Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Character Education and Educating Characters: Part Next-to-Last

Before I return to the topic at hand, I need to offer a whopping product recommendation.  A few weeks ago I mentioned a company called Aspire, makers of a line of naturally-derived products for horses, farms, pets and aquariums.  The owner had sent me samples of the stock tank cleaner, which I tried and liked very much for its ability to make my hundred-gallon stock tanks look and smell less threatening even during mid-winter with the tank de-icers and hay drool helping nastiness to flourish.  I had to wait until the weather warmed to try the other sample they'd sent.  

I can honestly say that the 4 in 1 Equine Shampoo is one of the best such products I've used since I bought horses with a lot of "chrome" that required a lot of "elbow grease" to keep white.  Last week I gave good ol' Zip a quick once-over bath, and I can honestly say that even in cold water (it was a very hot day, do don't feel sorry for the boy), and even in a very cursory effort, this Equine Shampoo got his whites white and made his bay sparkle.  Very nice!  Nice fragrance, too.  Not overly-perfumy or chemical-smelling, just pleasant.  

This is Zip, post-bath:

Zip's blindingly-white chrome trim

 Considering his penchant for rolling in dirt and manure, any product that gets the yellow and brown out in one shot is a winner in my barn!  

So, thanks again, Aspire, for the samples and the chance to share your excellent products with my readers.

Now, on to today's topic.....


Character Education and Educating Characters

I'd put the "feelings" level at 9 out of 10 for this little guy
who just found out he won't be allowed to drive the tractor
after all.  Bummer.


T
here is some very cool stuff in my Character Education In-Service notes, and this is a part to which everyone can relate.  Maurice Elias of Rutgers gave us quite a little speech about Social and Emotional Learning (google CASEL:  Collaboration to Advance Social and Emotional Learning).  He explained that emotion-laden skills must be taught differently.  

Really?  It’s not just my imagination that asking my equine of  choice to brave the  raging rapids (to me it’s a puddle in the driveway, but what do I know about fear?) is a little farther up the training spectrum than asking him to turn to the left on cue?  Huh!  Guess I’m smarter than I thought.

I think it's pretty much a universal given now that we don't want to ride or train when we're emotionally on edge because we transfer that panicky feeling to the horse, which is never good.  So making sure we're on an even keel before we approach the situation is key.  Want to discover what, in your environs, sparks a heavy emotional response from you or your human student?  Check for these “Feeling Fingerprints”:

1.      Throbbing head
2.      Dry mouth
3.      Grinding teeth
4.      Tight fists
5.      Teary eyes
6.      Bad taste (that’s the oral one, not the Wal Mart leggings you’re schooling in)
7.      Nervous laugh
8.      Sweaty palms
9.      Tingling nose
10.  Clenched jaw
11.  Fluttering heart
12.  “Butterflies”
13.  Frequent bathroom stops
14.  Shaky legs

[Rereading that list, I had an overwhelming urge to call my doctor for a valium scrip.  Seems as if at any given moment, I’m hosting at least three of those.]

It’s not always possible for an observer to see when someone else is experiencing butterflies, but a handshake—the kind where you hold the other person’s hand until they look at you a little funny—will definitely give you a clue to the sweaty palms, rapid pulse, tight fists, and shaky legs part.  And once our subject is mounted, some of the other fingerprints will show themselves.  Horses react to tension with tension, so when Puffer Boy suddenly tenses up and pricks his ears back, you might want to suggest a quick relaxation exercise.  If it looks like Puffer is going to blow, dismounting first is a good plan.
Deep Relaxation can be accomplished thusly:

·        Stand (or sit, or lie down depending on just how close to panic/fainting you are), arms at your sides, eyes closed, and breathe deeply three times.  Innnnnnn…..hold a sec….outtttttt.  

·        Starting with your toes, focus every bit of your attention on them and clench those little buggers as hard as you can, hold for a count of five, then release.  

·        Repeat the clench-release moving up the leg muscles to the hips and abdomen.

·        Move your attention outward to the fingers and do the same thing, one muscle gropu at a time, moving up the arms to the shoulders. 

·        Raise your shoulders as high as you can, hold, release.

·        Twist your head gently from one side to the other, concentrating on breathing the tension out of your neck as you do that.  

·        End with the “lion” pose:  Open eyes, mouth, nostrils…raise eyebrows...splay fingers as wide as they'll go...hope nobody's watching….hold for 5, then release. 

·        Three more deep breaths like you started with should leave you ready for a nap and mostly free of tension. 

·        Get back on your horse.

·        Okay, go find your horse first, then get back on him.  Wake him if you have to.  He’ll likely be as calm as you are since he got an unexpected time out.

Next time I’ll explain what skills you and your horse need to learn to be emotionally sound.  
Namaste

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