Saturday, June 26, 2021

Trail Ride Hazards: Avoid the Second Bite Of The Tick

From Lyme's, to Spotted Fever, to conditions that make the consumption of red meat potentially fatal-- there are few creatures out on the trails more dangerous than ticks. I try to remember to apply a light touch of Deep Woods Off to my pants before going into the woods. I check myself for ticks as soon as I get home from being in the woods.

I often find a tick or two that has seized onto my skin and began to draw out my blood. To date I have been able to remove the ticks before I picked up any of the more serous tick related diseases. 

But up until recently I have been greatly vexed by the rebound from the tick's bite, the swelling and itching that comes a day later and is especially annoying when ever sweat hits the bite area. It irritates me. It makes me mad. It makes me resent the bite much more than when the bite actually occurred. 

It is this reaction, much as if the tick had bitten me all over again, that was the worst part of being bitten by a tick. 

And I finally came to understand the obvious---The tick bit me once and I chose to be "re-bitten." I chose to allow my reaction to the event to be much more painful than the event. I chose to react, resent and re-live the bite. 

And by doing so I gave a tick, that was barely large enough for my eye to see  power over me. 

I don't make that foolish decision anymore. The tick bites me. I remove it. I medicate the wound and I get on with life. I did not use to be that way. I am finally applying what I have learned in natural horsemanship to my sanity.

The round pen is not just for the horse. It should be the class room for the mind and the church pew for the soul of those who work hard to get the human benefits out of natural horsemanship. 

The round pen is a place for reflection and it is a place to sort out reality from appearances. If a tick bites you remove it and treat the wound--and move on. If a fool insults you, recognize that you have no control over the fool. If you cannot control your reaction to the fool then you merely join him in his foolishness. 

The only thing more foolish than trying to control the behavior of others is to fail to control the behavior of oneself. One decides how to react to the world.

Today I will go out into a world of ignorance and pettiness and the vast majority of people with whom I will interact will be self centered and selfish. That is the nature of human interaction. 

But I will decide how I will act and how I will respond to this unwholesome environment. And I will not delegate to others the right to decide my happiness for the day. I will not allow the tick to continue to bite me.  

What I have learned from the round pen has made it possible for me to start off the day reviewing Seneca, Epictetus, Aurelius, The Letter Of James and Ecclesiastes. It has made it possible for me to experience the physical peace that one feels after taking the hottest shower possible, followed by the coldest shower possible  and concluded with fifteen minutes in a bath tub of ice, cold water, and large frozen ice packs. 

What I have learned from the round pen has allowed me to understand that sugar and simple carbohydrates are as poisonous to my body as they are to a horses' and even more importantly, that they wreck my composure every bit as much as they wreck the composure of a horse. 

I can take steps that will reduce the number of ticks that bite me the first time, but I am in absolute control of preventing the second bite, the reaction to adversity that is so often worse than the adversity itself. 

Natural horsemanship makes better horses, but it makes much better people. 

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Natural Horsemanship and Self Control: Your Words Have Not Killed Anyone, Have They?

When I was very young I was the Assistant Director of a local outdoor museum. An unkempt  young man was pan handling on the sidewalk. The Director asked me to have security remove him. I responded that I did not think that he was doing anything illegal.

Eventually I did have security remove him. Within the hour he killed himself. 

Humans are fragile, often much more fragile than they appear on the surface. Every human interaction is fraught with the possibility, however slim, that one sentence or even one word can cause unanticipated suffering. 

The serious practice of natural horsemanship causes one to be aware of the horse's emotions at every moment of the interaction. It requires the most difficult of emotional leaps--requiring one to empathize with a creature as different from a human as one could possibly be, without projecting human emotions unto the animal. 

The serious practice of natural horsemanship causes one to be aware of every threat the the health and safety not only to one's self, but also to the horse. The serious practice of natural horsemanship often requires one to place the best interest of the horse above one's personal wishes. The serious practice of natural horsemanship requires one to control oneself  before one can seek to control a horse. 

Most importantly, the serious practice of natural horsemanship teaches that one only has total control over oneself and only has limited ability to effect the behavior of others. This is among the most important lessons from the round pen.  

Monday, June 14, 2021

Controlling The Unruly Horse

It weighs at least eight times more than you do. It is at least fifty times stronger than you. It is at least ten times faster than you. Is there any way to influence much less even control it? 

 If you really want to be able to safely control your horse it is one thing that you must first master. It is your emotion---- your fear, your anger, and for many people it is your frustration. One who is not in control of oneself will never be in consistent control of a horse.

An angry, terrified, frustrated student cannot learn effectively. When in the presence of an angry, terrified, frustrated teacher that student cannot learn at all. 

The rider who has not done the hard work to take control of themselves is a danger to himself and others astride a horse. One who cannot control a three ounce tongue cannot control an eight hundred pound horse. 

Of course, it is entirely appropriate to seek counselling to learn how to stop giving in to every negative thought that crosses one's mind. There should never be any stigma against doing so. But one should take advantage of every resource available.

When he was only ten years old Harry Truman came to the realization that since humans had been around so long it was pretty much impossible for a person to face a problem that had never been encountered by a person before. He decided to learn everything that he could from history so that he would be prepared to face the problems that he would encounter as he grew older. 

That was a wise approach. 

The wisdom of the past can be of tremendous service to us today. If you cannot control your emotions you might very well find good instruction on doing so in the works of Seneca and Marcus Aurelius. 

In terms of human experience and struggles the writer of Ecclesiastes had it right, 

"  What has been will be again,
    what has been done will be done again;
    there is nothing new under the sun."

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Marcus Aurelius, Natural Horsemanship. and Making Sense of The World Around Us

For over fifty years I pursued knowledge and information with a pure, raw zeal. For the remainder of my life I hope to pursue wisdom and understanding with that same zeal. I wish that I had started that journey sooner, but I am not sure that it would have been possible to do so. 

At age forty my memory was sharp and my mind was quick. I could routinely watch an episode of Jeopardy and get every question correct. Now I do not have a chance at any question that involves popular culture. (And even the questions that I do know I find that I can't answer as fast as the contestants).

I do not know as much as I once did, but I understand so much more than I would have ever thought possible. I have recently begun to absorb the teaching of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. This great Stoic philosopher has more to say to me about life in the 21st century than any modern thinker that I can find. 

But when I was forty I would not have thought it so. I would have grown bored with his insights and would have quickly set his works aside. It is important to understand that the change is not merely something that comes with age. Were that true the world have fewer old fools.

No, two decades of practicing  natural horsemanship is the key to this transformation.  Intense practice of natural horsemanship has both a direct and an indirect impact on one's  ability to learn and practice wisdom. It gives one an accurate perception of one's skills and talents and replaces the loud noise of society's definitions of oneself. It clears the mind to leave more room to notice everything that is going on around us. It increases patience. It teaches us to reject conformity and adherence to a set of rules and definitions that are imposed by the rest of the world and to find truth on our own.

The dedicated practice of natural horsemanship can be likened to to a prebiotic. It creates a mental, emotional, and spiritual environment that  allows the probiotic of wisdom to flourish. 

As we have taught for nearly two decades, we practice natural horsemanship not because it makes better horses, but because it makes better people. 

Friday, June 4, 2021

Becoming a Life Time Rider: Summer of Self Competition In Our Program

What good does it to to teach a teenager to be a great rider and to love riding without helping them learn a lifestyle that will help make it possible for them to continue riding for another fifty years? Consider this, a very large proportion of my riders will grow up to have metabolic disorder, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and a host of other lifestyle related health problems. Video and computer games, and worst of all, those cell phones are the cigarettes' of today's youth. They are deadly addictions. 

 This summer program participants will be allowed to compete for the opportunity to go on a off site trail ride with only a handful of experienced riders. It will be a very special ride. the kids will think that the ride is the reward, but the actual reward is the introduction to a healthy lifestyle that they can carry on throughout their lives. The rules are simple, from the first of June until the last day of August those who choose to be in the program will have to keep their own records and the high point competitors in various age divisions will get to go on the special fall trail rides. 

 Scoring is simple: twenty minutes very brisk walking with a weight in each hand, curling and pumping vigorously 1 point per day (if the session is completed before 7:00 am the participant gets 1.5 points per day) Posting on an inflatable exercise ball, twenty seconds on, ten seconds off, for four minutes three times per week 5 points--any thing less than three times per week 0 points Completion of a 20 mile or more ride; 10 points for each ride

 Read " Hope Rising"
25 points for reading the book and participating in a group discussion of the book

A practioner of natural horsemanship will find this program invigorating and rewarding. One trapped in the box that passes for education in the established horse world will never understand what this has to do with riding.