Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Broken Operating Systems Aren't Just For Bulgaria Anymore


es, he's talking about Bulgaria. 
He's talking about Communist countries.  Did you keep forgetting that as you listened?  Personally, I found it really hard to keep that in my mind.  This could so easily apply to the US overall and to us in our horse lives more particularly.  We have adopted the "Serious Meme" in spades!  We're a full generation out of step with ourselves, living by our (and by "our", I mean "my", so that's turn-of-the-century) grandparents' standards.

If you opted not to listen to the whole lecture, let me assure you there's good reason to go back and finish.  Mr. Kell is concerned about creating mindless, robotic workers.  I'm concerned about creating mindless, robotic horsemen and frustrated, dull horses by reflection.  We don't value play. 

Maybe if you hear again the part where he says that the biggest brains belong to the most playful creatures, you'll see more value in indulging a bit.  We all want to be the best, biggest-brained, smartest kids on the planet, right?  Rats who play have bigger brains than rats who don't.  Kittens deprived of play lose their ability to interact socially.  People without the Play Gene are just depressing to be around. 

Oh, we value sport.  Don't confuse the two.  Play is not always sport.  Sport is usually organized, ruled and regulated.  There's winning and losing and a warlike attitude of wanting to best the enemy.  Little kids engage in little-kid war sports run by adults.  Pony kids are dedicated from the age of three to showing their ponies in lead-line classes and bringing home the blue.  The ponies play in the pasture if they're allowed.  We don't really value play for them either, so some of us keep them cooped up in boxes except when they're being worked.  Working is in; playing is out. 

"We're designed by nature to play from birth old age."

Hey!  How about a game of Fetch?

 Feed Your Inner Neotenist!  Put on your grubby but sooooo comfy jeans or breeches and go play in the pasture with your horse.  Forget the lesson you had in mind for today and set up a completely alien experience.  Turn off your cell phone.  Put your dressage horse around a barrel pattern.  Do it bareback!  Let your Western Pleasure horse try a cross-rail or two.  Once he gets over the shock, he might surprise you with his enthusiasm.  Do it all with a friend who's equally in need of a mental health day and keep score aloud.  It doesn't matter what you're scoring; it's the giggles that come with being first to get the rock onto the barrel or get your horse to walk backwards through the pattern that counts.  Make stuff up. Creativity is key.

More than twenty years ago, my daughter (and I, since I was standing there being Mommy at the time) got the best advice from a trainer I've ever heard, and I've never forgotten it (though I occasionally forget to implement it).  Hector Carmona, Jr, in a dressage lesson with my then-twelve-year-old child and her awesomely vigorous buddy, Grady, said, "Don't do dressage with him every day.  Do it no more than three times a week.  Jump him a couple of times; take him out on trails....No horse needs to do dressage five days a week."  No rider does, either.  Or any other discipline.  Mix it up.  Add a little fun and stir well.  My QH mare got her flying changes by doing poles bareback after our lesson, not by working hard at it during.  And it gave us another sport to boot! 

This is in no way permission for carelessness.  We do have plenty of that.  It is possible to have fun without causing chaos.  Perhaps that's the challenge we're not willing to take on.  It's easier to be overly-cautious and driven by a straight path ahead with no thought required.  It's taken me six years to convince my Appy buddy Dakota that it's okay to walk off the line, run instead of trot.  He still chooses the obvious path if he's allowed, but he's learned to relax and take the world as it comes.  He's a lot more fun now, and far less likely to wind up an "unsuitable", one-trick pony.  

We need more laughter overall, and we can certainly use some in the horse world.  We need less work and less competitiveness and more creativity and joy.  Play Time is officially ON!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes, probably so it is