Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Fat Cowboy is Changing my Life

This fat cowboy is amazing. I'm learning all this stuff on his dvds about riding that I never knew, like first never wear a tight cowboy shirt if you're like 30 pounds overweight. He looks like Yoda. But really, I'm learning mostly that everything I do is my fault. The horse is just this lazy blinking, big eyed animal that basically wants what you want - an easy time. You just have to find the connection. And nurture it.

So much of it is the same as mothering - you're teaching behavior that works for you, and you can do it gently, you just have to be consistent.

I worked with Maggie out on the street yesterday and the backyard today for about 5 minutes that I had free - and it's really amazing what happens when you have a handful of new skills to toss out there and try. It takes away fear, and instead you have purpose. And the horse seems to respond to purpose - it's like she wants to do what I'm asking her - she's actually not being an asshole because she wishes she lived at a better barn and that her owner was Justin Timberlake or something (I don't even know who that is, is that like a shoe, or something?). Really, the horse isn't harboring some grudge, has no other agenda. She just wants active guidance so she can relax and carry out your plan, and then celebrate later with a giant pile of hay and maybe a butt scratch.

The riding is a different feel - it's active. The more active I am with my seat, legs, hands, the more she responds and listens, she's glad for the guidance. I'll be glad when she knows all the cues better and I can just ride and daydream, but this new section where we're both learning to understand each other - it's pretty interesting.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Jerry the Life Coach

My new love is this dude Jerry Tindell. He's some fat old cowboy who is like magic on horseback. Some neighbor (I'll call her cussing hairdresser from New York)gave me his dvds and I've been watching them on the treadmill and learning how to get into the mind of Maggie.

I have to watch everything like 20 times to understand what the hell he's talking about, and then I run out and try it out on Maggie. It's a good thing I have the discs, because Katie moved to her new house yesterday and without her here I decided I better get rid of this impossible horse. But then the dvds give me inspiration so I go out, get on her back and try all this bending and flexing and teaching her the leg cues, and it's kind of fascinating. She actually DOES the stuff he says it's possible to teach.

All I want is for her to be able to go out on the trail and be a regular and safe horse. But what he said that was most interesting is that horses don't respond to the pull on the rein, it's not the pull they're going for, it's the release. So you think you're pulling them, but really, when you pull them, they go with it because at the end of the pull is the release. They're looking for the release. I thought that said alot about pretty much everything in life. The horse will try anything for you because at the end you're letting go. That's a pretty nice promise.

Learning horses is just like learning music or learning any other invisible thing. It's all about finding balance and figuring out how to float along with something as seamlessly as possible so you can hear its own silent song. Hopefully you can match up with it for a few strides where you dissolve together. That seems like beauty to me.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Enjoy Your Meal

I guess Maggie's been with us three months now. I've been working with her out in the barn area because it said online to make her life a living hell in the barnyard, so that when you go on trail rides, she won't be in a hurry to turn around anymore and go home. So she's getting lunged outin our little back paddock area and she challenges me sometimes but mostly she does exactly what I say. She's a quick learner. Smart, but strong. So I have to be firm.

She's also just a big fat pile of brown playdough. She'd much rather just stand there and stare at you and perhaps fall asleep. So maybe when I'm done and I've built the perfect horse, then we'll both just stand there and fall asleep.

I was having a bad day the other day and I went out to see her while she was eating. I laid my head on her fat side and told her whatever problem it was that I was having. Probably about how life is speeding by and how does anyone figure out what they're doing, or who they are or what's important or what makes sense.

And she lifted her head up from her hay to look back at me, chewing contentedly.

You should really try the food here, was her message. There's nothing else, Jule. It's simple. Enjoy it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tiny Steps

I know this has become the Maggie blog, but I haven't had much time to ride lately. I mean, we ride a bit every day - Monday Nathan stayed home sick from school, so of course I made him ride his bike while I took Maggie up the trail. Only when you're trying to keep up with a bike do you realize how incredibly slow this horse actually is. Much better to have your head in the clouds than in real time when riding her. And today I got on for ten minutes doing bending and circling in the street in front of our house and then I had to run pick up Lilly for school and on the way shovel a pile of horse poop in a bucket and stick it in the trunk so it wouldn't be in front of the neighbor's house where she had deposited it. Then I forgot it was in the car so when I went to get the kids at carpool, I actually had to REMOVE a bucket of manure from the trunk so as not to gag the 11 year olds.

Today was one of those really hard days - packing my mom (again) this time in smaller and smaller suitcases, getting her plane stuff worked out, getting her dog into the vet so she can fly on the plane, hoping she even gets on the plane since she's going standby, trying not to feel guilty for all the things we didn't do while she was here, everything rush rush rushing because we have 3 busy kids all the time around. Then Lilly saying (when I had to go to the vet), "Is she going to die?" because the last time we were there we had to take in old Maisie. Then I had to run to the gyno for a look under the hood, and all evening was spent in the garage and helping Nathan do an earthquake project for science. As well as cooking. And still I'm mad I didn't get on the treadmill because then I could eat more banana cream pie.

And life moves too fast and there's too much going on, and I'm not even rich or famous. And sure, maybe I spend too much time helping my mom because I'm hoping that she'll actually love me if I do it. That she'll find happiness. It is truly a ridiculous life.

I'm sure if she does get on the plane, I'm going to have a very strange adjustment period after all these years of trying to make her happy and content, and helping her, and now she'll just be gone. I hope I can think of ways to spend the time. Relaxing might be good. I was just starting to go crazy, too much togetherness and not enough nurturing. But I love her, but man, it's hard because I am passionate about things, and I can get really angry when people are stupid and don't do things my way. I may have some faults. Today at carpool I stopped to let Nathan out to buy some awful fatty snack from a street ice cream vendor and I didn't pull up enough and some lady (I hesitate to call her that) had to pull her car around me and yelled out her window, mad "White people!" Wow man, that hurt. Am I bad driver because I'm white? Or because I'm a bad driver? When I see all the Mexicans and South Americans dropping their kids off in all sorts of terrible areas around the school in the morning, do I think racist slurs? I think I do. It's a base instinct, easy to access. Then I realized the Armenian kid I like was blocking traffic as he got dropped off the other day too. So it isn't just white vs hispanic. We're all against each other. All nations, all skin colors - we are all bad drivers. I can celebrate that unity. And when I think racist slurs, I can realize, I, too, am a bad Mexican driver. It's love, man. Humanity.

Maggie is very, very fat. I sometimes sit on her while she's eating. Because she's the cushioniest chair.

The hay guy Sal dropped off the hay while I was having my ten minute ride this morning, and he stopped to say hi. I told him I was working on bending her because she was a little barn sour lately (feeling desparate, I can't keep going). I always hang on anything anyone says, so as not to give up. And Sal said, "She's doing great." So that bolstered me up. Sal says she's great, I'll keep going. Tiny steps, big swaying belly.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Limp Away, Jog Home

So Mags and I did the trail yesterday after a few days of bending and turning and getting her used to listening to the rider. And she was better about being barn sour - she did still try to turn around and go home, but I could win the battle easier than last time. I figure I'll work with her a few days on bending, then go on the trail, then more days on bending. Eventually she'll quit, and be the big dope I'm hoping for, where you get on, aim her at the trail and ride.

Our little work area is out in front of the house on the street, in front of God and everyone. We're the weird little couple who just go in circles and never get anywhere. But it is so nice to be on a horse's back, especially her fat back, it's like riding a couch. Everything is peaceful up there because there I can't do anything for anybody, I just shrink back to my actual size. I think that's relaxation. Of sorts.

Yesterday we managed to open and shut the gate without me having to get off - it's like a comedy act trying to wiggle her the right way so I can close the gate without hitting her. But she was patient and helpful. Oh and she even fakes limping when going OUT away from the barn, and walks as slow as she can. Then you turn her around and she walks happily back, suddenly all better. I think I do that too, when I have to go get the kids at carpool.

Now that she can open gates, I think I may invite her in and do everything from horseback. Fry eggs, pack lunches and talk on the phone. It'd be so much more relaxing except our floors would be ripped to shit.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Day 81

I haven't blogged in here lately because Maggie had become a gigantic fat asshole and it didn't seem inspiring. In fact, I mentally quit, like I do immediately, so as to remain consistent.

She had decided that after a month of riding, she was going to turn around and go home everyime we went out. And she's got a really strong head. It's like trying to turn the Titanic away from the iceberg. Except without the big budget effects.

Every time she does something that seems insurmountable I think, time to make her into dog food. This was a mistake. She's a terrible individual. I will surely be killed. But then today I went out again because I had time off and I'd rather do that than write or clean. And I worked with her on turning and bending. Stepping back a step, since I realized that it's only been a month since we started riding everyday, which means that out of 10 years of her life, she's only had 30 days of someone pulling her around with a bit in her mouth. Maybe I should go back and get her really good at turning and listening to cues, respecting her rider and driver.

So we went out and slowly worked on the street, just turning circles, not getting anywhere, and she slowly got used to it - I just had to realize she can't just be pointed and aimed up the trail and expected to be a seasoned trail horse when she's still just learning and wanting to figure out the rider/horse connection. She's going to test everything, and wait to see who emerges as the leader.

I am learning today, as I drove her on long lines in the driveway, that it's actually an illusion that riding or driving is mellow and easy. You are always in contact with the horse's mouth, and you can't let the reins slack because then the horse is actually just floating out ahead with no leader. No matter where you're standing or walking as the rider/driver, you have to have contact and be the gentle but firm leader. A horse needs a leader. Later on, when we have a pretty solid connection, and she's a seasoned trail horse, then we can have moments of daydreaming and she'll know who's in charge. But I can't slack off now in the formulative years/days.

So thirty days is not enough it is just the beginning. But it's better than no days.

On the way home from our short ride we kept turning and bending, stopping and starting and turning and getting her used to listening to me no matter if that squirrel over there looks more interesting, or if going back to the barn for a nap seems like a good idea. She did improve - and the three Friends Of Maggie who keep telling me to not give up - they keep saying picture the horse you want to have, don't be afraid of every bad moment is the ACTUAL horse, the terrible horse. She's just a big doofy dog, and she's trying to learn. She likes her people.

When I got off her yesterday at the intersection by our house because one my friends stopped in her car to talk, and I was complaining about how she had turned into a gigantic piece of doo doo, we kept talking and talking and as we were talking, Maggie just stood there innocently and then slowly stepped closer to me until she was almost leaning on my shoulder, with her head hanging there like um, I don't wanna miss anything. She wants to belong.

That's why I kept going today. I'm going to focus on the idea that she will be an excellent, giving and gentle horse - just as she is now, I'll just school her in the cues I want her to follow, so she can be confident, and pliable.

And we've been calling her Agent 91 because of her brand on her butt. She's a retired spy (or is she retired?), and in the witness protection program.