Monday, May 16, 2011

Repairing Your Horse's Turboencapulator

Personally, he had me at the announcement of the next presentation on repair and replacement of your car's cigarette lighter and ashtray.

My first thought on watching this--after I stopped snorting yoghurt out my nose--was that this guy sounds remarkably like a vet I used to use.  The guy spoke in tongues, I swear.  That would have been fine if the horses had been sound and healthy, but every visit left someone off, ouchy, lame, crotchety or otherwise indisposed to normal locomotion.  Just goes to show that if you know your stuff, little words don't make you know it any less.  And if you don't know it, big words aren't going to educate you.

That brings me to the horse training portion of this missive.  I recently had cause to watch a training video (the cause being I was awake, and watching training videos is second only to Law and Order reruns), and by the third such viewing I still had no grip at all on the jargon.  It was highly technical in that lexicographical convolution way that some people employ either because they really are that much smarter and more deeply steeped in the technical details and don't notice they've lapsed into conversational Latin, or because they are trying very hard to sound like they've reinvented the wheel in 3-D and Smell-O-Vision.  Fortunately it was a video, so I could turn off the sound and watch the illustrations, which were entirely comprehensible.  I mentally attached my own terms to the things I was seeing, and before long I really got the drift and was able to bring the theory to my Advisory Board in the lower pasture.  But the technical language, much as I love the way "equinesuperstenoticoverreachingsomatotyping" rolls off the tongue (don't bother; I made that up), is beyond most language majors let alone the average Jo Horse Person.

Do you feel foolish when you just don't get it?  When your dressage instructor gets testy because you haven't memorized the pyramid, do you cringe and vow to take up roller derby rather than face another embarrassing lesson?  Well, you're not alone.  I'm here today to ask--nay, beg--the PTB (Powers That Bitch) to please tone it down a notch.  You're not impressing us, and you're making learning more difficult than it needs to be.

When I was teaching high school English as an alternative language choice to teens whose vocab stopped at the four-letter-word/three-word-sentence column on the Fleisch-Kincaid Readability Scale, I learned early on that exercising my own vocabulary resulted in Shock and Awe and a lot of four-letter under-desk texting.  There wasn't a lot of transfer of knowledge afoot.  It wasn't until I started inserting the word "iguana" into every example that I got their attention and watched their test scores....okay, they didn't really soar so much as float slowly upward.  But at least it was up, not down.

Linnea making it real by removing my leg from its socket.
If you are an instructor, trainer, or producer of how-to vids for riders and owners, KISS, okay?  Keeping the concepts simple is one thing, but making the language comprehensible is a much bigger one.  It would appear that everyone wants to be a Famous Something with a Memorable Catch Phrase (like "Pogo Up" or "Light His Tail"--yes, I made that up, too) and there's little concern over the efficiency with which the theories involved are being transmitted and absorbed.  Give us a break.  If the horse's nose needs to point to the rail, say that.  I don't want to hear words like "distal" when I'm focused on avoiding an unscheduled dismount over a jump.  I'm an idiot.  Treat me as such.  Respect me for my ability to be numb from the neck up.  It's my best thing.  Point.  Move things.  Get off your chair, unplug your microphone and retrieve the earbud I can't hear through anyway, and get out in the dirt and trot around so I can see what it's supposed to look like.

By the way--and this is not a plug (much)--Linnea Seaman does that very, very well, which is why I still have my suspenders after four years of only one or two lessons a year.  If she can do it, so can other trainers.

If you are a student/owner/horse lover/advocate, for pity's sake ask!  I may have rankled the instructor who expected me to intuit his meaning and who put his head in his hands and groaned when I "bisected the school" (WTF?) at the wrong spot, but my yelling, "I can't hear a word you're saying!  Can you speak up or come out here and show me where to go?" could not be ignored. It was all okay.  I outplaced him in my first-ever test, so there!  And I did that because I had on hand an adult child who could translate for me (granted, it was betweeen gritted, "oh, MOM!" teeth) so I could actually learn the exercises and practice them with flair and confidence.  Not everyone has one of those, so feel free to interrupt even the most elite of trainers and ask the questions you need to have answered until you get answers you understand.

I hate to think how many horses, how many riders, and how many horse-and-rider pairings have fallen by the wayside because ego got in the way of the open-hearted quest for knowledge.  Let's open the dialog and take it back to the level of the lovely Mrs. Fyfe who explained to my thirteen-year-old self that we "buff the saddle with our britches" when we canter.  In one sentence I had an image that has lasted a lifetime.  That's the ticket to success on both sides of the saddle.

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