefore learn from them.   As I said before a lot of these students are technically good riders but when I asked the lecturers if the students have any savvy around the horses they work with, well I got a few blank faces and then a very quiet no..

I'm not saying that only those who possess an inherent gift with horses should be allowed to study at college, but how are students going to develop themselves as horse people and gain confidence if they don't experience the un-prescribed, because I am pretty sure horses don't run by any rule book I've read. Also, it is sad to think if I was a teenager now I would probably be exactly the same, desperate to learn about horses but lacking practical skills due to lack of opportunity to gain them.

I do believe education is vitally important, (this is a frequent conversation with my kids) the more we understand about horses the better for them, and us.. it allows us to develop ourselves and knowledge is indeed power, however there needs to be a balance, otherwise a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

Educators of any subject do not wish to trundle out graduates who can't reach their potential due to lack of relevant experience and I did get the impression that staff feel tied and would like to offer more.  More opportunities for work experience would certainly help.  The one skill that we all agreed was vital is common sense.. again this is developed through exposure to the world and sadly I don't think some children are given the chance to flex this muscle nearly enough.

All that want to learn should be offered the opportunity to do so, and that a sound academic grounding with plenty of practical experience is the best of both worlds, and with horses you NEVER stop learning.

I did give the college the link to the MSU colt starting class headed by Reata Brannaman (link below) to show them how things could look, or at least to offer something different for the students to be exposed to in a lecture, and it looks like Archie and I possibly may be going along to do a bit of a demo too which might be fun.   Either way I hope I gave them something to think about, because nothing inspires you more than a great teacher, Buck certainly inspires me everyday and I never stop learning.



https://www.facebook.com/msucoltstarting/

See you on the flip side
xx

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Shine Bright Like A Diamond

"We are all broken, that is how the light gets in" 

                                                                        - Ernest Hemingway




So Happy New Year everyone!  2018 is the year of having my ducks in a row, as opposed to trying to herd squirrels which is how the last few years have felt.  Exciting plans are in the making for Archie and I.  Firstly we are off to the Emerald Isle to spend time with my good friends Jane and Marc, who are hosting a clinic with Joel Conner in April.

Check out Joel here http://www.joelconnerhorsemanship.com

So finally after 3 years of failed attempts to cross the Irish Sea, Archie and I have our passports in hand and are looking forward to a few days of friendship and excellent horsemanship.  It is a bit nerve wracking shipping your horse overseas for a clinic, and also me getting on a plane...  but this year is about stretching my comfort zone in order to become a better horsewoman.  Plus can wait to see my pals (bonus), learn from Joel and meet lots of like minded people.

In May I'm attending a cow clinic with Guy Robertson.  Now cow work is something I desperately want to do, and actually something I want to work to succeed at.  However, I had a particular incident back in 2016 which I will entertain you with in another blog, that has dented my confidence a wee bit.  In addition, I have it on good authority that Archie isn't exactly keen on cows either... however real purpose is the making of a horse and indeed a human, and I feel deep down in my lily livered core that cow work is the purpose Archie and I need and WILL excel at.  I'm confident that in continuing to develop our relationship, enjoying our weekly lessons with Alan of Payne Performance Horses which have been instrumental in helping with said ducks in row, and being in the very capable hands of Guy when it comes to meeting the killer moos, that our goal is achievable.

I am continually revisiting all of my Buck material and notes.  I seem to find that the more I attempt to put into practice, the more I realise I need to refine my feel, and the less I think I know.  Good old conscious incompetence and I are old friends.  It's easy to get sucked in to the dark places that all the rubbish stuff that has happened tries to take you to, it is easier to not try.  Is it better?  No.  I want to see what I am capable of, and what Archie and I are capable of together. 

2015, 2016, 2017 hammered me from all angles and I'm not going to lie it has taken some processing, and still is, but its also given me some clarity as to where I want to take my horsemanship and indeed my life.  Every blow to myself and my family has produced cracks in me that will never heal, but as Hemingway says, that's how the light gets in.  So grab your sunglasses, as together with Archie, I intend to shine!

See you on the flip side xx

Links for clinics and trainers

Joel Conner Clinic

Guy Robertson

Payne Performance Horses

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Buck is back! Aintree June 2017 part 1


Buck Brannaman Clinic Aintree 2017


“ It’s a devotion and art to refine a horse "
Buck Brannaman, Aintree June 2017






Buck Brannaman needs no introduction, a true horseman of the highest calibre and possibly one of the most genuine people you could hope to meet.  I can hardly believe it has been 2 years since Buck first came to the UK to do a clinic, but due to the determination of Total Horsemanship’s Tina Griffin, Buck returned this year.  The venue again was the wonderful arena at Aintree Racecourse.


Now a lot has happened since Buck was last here and I unfortunately lost my equine partner Ada just prior to the clinic.  So having participated last time, I now found myself experiencing the clinic from a different perspective, but I guarantee that did not mean there was any less to take away.


The participants were a mix of abilities and experience, some having ridden with Buck before and many for whom, it was their first time.   On the first day the atmosphere was almost palpable with excitement and anticipation, but when Buck walked in and made everyone feel like they were amongst friends, there was a collective sigh of relief.


Buck had 2 demo horses this year, Spider (a 17hh bay ISH gelding) for the morning class and Archie (a 15.2hh grey Welsh x Irish gelding) for the afternoon class.  Both horses were unseen by Buck before the clinic and their individual progression over the 3 days was wonderful to watch.


I never get tired of watching Buck on a horse, if you pay close attention Buck teaches you on at least 2 separate levels.  The first is visually during the dance with the horse, and secondly in the parables he tells you.  These are peppered in throughout each session, and are absolute gems of wisdom and knowledge.  A particular favourite of mine this time was this:


“There is a piece of the horse, the best thing he has, that most riders will never use let alone find. But depending on the rider’s personality that piece can end up dead in the horse, and you will never get it back.  That piece that made him something special.  When it is gone, it is gone forever.  So even if you can’t find it, or use it, whatever you do don’t kill it in that horse.”


For me that sums up how high a regard Buck holds a horse. It is never a one sided conversation when he is with one. He offers them the lightest of aids, waits on them to think and then gives them the peace they seek through the release.  That’s how a horse learns without trouble, and as Buck says, “Soon what the horse does last, he will start offering first”. Now that for me is a conversation.


Another key thing from the clinic was the importance of the reins hooking down to the feet.  That you have to understand that whenever you take a hold of the reins, it is a connection to the horse's feet.  With this is mind it is also important to know where the feet are.  Buck had the afternoon group go round the arena past him, and he asked them to call out when they thought a particular foot was leaving the ground (this was quite entertaining).  Without an understanding and awareness of where your horse’s feet are, and bearing in mind that your reins should be connected to those feet, you leave yourself open (if your timing is off) to pulling your horse off balance or experiencing a brace when he physically cannot carry out what you are asking of him. He will protect himself, so you need to understand where and when those feet are so you can influence them when leaving the ground.  Something so simple in idea, is actually so pivotal when communicating with our horses.


It is not just his feel and timing with these animals which take this style of horsemanship beyond the mechanical, it is the respect he shows them, and indeed expects from them in return.  
Buck is truly alive in each moment he is with a horse, particular in every detail and really with them and there for them.


Now those demo horses I mentioned, well Archie turned out to be pretty special.  His lovely owner Angela is emigrating and I had the privilege of having a short ride on him after the last session of the weekend.  To ride a horse that Buck had ridden for 3 days literally brought me to tears.  I have never felt such softness, lightness and try from a horse before…..and I am pleased to say Archie is now mine.


There is something very special about a Buck Brannaman Clinic.  From the dedicated team who put this all together, the riders, the spectators.. It certainly attracts a wonderful kind of person.  Buck is so giving with his time and teachings, not just with the riders, but also the spectators.  Every afternoon he met with them and gave them all as much of his time as they needed.  He was patient, kind and most of all humble.  There is a real consistency and congruence with how Buck is with horses and people.  It really runs through him, free from gimmicks and ego.  You can’t help but respond to him how the horses do… you give him the best version of yourself and try to build on that.  


There are a lot of handy horsemen out there, that can get some pretty neat things done with a horse, but for me what makes a Buck clinic so different is that you aren’t just learning to get along better with your horse, this kind of horsemanship, with this man, well you go away just a little bit richer and more centred in your whole life.


Kate Street


Buck is back in 2019… see www.totalhorsemanship.com for details

Photos courtesy of Total Horsemanship.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Resilience, the art of getting back up...& it's one week to Buck!!

"I've always admitted that I'm ruled by my passions"  - Elizabeth Taylor


It just so happens that, like a lot of you who are reading this, my passions are horses and my horsemanship.  Yes at times it can be all consuming, but it is the lifeblood to who I am.  

Sadly I lost Ada recently, so when you find yourself at a crossroads where you have lost 3 equine partners in 18 months, you seriously start to question if you have it in you to start again. In fact, you start to wonder if you SHOULD start over again.  The time, money, and in particular, the heartache... maybe it is the universe's way of suggesting it's time to hang up your boots and take up knitting.

But no, my boots were made for riding and that's just what they'll do. So last Monday morning off I went to have a lesson at the local stables, in part to remind myself that I can actually still ride, and also to ENJOY it again, and enjoy it I did.  I rode Paddy the cob, who was very patient with me as I quickly realised riding 'traditionally' is now like a foreign language, so instead I tried to concentrate on the universal language of feel and we got along just fine.  All the tension I've been carrying, having ridden my willing mare, who I instinctively knew wasn't right physically and therefore riding had become loaded with second guessing and worry, well it just melted away.  I went back on Wednesday and out came the raised poles and I laughed like a 13 year old as I whizzed round the school.  I can't give this up.. anymore than I could stop drinking wine :)  

Since then I have been contemplating where to go from here.  The fates have conspired against me and sadly despite generously being offered alternative mounts, I won't be riding at the clinic this time.  Cue a moment of frustration and misery, 2 years of excitement and work down the drain.  But no, that's not the case for a few reasons, and I think this post I saw on fb by Bruce Sandifer's California bridle horse page sums it up.  


"All of our plans and preparations can change in an instant, no matter how well prepared we think we are.  Set backs and mistakes are part of the deal with horses, it's how we deal with these set backs that defines us"

Now I believe he was referring to a colt at the time, but when you read that back you will soon realise that it has a universal effect, it's not just the deal with horses, but with life.  


A wise man once said - 
Horsemanship and life it's all the same
 (no prizes for guessing who)

 I choose to remember a few things at this point.  It was a true privilege to ride with Buck in 2015.  What I learned in those 3 days permeated my way of being, not just in the saddle but in how I am day to day, and for that I am very grateful.  My learning was solidified and I will never stop chasing how my horse felt during the clinic and the months afterwards.  Now I'm still just scratching the surface of all this.  Buck gave me the tools to offer the best I can in the horses that have subsequently touched my life.  I will always strive to do better for them and be better for them.  

Additionally I may not be riding, but you can guarantee I'll still be learning and soaking up as much as I can from Buck and the participants.  The fat lady hasn't sung for me yet, hopefully I'll get to ride another day.

Finally, and most importantly I am completely and totally beyond excited for YOU!

Those of you who are spectating or riding for the first time, hang onto your hats because it's just going to be fabulous.  Now without sounding like a complete nutter I am excited that you get the opportunity to learn from Buck.  Leave your ego at the door, go in with an open heart and mind and I guarantee you a great clinic.  Try, try and try. 

 It's not just the slightest try in a horse Buck sees.

Oh and Tina, you legend, THANK YOU from I'm sure, all of us, for convincing Buck to come back and for organising what I am sure will be a wonderful experience for everyone.

So I will see you all at Aintree.  YAAAAAYYYYYYY!!

#roadtobuck is never ending my friends.

See you on the flipside xx











Wednesday, 19 April 2017

It's a long way to Tipperary (or Aintree)

Kintsugi





Hello everyone, apologies for the hiatus with my blogs, I've been on the bench so to speak and with it came a hefty dose of writer's block... which has lasted 4 months.

So, this time 2 years ago I was a gal with a plan, a horse that I could depend on and all was ok with the world.  Roll 2 years on and things are rather different.  Lame (new-ish) pony, lame owner and with it, a case of what on earth am I thinking?   I've taken the last 4 months, and more recently the last 3 weeks to really reflect why I feel I have an almighty road block in my horsemanship, and the short answer is my grief and my horsemanship are intrinsically linked.... I won't bore you with the details, but my brother was the person who drove me to my lessons as an 11 year old.. so you can join the dots.  So how have I dealt with this over the last few months?  Well, I have basically shut down and avoided the issue, which means Ada's hock arthritis, my fluctuating health, have been convenient distractions from dealing with the issue that whenever I interact with my horse, all my feelings of loss, regret, and the ugliest of all, guilt, raise their heads and stop me dead.

Now Buck has mentioned a few times, that when you live in the past its not going to work out too well for you.  With a horse who has had a bad deal, you can not just feel sorry for it, you acknowledge what the animal has gone through of course, but you can't dole pity upon it and remain stagnant.  No, you carve out a path and say ok, this is how it is going to be, I know you have had a rough deal but I offer you this consistency when we are together and do you know what, we are going to make it.  With a horse I find this relatively easy to comprehend... to extend the same courtesy to myself?  Hell no.  Until a horse made me see the wall I have put up, and I when I was forced to face it, well that sucker hit me from the ground up.  Equine therapy is something I have long admired, but not experienced, so when a friend of mine shared details of a local 'Women's Day' to find out what this wonderful place had to offer, (a local equine therapy facility) I was compelled to go.   When we were invited to meet the horses and walk across to the field (in silence), my comedic brain hit default and tried to check out.. until I felt this horse before I saw him, and it was like hitting a brick wall with my face.  Now a feel can mean different things to different people, but I felt this horse clear across the concrete yard and field, and his head shot up as out energies clashed.  We were then invited to approach the fence line to meet the herd, and this horse told me in no uncertain terms not to move forward, but I did (as I didn't want to look foolish) and I just broke down.  Great big sobs of grief, pain, relief... like the lid of two years of loss was popped off and out poured my innards.   Now it was hard to feel and accept this pain, but cathartic and I feel.. well, better.  Not mended, but lighter.  Sometimes there are lessons we need to learn, and the horses are the only way we are going to learn them.

The Japanese mend pottery which is broken with lacquer mixed with powdered gold.  As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of the object, rather than something to disguise.  So I like to think the horses have performed their own 'Kintsugi' upon me, and I am now ready to saddle up and wear my laquered gold with pride.  So I will be at Aintree, come hell or high water, because my horse deserves for me to be the best I can be for her, and do you know what? I deserve to allow myself to enjoy the journey.  The Road to Buck is a long one, and different for us all, but we all deserve to be there and to learn how to give the very best deal for our horses.

See you on the flip side xx

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Do you have a flag? A short and sweet rant from a short and sweet lady :)



Now, whether you are familiar with the comedy of Eddie Izzard or not, I can't help be mentally drawn back to this clip every time I am asked about my flag...and the recurring question after "Why do you use it?" is always a frivolous, "Can you show me some of the things you do with it?"  In a wave it around to desensitise as that is the only conceivable use for it, kinda thing.

When I try to explain that the exercises I am doing can be taught without the flag, and that those exercises are the aim of me working my horse on a lead rope, I get the look of puzzlement...

Now what Eddie illustrates above is the fixation with the tool, not actually the situation or task surrounding it...be it claiming new territories or working with a horse, and I find it as irritating as hell.  Sorry, I'm usually a happy go lucky and helpful individual, but I find it so belittling it makes me burn.

It's not about the flag...it's not a parlour trick, it's not me lunging a horse to brain death, it is an extension of my arm.  Wouldn't matter what it was, tennis racket, whip, or rope that I am going to hang myself with if someone asks me again... it doesn't matter.  What does matter is the intend behind it, devoid of emotion and simply being used as an extension of what it.  Sure it gets moved around, but that moving is with a purpose.  Whether it is to get my horse used to commotion, or to help move a shoulder across or shape up when on a circle, it has a specific purposeful job.

If you want a tool with no purpose, go to any local tack store and find some side reins.

Now on a nice note, welcome to my new readers and newbie participants signed up for Buck's clinic in 2017.  I look forward to getting to know you all.  Here's a picture to prove I smile hehe  x

I'm off for a medicinal drink..

See you on the flip side x