Monday, October 31, 2011

Quick! Get Out of Your Way!

Self-Sabotage: The Enemy Within | Psychology Today

elf-sabotage!  How good are you at noticing when you’re setting up situations that doom you to failure?  Oh, now, don’t even think that you don’t do that.  Everyone does, but some folks do it more often or more effectively than others.  If you can’t see it in yourself, look around you.  I’m sure you can point a very quick finger at your arch enemy in the next cubicle who is cutting his own throat so effectively that you need only sit back and smile and wait to move into his office.

In the horse biz, there are more opportunities for making oneself miserable than there are spots on my Appy.   These include (but are hardly limited to):

  •  Buying a horse that is far too big, small, fast, slow, untrained, over-trained or smart for your ability level
  • Hooking up with whichever trainer is the Flavor of the Month among your friends despite having a completely different goal and enjoying a discipline that he doesn’t dabble in
  • Wearing stretch pants without investing in a full-length mirror for your bedroom and venturing out amid the loud-mouthed rabble that constitutes the horse world
  • Letting a child set the family on a fast downward spiral by announcing he has to have a horse
  • Spending money on a hobby (yes, horses are a hobby, despite their obvious intrusion into every corner of your life) that should have been earmarked for something frivolous like groceries
  • Quitting too soon  
  • Quitting too late

  • Quitting for the wrong reason
  • Not quitting

  • Never getting started
The list could go on forever.  We humans are infinitely patient and dedicated when it comes to making irrational decisions and trying to find someone else to blame for the outcome.

Sometimes scaling down is a good plan

For many of us Riders of a Certain Age, the biggest failures we can force on ourselves involve either not accommodating the changes in our lives and bodies in relation to our horse experiences or over-accommodating.  We do not necessarily need to slow down, which is the path too many of us choose.  We lose interest in our sport after only a few minor setbacks and choose to blame the aging process for our inability to work through the problems.   It doesn't have to get better or worse; it only has to get different.

If you can walk, you can probably ride.  Barrel racing might not be in the cards right now, and you might have to hang up that sexy red hunt coat for a bit, but adjustment doesn’t have to mean shutting down the process entirely.  It might mean that in addition to the board bill,  you're going to need a gym membership or a few rounds of PT.  On the other hand, the Well-Seasoned Rider who insists on hopping aboard a horse that is five levels higher than the best she’s ever done in her youth is cruising for a bruising, as my dad used to say.  

What I will NOT be doing

Women are far more likely to have a negative self-image (and horrific body image) than their male counterparts.  If you don’t believe that, go stand in the diet pill aisle at the drug store for an hour and count how many men filter through.  It’ll only take one finger on one hand, whereas counting the women would require supplemental digits.  From there, it's easy to extrapolate that if you’re overly conscious of how you look on your horse—your clothing, hair, and manner of moving—you are not focused on your riding skills, and it will be obvious to the casual bystander.  Watch a low-level equitation class at any small show.  I’ll put money on the girl spending more time fidgeting and self-grooming before the class to be the one turning in the worst ride.  A big smile can’t cover up tension in your shoulders and hips that are transmitted to your horse as “I’m terrified, so you should be too!”  The horse responds accordingly (for which he often is roundly beaten for his lousy performance).

We women are caught in a space between worlds.  A recent HuffPo article reported that women who are too feminine tend to fail in the workplace because they are seen as weak and will be overlooked despite their talents.  Women who are too masculine are treated as pariahs by both sides and again are passed over.  Unlike men who need only show up and keep a tight zipper during work hours, we spend an inordinate amount of energy self-monitoring…and self-defeating.  
What I CAN still do...moderation is key

There’s another side to self-sabotage.  There are times when our Inner Lunatic is screaming at us that it really doesn’t want whatever the goal we’ve set might be.  In those cases, the self-sabotage is subconscious but purposeful.  Afraid your horse is going to act out and embarrass you?  What better way to avoid that than to be an hour late for your lesson. “Oh, shucks!  Really?  I can’t reschedule and ride now [whew!]?”

Making excuses instead of putting in the effort—and it can be overwhelming, as I can attest as someone who opted to get back on a horse after a long illness—is about as self-defeating as a behavior can be.  Which brings us back to adaptations, modifications, and being true to yourself.  Know what you can do.  Push yourself in small ways to build up to the Big One.  Know in your heart that it’s worth the effort.  Stop making excuses and make efforts.  You’ll find a whole world of experiences out there waiting for your smiling face to join the group photo.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Who's Your Influencer, Baby?

reatest opening line for an article this week
  "Babies and psychopaths have one thing in common:  They're excellent at getting what they want."  Read the rest here:

The Art of Influence | Psychology Today

 As I read this article, my  mind naturally snapped to the horse world.  Oh, sure, politics is an easier target, but we're here about horses, mostly, and the craziness that surrounds them.

Every horseman--rider, owner, and wannabe alike--is influenced by someone and, in turn, influences someone else, even if it's only the horse at the other end of the rope.  Starting there, there's a whole cartload of reasons to be careful and aware of where the influencers in your life are coming from and what their agendas might be.  If the Ideal Example of the recent Rescue Phenomenon hasn't brushed your sleeve yet, let me update you.  We have a bunch of horses without homes and a bunch of people trying to find homes for them.  As influencers, these folks are top-drawer.  As a result, horses have on many occasions gone to homes where they really didn't belong to be owned by easily-influenced people without a clue.

One cookie and a carrot chunk gets
a hat on a horse's head.

Several days of cookies and his own broom
got me a new barn hand.

Then there's the money thing.  These influencers are not all on the up-and-up.  Hard to believe, I know!  Bad people in the horse biz?  Really?  Yes, Susie, there is a wolf in that sheep's outfit, and he's hitting you up for money in ways that you are hard-pressed to resist and for purposes that would curl your ponytail if you knew about them.

But that's not all the influencing that goes on in the horse world.  Just attend any show and note the riding styles, clothing styles, equine conformation styles, barn management styles, jargon being tossed about, and even the names of the classes, and you'll find influencers at work.  A plaque on my wall caught my eye while I was dusting (okay, truth be known I couldn't see it until I removed the grey fur) that showed that sometime back in the 90's I'd won a class called the Jerry Lewis Classic.  I have no idea what that was, though I suspect given my age that it was the Class Formerly Known As the Jack Benny.  That was a nice upgrade from the original "Old People On Horses" title.  We aging horsemen can be great influencers.  We have nothing left to lose including our dignity.

There are influencers correcting every inch of our riding lives if we let them.  They do this in insidious ways.  According to the article, most successful influencers are optimists.  Pessimists give up and go out for drinks at the first frown.  Optimists keep plugging until they wear down the opposition.  They're so sure they're going to prevail that they see no reason to quit until they do. 

ZIP:  "Touch what?  Sure!  Want me to do anything else while
we're at it?  A little tap dance or something?  Those carrots have
my name on 'em!"
The key to influencing is to make the request or demand seem to be in the best interests of the recipient of your attention.  It's also helpful (according to the current book Influencer:  The Power to Change Anything, by Kerry Patterson et al) to set up situations whereby the person you are trying to change hears or reads a pointed story and/or experiences the situation for him/herself as opposed to listening dumbly as you rant and lecture.  Knowing how easy it is to influence should make you doubly aware of the influencers in your surrounds and it should make it possible for you to apply the same principles whether to your spouse, boss, teenager or horse.  "Make the Undesirable Desirable" is the mantra.  They do it to you;  you can do it to them as well.  In education, we call it "finding their currency".  What is it they want, and how can you put that to use to benefit yourself?

With your horse, this is an easy process.  Horses don't have quite the level of ulterior motivation we humans have achieved, so convincing a horse to do something he doesn't want to do usually involves a calm approach (they like peace and quiet), lots of patience (predictability and control are big horse issues), and food (and more food, and even more food).  It's amazing what a horse can suddenly want to do when he hears the rustle of the cookie bag.  In my case, it's the black leather treat-and-clicker pouch.  I put that on, and suddenly my herd is lined up waiting to find out what they have to do for whatever is in the pouch. 

My point for today is that 1) influence comes in Good and Bad and gradations between the two, and 2) "give as good as you get" is a good motto to hang your hunt cap on.  According to Patterson (et al), two things are required for change:  The changer has to decide 1) whether the change is possible, and 2) whether it's worth it.  Figure out what pushes your buttons and note who's doing the pushing.  If you can see an agenda in the fine print that doesn't necessarily have your best interests as a basis, it's time to back off and switch roles with the influencer.  Convince him/her that it's in his  best interests to get out of your space and away from your Aura of Power, and move on in peace.  You'll know if the influencer is trying to be helpful, and you'll also know if he's not.  Just take a step back and make a mental list of what each of you stands to gain.  The devil is in the balance.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sand and Horses; Perfect Together!

If you've never wondered what works best for your horses' long-term health and happiness, then you probably have never owned a horse.  The rest of us are always looking for ways to take the vet out of the equation (sorry, Dr. Fazio) and get the most out of our horses for the longest time possible.  To that end, the following report is a very good bit of news indeed.  

I'll wait while you read.

Biomechanical analysis of hoof landing and stri... [Equine Vet J. 2010] - PubMed - NCBI

Okay?  So, you' re thinking, "But I don't own a Standarbred trotter, so who gives a hoo-hah about whether or not they like the beach?"  Right.  And I don't ever expect to transport my aging mounts to the Shore for a long weekend.  But the point here is that there is now scientific proof that sandy footing--deep sandy footing--allows Fuzz Butt to escape your days of fun with minimal impact damage to hooves and joints.  If that isn't good news, then I don't have a pile of samples of ridonculously expensive footing alternatives on my desk.  Seriously, $8K (yes, that's US$) for a singe truckload of ground-up sneakers..?  Paying top dollar for someone else's refuse seems over the top even for horse people.  I'm still smarting from the discovery that the horse vacuum for which I paid $100 many concussions ago was the identical model to the one on the shelf at the discount store for $49.95 with the sole addition of  horses printed on the bag. 

We really do have "sucker" tatooed in an obvious place.

Back to cases.  Sand, as it turns out, is cheap.  I have bought many truckloads over the years, so I am something of an aficionado.  The cheapest sand in my area is mason's sand.  Before you yell, no, it doesn't turn to concrete after the first rain.  It's the sand that mason's use to level the ground under stuff they're covering with concrete.  It looks like this:  
Mason Sand sans Mason

This was the very first sand I put in my outdoor ring over the mud, dirt, rocks and sawdust, some native and some put there in moments of idiocy on my part.  It's a nice sand, especially mixed with road grit.  If you live in the Northeast, any sand, once soaked with water and frozen, is a skating rink waiting to happen, so the road grit is a common local additive and even cheaper than the sand.  

Mason's Sand in White
 As you can see, mason sand comes in basic beige and white.

But this is not the be-all and end-all as far as sand goes.  The New Jersey company, ATAK Trucking, from which I borrowed the pics above, has quite an assortment, including...TA DA!...beach sand.  Which brings us back to the study.
Dakota looks askance at Lake Friedman.
Not one of my better efforts.
I am in constant flux when it comes to ring footing.  I've considered ground rubber, as it's truly wonderful and cushy, but the PtB require that I accept a full tractor-trailer load, which would fill my ring knee deep and cost a mint.  It's a tad hard to justify, even for me.  

Dolly carries Jess over something really tall in the nice
stone dust footing at Covered Bridge Equestrian Center.
If you have a quarry nearby, this is a great sand-alternative.
At the moment I have layers.  Somewhere at the bottom is granite, then Classic North Jersey rocks that three years of hand-picking and disking didn't quite eliminate, then the manure/sawdust remnants, and the mason's sand.  Then there's the road grit, the "washed sand" (aaargh!) that was my brilliant misunderstanding four years ago, and two layers of "equestrian sand", which defies definition.  I've been assure it's "nice sand with the silt removed" but not the same as "washed sand".  Uh....okay.  Guess you can ride in it but wouldn't want to eat off it.  

Occasionally I have at it all with the grade blade, York rake and chain drag,  and the resulting mix can be good or bad depending on the weather and my level of attention to detail.  Dunes are disastrous, and horses remember, believe me.  Dakota went nose first when his foot hit a dune during one memorable ride, and he's refused to go faster than a leisurely walk through deep footing ever since.  "Canter, canter, trot, trot, tippy-toe, tippy-toe, tippy-toe, canter" is not good for one's balance or sanity. 

Having read the study just as I was elbow deep in samples, I opted to have another load of "equestrian sand" delivered.  Seems all of the "remediations" required mixing with at least an inch-and-a-half of sand anyway, so why not start cheap and easy?  At $12.95 per ton, it's hard to beat.  It takes 50 tons to put a nice finish of about a half-inch on my 100' x 150' ring.  We can skip the part of the story where a sink hole opened in the sodden barnyard under the weight of the first tri-axle dump truck and its 25-ton load, precluding a second until we have a drought.  No one was harmed in the incident, and the Cliff Man already filled the hole.  The more important note is that if you don't have appropriate equipment for the spreading of sand (or other stuff), bulk delivery of 25 tons of anything is probably a mistake.  I have equipment.  I am Horse Woman, watch me tractor!   

You'll need a 4WD tractor with 3-point hitch, a quick hitch attachment if you're a lazy person like me who hates spending 10 minutes lining up equipment, a box blade, a grade blade, a York rake, and some sort of drag.  If you get the fancy sneaker remediation material they expect you to roto-till it into the sand.  Right. Not on my watch. 

Almost all sand is wet when it's delivered.  It's stored outside in humongoid piles. Duh.  Even with the best equipment, spreading wet sand is only a preliminary effort.  I always forget that.  It looks so nice and smooth and level and even when it's wet.  Then it dries.  Dakota knows where every deep spot is and refused to even venture forth until I re-spread the stuff to his approval.  Leo whined about how hard it is to get up a head of steam in half-inch-deep sand.  Zip and the others rolled in it immediately upon spreading.  So it goes. 

Still, even not-quite-even sand is better than rock.  Grass is better than rock.  So is dirt.  Do NOT spread manure as footing.  Seriously.  It is slippery and smelly and attracts flies, and you'll just have to dig it out and get rid of it.  Yep...been there, done that, lived to tell about it.  Sawdust is nice, but it breaks down really, really fast, and at $500 for 30 cubic yards, it's one of the more expensive options.  Mulch is popular around here, but like sawdust, it breaks down and nasty things like to live in it and it's not cheap and you have to count on the reseller to know not to sell you any black walnut.  I'm not that trusting. 

I still have a sample of "stabilized white sand" on my desk mixed with a tablespoon of my footing.  I'm not ready to commit, especially since I have no clue what about it is "stable" and am leery of having footing more stable than I am.  But at least I know if I were to work Standardbreds in my ring, they'd feel less stressed even without a beach boy bringing them apple juice with an umbrella in it.  

Ride on!