22 May 2017

Doing it in a different way.


We walked back into the woods this morning, where we haven’t been in months. I hadn’t really thought about this in a context, but it’s been a rough few months and I've been a bit lost. Ruby’s health was in decline, then Banksy went and hurt herself. I’ve been sticking close to home for Ruby, and then when Banksy hurt herself, sticking even closer.

Also in this time, I had a difficult horse run into a difficult situation with a life threatening injury. I don’t often write here about horses, you should know they're a big part of my life. I struggle with why they separate in my mind, I constantly look for bridges to bring training dogs and horses closer together. A few years back, I started changing a lot of things about my horsemanship, venturing slowly in baby steps down a whole different rabbit hole of doing things that I’ve been doing for nearly a lifetime. This has slowly led me to the world of old school vaquero horsemanship, a parallell upside down world where everything is exactly the same an at the same time exactly different.

The deeper you get into something new, the more facets and flaws you find as you examine things closer and closer. Over the weekend I rode the difficult horse in a clinic with an astute young horseman, a protegee of Brannaman, who travels the country helping riders by passing along a legacy handed down from Ray Hunt. This is a thing, with riding, as it is with dogs, following a circuit of clinicians, hoping in a weekend to transform some old habits into something new. Gain a light bulb moment, fix a problem, come home transformed.

A fish out of water, I went in with an open mind, hoping to gain some new insights and get some help with a lot of questions I had. I'm humbled by looking at something I've done for so long with different eyes, placed way out in left field. It's hard for me to ask for help. It's how I felt when I first ventured into agility, like I've been handed a giant puzzle that I should know all the answers to, but that instead, I've got nothing and am stumbling along in the dark.

The first day, the cowboy advised me to trust my instincts, to be me, to work with my years of experience as I ventured into something new, not to try be like anyone else.

“Like, I gotta be me?” I asked. He didn’t like much talking from his people, and my big mouth smart ass comments seemed vexing to him. The way I was asking my questions hadn't been working for him. But he didn't seem to mind that one.

“Exactly.”

“It’s hard to be a student,” I said, to nobody in particular, as I went off to work on just being me. He laughed. On this, we did agree.

The next day, as I was just being me, I forgot to follow an instruction. It wasn't the first time. This is a thing I know about myself, I might try to do things by the rules, but I do consistently veer off beaten paths. He laid into me hard.

"What's it going to take? WHAT IS IT GOING TO TAKE? What if I started chopping off your fingers, I took you over to one of those fence posts, and one by one, every single time you started back into your old pattern, I took off a finger? Is that what it would take? How many fingers would I have to chop off? Right THERE. On that fence post. How many? HOW MANY? Would it take losing a child, losing a limb, breaking your neck and never walking again? What would I need to do to get you to understand?"

That went on for a while.

People stayed pretty quiet after that. Maybe he woke up on the wrong side of the bed that morning. Or maybe he's just a misogynist dick. Biggest take home message, inconsistency is hard to learn from. We'd been talking about best emotionally supporting our horses. I could be generous and say he made an important point about being consistent, fair, and not over reacting and trying to teach from a place of fear. Or I could just say, he's got a lot to learn about tempering his ego to refine how he delivers his message. I like to see both sides of things, both sides are probably right.

So I learned some things, just not all of them what I thought I'd be learning.


It’s been a lot to think about, the last few months. A huge gust of luck blew my way after the clinic though, and I brought home something to go along with some newfound knowledge of how I do and don’t want to move forward out of this rough patch. I didn't lose a finger, instead I got my arm back, just not the way I thought I would. When we walked all the way down to the creek this morning, for the first time in many months, Ruby came along.

Things might be different now, but I think we know how to go on. Nobody's losing a limb. We're just doing things in a different way.

4 comments:

Sobaka said...

That guy was totally a misogynist dick. I would not have been so forbearing as you were.

Love the tattoo. That is just absolutely perfect. So sorry about Ruby, it's so hard to watch them get old and then say goodbye, after such a short time together.

Mary said...

Laura, you made my cry, "When we walked all the way down to the creek this morning, for the first time in many months, Ruby came along."

Tammy Moody said...

I hope you grow six more arms and become a warrior goddess, riding your tiger and protecting peace, good, and all you love and hold dear.

Terry A said...

Hard to trust trainers who treat people badly, just about guaranteed to treat their animals the same way, no matter what they teach. Prick for sure. So sorry about Ruby, we just love them so very much. Glad she is always with you now in spirit.