Along for the Ride – Are you letting yourself off the hook?

by Robyn Schiller

Robyn is the wife of horse (and people) trainer Warwick Schiller. She invites you to join her as she journeys through her life as trainer’s wife, mother, businesswoman and Internationally competitive rider.

Not that I think you shouldn’t check on your horse’s physical wellness, but when I hear someone dismiss working on a behavioral issue with a horse and instead focus on soreness or a feed to give them instead, I think you are doing not only a disservice to your horse but yourself as well.

Read my first sentence – it’s not that I don’t think you should be on top of those things – you certainly should be.  I just don’t want you to let yourself off the hook.

Brene Brown says that Blame is just the discharge of discomfort or anger.  I found that definition very enlightening.  Now, when I find myself teetering on a blamefest, I try to become curious about the underlying feelings and examine them further.  At first it was just the act of identifying that I was using blame – you know what they say – you have to be aware of the problem first.  I’m not saying I have this mastered, blame is something that has a pretty good hold on me.  I’d like to think it’s getting better though.

When we see our horses respond or act in a way that we’ve decided is not right, I think too many times we want to blame soreness or feed or equipment or the weather or the change of scenery or ANYTHING BUT US.  I touched on this in my earlier blog You are the constant factor. There is one story I wanted to share that prompted me to write another about this subject.

We were at a horse expo – Warwick was working with a “problem horse” on the ground and the owner was having some trouble.  The owner had described her horse using a couple of different names (stubborn was one). She was having trouble getting her horse to go off around her.  It turned out that she was asking the horse to go, but stepping back at the same time.  This resulted in a horse that was confused – not stubborn.  This is one of the most common problems that we see horse owners do with their horse.  The result is that the horse gets mixed signals and often doesn’t know what to do.  They get confused.  It’s not the human’s intention – having a rather large animal in front of us causes our body to react all sorts of ways.

To describe this a little more – because this is definitely something to understand about horses.  Horses are very good at letting you know if what is on your inside doesn’t match how it comes out the outside.  A good word to use is Congruent.  They know when your thoughts and your actions are congruent or incongruent.  In this case, consciously, the person was wanting her horse to go but unconsciously there was something that did not match that and it came out as stepping backwards.  Maybe she was thinking, I want the horse to go, but……what if he does this or last time he did this or I don’t want to get run over or kicked or whatever.  The point is, the horse picked up on the incongruence and was confused.

As if he was sprinkling his fairy dust around, the minute Warwick took a hold of the lead rope, the problem went away.  He explained what he saw her doing, why it didn’t work for her and showed her a different way.  The horse responded immediately. Warwick didn’t really do anything except act with congruence.  His internal intention and thoughts matched what he asked the horse to do.  He didn’t need a rope, a stick & string, nothing but the ask, because it was clear to the horse.  The session ended with the horse showing it was capable of going off with energy and relaxation.  It was really cool.

The owner came up to the booth later and said that another clinician had approached her after the session and told her that her horse was sore and that she should have it worked on. Now, that is fair enough, I’m never going to tell a person NOT to do something that will benefit the horse and we are huge advocates of body work on horses – we get ours done all the time.  It was how I heard the owner of the horse communicate it to me.  To me, it was like she had forgotten that Warwick had shown her that her horse didn’t really have the issues she thought that it had.  I believe she was convinced that the answer was that the horse was sore and that is why it was not working for her.  It’s like she did not see the horse “not be sore” with Warwick and respond to what he was doing.  It was like she was holding onto an answer that let her off the hook.

I bring this up because this is a common occurrence on the Facebook group.  People want to first blame the feed or the body or the teeth or the feet or the equipment (not that you shouldn’t be on top of all of those things to begin with, you totally should).  But, what you should also be cognitive of is you and how you affect your horse.  Are you bringing in the baggage of your day? Using the time with your horse as your release? Are you mentally present and ALL IN? Are you making tiny little mistakes that confuse your horse? (Not being consistent is one of those little things – think of a person you’ve known in your life that was inconsistent and how you responded to them – Warwick had a boss like that. Every morning it was a guessing game as to what mood the boss would be in and that would determine the day he’d have.)  Be aware of it, don’t beat yourself up over it, but also don’t dismiss the fact that you are probably a bigger factor than food, equipment, etc.  Maybe some days it is better for your horse if you don’t show up or maybe just hang out with them instead of working with them.

Hopefully I can persuade you to FIRST look at how the horse is being handled and what it is being taught (whether you mean to or not).  When you are handling the horse, you will notice if there is something physically wrong.  In doing the first parts of either the SKILLS or RELATIONSHIP path – you are observing your horse intensely.  If you notice something “off” ask yourself:  Does he do this when I am not around/attached to him/riding him?   If the answer is yes, then perhaps you should investigate further.  But if your horse has done something 1 time or doesn’t do it when you are not in the equation, then perhaps the only investigation you need to do is with yourself.

The more and more I learn about energy, the more convinced I am that I am the one that needs to change to suit my horse rather than the other way around (the way I have conducted myself up until this realization.) This journey is really a self-development one and I am learning so much!

Thanks for reading – I hope it didn’t come across as a rant!

 

 

 

Along for the Ride – Arizona Show Report finale

by Robyn Schiller

Robyn is the wife of horse (and people) trainer Warwick Schiller. She invites you to join her as she journeys through her life as trainer’s wife, mother, businesswoman and Internationally competitive rider.

Continued from Arizona Show Report

SHOW DAY 1 – Wednesday

I woke up at 4 and thought I could sleep for another hour, but that did not happen.  So, I got up, made coffee, did my Ziva Meditation and was out the trailer door by 5:15 to ride.  I had decided that I’d ride Dale first, then put him away and get Oscar out and ride. Then I’d get Oscar spiffied up and go show him.  Oscar is better if you ride him early, put him away and when you get him out before you show you don’t do anything except walk around.  That is his formula. It works. Every horse is different. Some are good if you ride them, prep them and then show them without a break.  Some need for you to ride them, put them away, ride them again, prep them, show them. This is one of the things you have to learn about your horse.  We were lucky that Chuy had Oscar and told us what his formula was! I was told what Dale’s formula was, but I will find a different formula and that is all I will say about that.

They were both much improved in the early morning riding sessions.  Neither of them were calling out to each other now and I just saddled up and got on without doing anything on the ground.   While I didn’t feel like they were “ready ready” I didn’t feel trepidation either.

Oscar was first to go in the show pen and even though he wasn’t super chilled out before the class, he was  a little “up”, when we went into the show pen, he waited for me and listened to me very well. This made me very happy seeing that the last time we were in a show pen was in Tryon at the World Equestrian Games and we were both going faster than we’d ever gone in a show arena!  I was really happy with him and only had to fix a couple of things. We actually got a decent score of 71.

Dale seemed ok when I took him in, he was a little distracted as I jogged to the center to start my pattern.  The turns went ok. It is when I loped off that I had to go to schooling him. The pattern calls for a small slow circle first and he thought he needed to do a large fast!  So, I went to 2 hands and corrected him and went back to one hand when I thought he was “with me”. The biggest surprise was when I went to run to my stops. At home and in the warm up pen, we have been struggling to get him to go forward enough.  So, I was prepared to have to encourage him. I needn’t have been! About 4 strides into it, he took off! Well, that is what if felt like. It felt like I had totally lost control of him and my neck was snapping back like he hit the turbo boosters.  Watching the video back, it didn’t look that bad (it always feels worse than it looks). I controlled the second run down and stop and by the 3rd, it was actually kind of good! Glad that the maiden voyage on Dale was over – Now I had identified what I had to work on!

I had decided to go to the store and do some Cryotherapy in my downtime, which I did.  When I left the showgrounds, I was still in the lead on Oscar! Upon return, I had slid into a tie for 3rd and that held up for the class.  Not bad to go through and fix some things and still get a paycheck – good ol’ Oscar!

I rode Dale again that afternoon after getting some advice via telephone from Warwick.  I fixed some leaning issues I had encountered in his circles. He didn’t really give me an opportunity to fix the running fast to stops issue, so I just had to focus on straightness.

SHOW DAY 2 – Thursday

The next day we were showing again and I decided that I’d let this be the decision maker on whether I tried to show Dale in the big Derby class on Friday.  It was a big entry fee (which also meant you could win big money) and I wasn’t sure we were going to be ready. Warwick was flying in on Friday and there was another class I could show in that morning if I decided not to show in the big class.

This day, our draws were 30 on Dale and 109 on Oscar and it was in the big coliseum arena.   That meant about 8 hours in between! So, I decided to get up and ride Dale early again and he improved more.  I wanted to go in the show pen and show him without having to fix anything – basically I needed to test out if I could get through a pattern one handed so I could decide if I was going to show the next day.   I did get through it, he did improve in some areas, but I didn’t feel confident enough to justify the high entry fee for the big class. I guess I’m glad that my entire 2019 monetary goal had changed to “experiences” (as explained at the end of my Breaking Old Habits blog).  

I rode Oscar during the day and got him out later before we went in the show pen keeping to his winning formula.  He was good again, we showed at about 8 PM and although he was a little more forward than I wanted him to be in the circles, I did get to fix another couple of things and still got a score – another 71.  He is consistent! It was good enough to tie for 3rd again and get another paycheck! Our big class was Saturday, so I was going to use Friday’s class to really school him and make him be perfect with no intention of getting a score.

We all went to bed a little tired that night!   

SHOW DAY 3 – Friday

I had drawn up 7th on Oscar and later on Dale in Friday’s class.  I got up early again for a ride on Dale but Holden was acting sick.  He and Drover had gotten into the horse’s Camelina oil late Thursday while they were in the tack room.  I guess the lid was not as secure as it should have been. Without knowing how much they had ingested, I had been keeping an eye on them (they have been known to get into it and it sometimes gave them a tummy ache, but usually it’s just a little bit of oil on the ground).  That morning Holden’s tail was down and he was ultra clingy. So, I loaded him up and hit the ER Vet. We called poison control for dogs and got a good prognosis. He said to expect some explosive pooping and maybe some vomiting but that it was not life threatening. Luckily there wasn’t either of the expected things and he improved all day.  Better safe than sorry – I love that little dog more than anything.

I got back in time to get on Oscar and warm him up a bit before taking him in the show pen.  We weren’t able to do the whole formula, but enough that he thought he was going to be shown – which is what we want to do – kind of like the Do The Opposite principle.  Prepare him to be shown, he thinks he’s going to be shown and then don’t show and fix everything. Then next time, he won’t know if he’s going to get shown or fixed so he waits on me 🙂  I got some good corrections in.

Then I immediately got on Dale and got to warming him up since I missed the early morning riding session.  When I got in the show arena I needed to fix him pretty much the minute I went in which made me very happy that I had decided to not spend the money for the big class.  Here is where I will share all my disappointment. I had bought a very cool horse whom we all thought would be ready for me to go show. It was now that I realized I had set my expectations way too high. Maybe I overestimated my showmanship abilities.  Maybe I needed my horses too perfect before I went to show them – Chuy alluded to this and also assured me that he had a buyer for Dale if I wanted to sell him. To be honest, I entertained this thought. In the 4 short months since I bought Dale, I’ve changed.  My priorities have changed, I’ve leaned into some meditation and belief stuff and my goals have shifted. Maybe I should sell him, we have too many horses anyway, etc. etc. I hit a frustration/disappointed level that surprised me. I’ve been on such a high since WEG that this was a bit deflating.  Normal. Life. First World Problems. Yep! Also, totally predicted by the Ziva Meditation chick. ‘Better out than in’ she says. She says that the unstressing process can feel the same as stress feels going in – Wonky! She suggests not making any big decisions in the first month – I’ll take her advice – Dale is not for sale.

Now that the pity party is over…Warwick arrived later and we went out to ride both horses again.  He had me fix a couple things with Oscar that I had missed and he fixed the things I couldn’t on Dale. Couldn’t = beyond my breadth of knowledge in preparing a horse like him.   He made some corrections that I had forgotten and their session ended very well. Warwick was pretty jet lagged and the early mornings & emotions were catching up with me too.  I think we were both asleep by 8PM.

SHOW DAY 4 – Saturday

The big Maturity class for Oscar was first thing.  I had drawn up 13th so I got up at 5 to do my coffee, meditation and ride routine.  Warwick coached from the sidelines.  We put him away to get BEMERed and eat and then got him shined up and ready to roll. In the show pen, the first 2 maneuvers were spins and while he spun very well the first way, I did not get him shut off at exactly the right moment, so there was a penalty.  So, on the scorecards the 3 judges marked me a +1 maneuver/-½ penalty +1 maneuver/-1 penalty and +½ maneuver/-½ penalty (the penalties can look different from where the judge is sitting). Which basically means I didn’t get much credit on that maneuver because I didn’t get him shut down correctly! It’s important!  The rest of the pattern was pretty good until the last stop, which he did well, but when I went to back him up, he resisted which is not like him. Then when I walked him off to leave, he was limping. Not cool – I broke my horse!

We decided to give him some Bute and see how he was in a couple hours.  It seemed to help. We debated whether we have a vet there look at him or wait until we got home for our regular vet, who knows him, to have a look.  Since it wasn’t life threatening and he could be in a stall for the remainder of the time anyway, we decided to have our vet look at him when we got home, I made an appointment for Tuesday.  I used the BEMER on his body and his leg. He improved but was still slightly lame.

As far as the results of the class, we ended up pretty much top 5 in all 4 divisions and won some money.  We could have been higher in the placings if we hadn’t had the oopsie in the turn, but that is the way it goes.  I love that little horse.

Warwick rode Dale again and made more progress.  I wish we had had the time we usually do at a show, because he was almost ready!

SHOW DAY 5 – Sunday

We had the opportunity to do a Paid Warm Up which is paying for time in the arena to do whatever you want to do.  I had Warwick take Dale in so he could feel him under those more show-like circumstances. Dale was great. He really did well – so now we know that we may need more time at the horse show before we show him.

I had already decided to scratch out of the next big show in Houston, Texas.  It is a biggie. It is also a 3 day drive there and 3 day drive home and 2 weeks at the show.  I had decided before we left for Arizona not to go to it – maybe next year!

Driving Home – Monday

Driving home on Monday we left at 3:30 AM.  Pretty uneventful until a tire blowout at hour 9.  It was the best case scenario for a blowout though, as it was inside so there was no damage to the fender.  You might have seen Warwick’s post about it – we were prepared, so it was just a slight inconvenience. I’m really glad he was there though!  I think I could have handled it, but I’m glad I didn’t have to find out!

Tuesday

Vet came and did lameness exam on Oscar.  We could not find anything with x-rays or ultrasound, so the thought is that he just jammed himself pretty good in a stop on his back leg and we will be giving him some time off and reassess.

I’ll be getting Petey out and leg him up – there is a local affiliate show over the first weekend in May.  I think that is my next outing.  We will arrive 4 days early so I can get the best Dale prep possible and see how that goes! 

I’m continuing with my Ziva meditations and I’m dragging Warwick along to see Denise next week – I can’t wait to see what the stars say!

Thanks for letting me share. It sure is a journey!

Along for the Ride – Horse Show Expectations – an Arizona show report

by Robyn Schiller

Robyn is the wife of horse (and people) trainer Warwick Schiller. She invites you to join her as she journeys through her life as trainer’s wife, mother, businesswoman and Internationally competitive rider.

I thought I’d jot down some thoughts from the first show of the year in Arizona last week.  It was a big show, not just a local affiliate show. In the lead up to the show, I had high expectations even in light of my weak preparation due to weather and my lack of experience getting a younger horse ready to show (Warwick was in Australia for 3 weeks leading up to the show).

However, the week before the show, I was having real doubts about going.  I felt that we weren’t ready, I was concerned about driving 13 hours by myself with a new trailer and horse and it’s always hard to leave home and the animals that stay.  For me, no matter how good the people are that help us out, it’s still stressful to drive out the gate and turn it over to someone else.

I told Warwick about my doubts and he supported whatever decision I made.  Please don’t laugh when I tell you how I made my decision. A little backstory first.

I am working with 2 incredible women to host a Women’s confidence retreat later in the year – where people bring their own horses and we get to work on ourselves and go on trail rides, eat great food, and really delve deeply into self improvement.  They are both Theta Healers, amongst other awesome credentials they possess. They referred me to someone locally to go and have “a session” with. I’m pretty open to new things lately, so I thought that if they recommended it, I’d go! I didn’t ask many questions beforehand.  When I made the appointment, Denise (https://deniseelizabethbyron.com/), the lady I was to go see, asked me my birth details. No problemo!

It turns out she is an astrologer/business coach/numerologist type of person (I still can’t really explain what she does).  When I got there she had a print out of how the planets were all aligned when I was born. Then she proceeded to describe me to the very Nth degree just by reading my chart. A few hairs on the back of my neck were standing up.  Then she asked about Tyler and his birth details and described him to the Nth degree. It was crazily accurate. We talked about the future and I left with another appointment scheduled.

So, what did I do when I was having doubts about going to this show?  I texted Denise! I basically asked her to tell me if the stars said I should go or not!  She replied an emphatic YES! She said that the energy for Travel & Competition was high and that if it was going to be FUN then I should go. Go I did!

I think I’ll have to make this a series because to go over everything is going to take awhile.  So, I will cover travel through arrival day and then continue in subsequent posts.

I decided to break up the drive and I found a horse hotel about 8 hours away, in Palm Desert near Palm Springs.  Most of the drive is down the very straight and flat Highway 5 which is pretty boring. Then up the “grapevine” and over through some little towns – which bypasses Los Angeles – which is never any fun to drive in.   I had planned to leave by 9AM so I could get things situated here first and not surprisingly, was out the gate at 9:01AM (I’m very punctual – which was verified by Denise – I think she said “You get shit done” – ummmm, yes, yes I do).

The drive was unremarkable – I listened to The Art of Living by Thich Nhat Hanh.  Highly recommend it. The horses traveled fine, I found good places to fuel up (the trailer is pretty long, so it is a bit tricky to maneuver into fuel up).  

We arrived at the horse hotel around 5 pm, got the boys settled in their outdoor pens, got the trailer parked and had time to turn them both out to let off a little steam after their trailer confinement.  They only had little automatic waterers which neither of the boys liked (I had Dale and Oscar with me), so I just dug out a couple of our buckets and filled them up.

I did a quick Ziva Meditation, ate some dinner, cuddled the dogs, tucked the boys in and went to bed. I wish I could say it was a restful night, but I had more anxiety that night then I’d had in awhile.  I was parked right outside of the facility, in their parking lot. It backed up to the desert basically. Nothing behind us but open land with Joshua trees and scrub. Coyotes were howling and I thought – “Great, just great.  What if there are people wandering around out here. What if there is a serial killer in Desert Hot Springs (seriously, I actually contemplated the serial killer scenario). Yada Yada Yada” I remember waking up, thinking Ok, I’ve just gone through 1 sleep cycle, now I need to cool off, go into another and repeat that a couple more times!  My mind did calm down a bit but sleep was still restless and I woke up pretty early – good time to do my Ziva meditation, make some coffee and because the sun came up earlier there I got on the road by 6:07AM!

It was only a 4-5 hour trip into Scottsdale so not too bad.  I re-listened to the Biology of Belief by Bruce Lipton – fascinating stuff!  I felt like I had a bit of an anxiety hangover (I haven’t been drinking so it wasn’t a traditional one).  I think the restlessness during the night really had an effect!

I arrived at the venue and was able to pull up right outside the barns, unload and get everyone situated.  I set up the trailer, put the Air Con on, because it’s Arizona and went off to ride!

This is where it got a little interesting!  Both boys were now calling out to each other!   I started with Dale and my intention was to take the time it takes.  This horse show usually allows us to arrive 4 or 5 days before the actual competition starts, but this year, we were only allowed to arrive the day before!  I was scheduled to show both horses the next day. The plan was to “school” meaning I’d go in with the intention of showing where I could in the pattern and fixing what needed fixing.  This should mean not a whole lot of expectation.

Anyway, I started well with Dale, doing a little focus work but he was definitely not responding like at home.  I decided, well, he is good at it when I ride him so I’ll just get on. He actually did do better once I was on him.  It only took about 10 minutes for him to settle in. I rode him in a couple of the arenas because they were all open and he took that in his stride.

We haven’t been able to do much stopping at home because of the weather and our arena being outside has been too wet to do much of that.  So, I needed to work on this. While we have made progress with some of the “tightness” that Dale exhibits, on this day, Dale held onto it like a pacifier.  When I say tightness, when we run down for a stop, he is tight in his shoulders and he runs downhill and has been known to porpoise a bit (have a hump in his back and his neck down while running, not really bucking, but not really not bucking).  Instead of driving from behind, running free and loose, he can run tight like this. This does not set us up well for stops. After a little while, I thought about it and decided to go back a couple steps! I had to establish more forward period. So, that is what I did.  I got him more forward at lower speeds and then he loosened up on his run downs. A small victory, but I was feeling very smart. I knew I had another ride on him in the morning before the official class and my expectations were still high.

I rode Oscar, who was a little more “up” than usual.  He called out to Dale several times and wasn’t his usual chill self.  As I mentioned, usually this is not anything to cause concern because we have days to figure it out and let them settle in.  I tried to convince myself that this was going to just be a “I guess we’ll see how they are when they aren’t very well prepared” show.  “You need those sometimes”, I told myself. “It can’t always go to plan”, I tried to convince my brain. It was a struggle because I knew I didn’t believe any of those things – I wanted to do well.  I wanted them to show well. I wanted to have fun in the arena without them doing anything wrong. You know what they say – Expectation is the root of all disappointment or something like that…totally!

I took them both down to the washracks and gave them a good bath – something they desperately needed after the winter we’ve had.  The Arizona sun felt good on all of us! I also gave them both a Bemer (PEMF) treatment and they got their yummy grain and dinner.  I went to bed that night excited to get up and ride them again before the show started. I was draw 2 on Oscar and 17 on Dale, so it was to be an early morning and I’d be done by 10:30 AM which gave me all day to play in the desert!

Next blog will be about DAY 1 and 2 of the horse show.

Along for the Ride – Breaking Old Habits/Mindsets

by Robyn Schiller

Robyn is the wife of horse (and people) trainer Warwick Schiller. She invites you to join her as she journeys through her life as trainer’s wife, mother, businesswoman and Internationally competitive rider.

Written in December 2018.

I thought I’d share a little of what’s been happening with my new horse “Dale”.  We purchased Dale a couple weeks ago at the NRHA Futurity show – Chuy shopped for me, as he knows my style and abilities quite well.  We had chosen a mare that he really liked but unfortunately, she had a little issue on her stifle that I was not willing to risk.  When he found out Dale was for sale (his name was Fabio then), he called me straight away.  Dale was an “open” horse, meaning he was high enough caliber for a really top professional to ride, but Chuy felt he’d make a good horse for me.

After exceeding our goals at the World Equestrian Games, I felt the need to set new ones and Jane Pike had encouraged me to aim high.  So, I have.  Currently, my total NRHA earnings are a bit over $56,000 USD.  It has taken me since 2001 to accumulate those earnings (I have only showed consistently about 4 of those years – meaning shown all year vs. one or two shows per year).  In 2016, I doubled my earnings because I showed 2 horses and showed a fair bit.  So I went from $22,000 to $44,000.  Well, the new goals are:

2019 – Get to $100,000 in earnings

2020 – Win the AQHA Select Amateur Reining World Championship (for 50 and over non-professionals)

In order to reach my goal for next year, I needed a younger horse so that I could show in the categories that had more money.  The classes for the oldies like Oscar don’t provide enough money for me to reach my goals in one year. This is why I was searching for a younger horse.  Dale will be 5 on January 1st (like all horses in the Northern Hemisphere).  We will show in the “Derby” classes next year.  These are for 4, 5 & 6 year old horses and have significantly more money than the Maturities (for horses over 7).

Anyway, when we flew back to Oklahoma City to meet Fabio/Dale at the show, I was at first a bit disappointed, honestly.  He was really not very good on the ground.  He had to chew on something the entire time – including us if he could reach. I am going to go out on a limb here and admit that, in my head, I thought he was a bit scary.  He was one I was not going to turn my back on.  This was my first impression of the horse I’d already paid for!  I was able to think more logically about why he acted this way:  1.  Dale/Fabio was a horse in a big trainer’s barn/program – one of probably 30-50 horses the trainer rode.  An assistant had done all the work on the ground with him – saddling, grooming, preparing, etc. The trainer had gotten on, ridden him, gotten off and handed him to someone else for everything else – unsaddling, washing, etc..Usually in programs like this, that person is one of the least experienced  2. I don’t think he had a very high opinion of humans.  and not surprisingly 3. He was anxious.  But even though I knew logically what was going on, my heart was a bit heavy (for many reasons) and I sure hoped that we could help him once we got home.

So, while I was in OKC, I didn’t try to change anything – he was very good under saddle.  “Good” meaning obedient.  He did what I asked for without appearing anxious or defensive or resentful.  Talent was not an issue either – he is a great reining horse.

We got him back to our place last week and today will be session 6 with him.  I just want to talk about session 1 and 5 so that I can talk about breaking old habits.

The first session was in the round pen.  He was turned loose.  I was doing the work under Warwick’s watchful eye (and camera – we are videoing the whole thing).  I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit anxious.  I don’t like when horses bite – it is scary.  In the past, biting was met with an elbow.  Not in a malicious way, but as an “oops you just ran into my elbow” way.  It usually worked, but in hindsight it can also make a horse defensive and just obedient.  You probably have not taken away their desire to bite, but they know there will be a repercussion if they do, so they don’t.

I went to the middle of the round pen and when he finally engaged me and came up to me, he started to chew.  My instinct was to throw the elbow in to protect myself.  Warwick suggested a different idea after my first flaying elbow – he told me to just increase my energy – not AT Dale, just in my space.  Start small and increase until Dale steps back.  At first I did too much, because, as I said, I don’t want to be bitten.  After a while I got the hang of the new response and started more slowly and then intensified until he stepped back.  The most amazing thing happened.  He stopped trying to bite me, he licked and chewed and started to nuzzle me instead.  Instead of pushing into me, he was asking if he could share space with me.

Now, I know I’ve heard and seen the most incredible things from the focus work and Oscar is awesome at it.  But I guess I’d never truly FIXED something that I thought needed fixing with it until this moment.  It freakin works!!!!  In the subsequent sessions – Dale has progressed and while in my presence he has not tried to chew on things or me anymore as long as I can get his focus.

The second day under saddle was another opportunity for me to break a habit.  The habit that I had before was to lead the horse into the arena and get on.  I did some focus work online just to see how that was and after I bridled him, I noticed that when I went to get on, he blocked me out.  In the past, I would not have seen this display and would have just gotten on.  Instead, I did the whole calming signals thing.  When I went to approach his near side and he blocked me, I stepped back, saying to him with my body language, “I saw that.”  It took a couple times and then he let me around to mount.  It’s not fixed yet, but I think we are making progress and I know he is feeling good about the relationship that is developing between us.

I have a long way to go, but they say you get the horse you need – I guess I needed Dale!

FOLLOW UP – I wrote this next blog, forgetting I’d written the one above, so this is an interesting Post Script – Written March 6th, so about 3 months later!

After the World Equestrian Games (WEG) last year, I thought about how I was to top that?  What could possibly be better than the entire experience in Tryon? I wanted to ride the high and I set out to establish some really lofty new goals.   

The biggest one was to double my NRHA earnings in 2019.  I had done it once before, in 2016 when I showed both Petey & Sherlock. Of course it was a smaller number then.  To accomplish it in 2019, it meant I needed a horse that could show in some of the premiere events and my horses were too old for those divisions (even though I will show them in some other classes and plan to show Oscar early in the year and Petey later in the year after Bella has her baby).   This is why I bought Dale (formerly known as Fabio).

My plan was to bring Dale home for a couple weeks, get to know him and then send him to Chuy’s to stay in full time training. (Dale was the last name of his previous owners and the name went well with my other boys Petey & Oscar).  I rationalized that we didn’t have the room (we only have 3 stalls and we needed them for Bella, Petey & Oscar) and I didn’t have the time to ride 2 horses every day. He would just be my show horse, I thought, I won’t get attached.  Then I’ll sell him at the end of the year so that he is still young enough to get what we paid for him and I’ll have reached my goal and YES – that is an awesome plan!

Then I brought him home.

He’s a talented reining horse.  He’s a successful reining horse – he won 2 Reserve World Championships in 2018.  

But man was he anxious.  That chewing – all anxiety/disassociation stuff. 

He didn’t know how to interact with us.  

It took me 3 days of sitting on a bucket in the round pen for him to be curious & confident enough to want much to do with me!  After that, everyday our relationship deepened. Oh boy, I’m in trouble! I think my horse purchasing should be stopped. I cannot keep collecting these horses!!!

So, Bella moved in with Petey (yes, they share a stall and paddock when it’s raining and it’s been raining a lot here) and Dale joined them and Oscar in the barn and took the 3rd stall. I’ve shifted my schedule so that I’m riding more – it’s good to have Oscar be the second horse I have to ride since he just needs to be kept fit and happy.  

The past few months of riding Dale and getting to know him, my opinion of him has only grown better and better.  Warwick loves him, he says, “Well maybe he’s a 2 year horse now.” Translation: maybe he is never leaving!

I think my whole competition mindset has shifted as well.  WEG was such an awesome experience that now when I start thinking about a monetary goal, I’m not sure I want to continue towards it.  You see, WEG was not about money. WEG was about the experience of representing a country and going out and having FUN and of course, doing the best we could in the arena.  It was about spending time with people we love and respect. It was about so much more than winning anything. Hard to explain when all of my life, the showing has been about competing and winning.

I’m pretty sure I won’t ever have another WEG experience.  I’m just as sure that I’ll spend a lot of time chasing that feeling. I don’t think it is attainable if I only focus on the competition instead of the experience. I think I want the experience more now.  I never thought I’d be saying that.

I leave for the first show of the season in 10 days.  I feel like a weight has been lifted after this realization and new focus.  I’m looking forward to spending time in the desert (there is something magical about the desert) with my 2 horses and my dogs and my friends (Warwick arrives on show day).  I plan to keep all the practices that I did at WEG with me and even add some new one’s like meditation into the mix.  I’ll be the one going for a walk amongst the cactus before my class and smiling all the way through my pattern and hoping like HE## that when it comes down to it, I can remain in the moment and grateful for the experience that is presented to me!

Thanks for reading.

 

8 Skills your horse needs

The 8 skills your horse needs to know:

Everything we do is a combination of these 8 things.

  1. Bend laterally on both sides – (1-2).
  2. Bend laterally and disengage at same time both sides – (3-4).
  3. Go forward – (5).
  4. Go backwards off hands – (6).
  5. Get off inside leg both sides – (7-8).

You can see how to teach your horse these on our video site:  videos.warwickschiller.com  Just follow the First Rides and Basic Body Control videos.

12 Principles of Training

MAKE THE WRONG THING HARD AND THE RIGHT THING EASY

The basic tenant of this principle is leave your horse alone while he is doing what you want.

DON’T GO TO BED ANGRY

When your horse is no longer relaxed, you need to get him relaxed again before proceeding. (Like a married couple, if
anything has built up during the day, get rid of it before you
go to bed.)

CREATE A TOOL BEFORE YOU USE A TOOL

When solving a problem you need to make sure the tool or exercise you are using to solve the problem is fully functional
before you use it.

APPLICATION OF YOUR AIDS

Also known as order of cues, this principle is very important in teaching a horse how to respond to subtlety.

DO THE OPPOSITE

As the olde English saying goes “You ride a slow horse fast and a fast horse slow.”

THE DONKEY KONG PRINCIPLE

This horse training principle, like Donkey Kong or any other video game, relies on the idea that whenever you get something wrong, you return to the beginning and start all over again.

CHOOSE WHERE YOU WORK AND CHOOSE WHERE YOU REST

Be aware of your horses internal GPS and their ability to recall places where no rest occurs. An amazing tool to that is one of
the foundations of Warwick’s training.

THEY NEED TO KNOW THE ANSWER BEFORE YOU ASK THE QUESTION

Similar to how we teach children to count before they add,
and add before they multiply, because the answer to the current question lies in the previous teaching.

ISOLATE, SEPARATE, RECOMBINE

Anytime you are asking a horse to do two or more things at once they need to know them perfectly well separately. 
When you put them together and it is not working you need to mentally isolate the one that is not working, separate it and correct the issue before recombining them.

ANTICIPATION IS YOUR BEST FRIEND OR YOUR WORST ENEMY

Horses are masters at anticipation and knowing when to enhance it and when to suppress it is a key element of training.

CHANGE ONE THING AT A TIME

When it’s time to add something, make sure you only change one thing a time so you know what works or doesn’t work.

WORK WITH THE HORSE YOU HAVE TODAY

No two days are the same, do not work with a horse with any preconceived notions or expectations.  Work with the horse that is in front of you right now and do what that horse needs.

You can see all these videos on our online video library:  videos.warwickschiller.com

Click here to download the 12 Principles of Training Poster

Along for the Ride – The Constant Factor is You

by Robyn Schiller

Robyn is the wife of horse (and people) trainer Warwick Schiller. She invites you to join her as she journeys through her life as trainer’s wife, mother, businesswoman and Internationally competitive rider.

I was listening to the Bulletproof podcast a while ago and Dave Asprey was interviewing Esther Perel (whom I’d never heard of but have since looked up).  She was talking about human relationships, but I think we would be well served to consider it for our horses TOO (what I’m suggesting is that you also consider it in the context she was talking about.)

She said:

“We all have relationship issues that we’re going to need to work on.  All of us. It’s just part of human nature. The only question is going to be with whom. You don’t want to work on them in this relationship, you’re going to have to work on them in the next relationship because you’re the constant factor. At some point you’re going to have to look at yourself, my dear.”

It reminds me of a session that Warwick has done at a few of the recent expos called “The One Thing that Will Change the Relationship You Have with Your Horse”.  He starts by telling everyone to take out their phone and point it at him.  Then he tells them to use the button that rotates the phone to take a selfie.  When everyone sees themselves on their phones he pronounces – “You.  You are the 1 thing that will change the relationship with your horse.”

It’s so true.  We look at the bit and change to bitless.  We look at diet and give them a supplement.  We look at the training we are doing and change it to the newest thing or a different trainer.  We get the vet out, or the shoer, or the body worker and we get them to change things.  We change disciplines or EVEN sell the horse! But, all the time, we are not looking in the mirror at the one thing that can make the biggest difference.

Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t examine the things I mention above.  Of course, you should be assessing the well-being of your horse constantly.  But don’t forget to assess the one.constant.factor = YOU.

Just thought I’d share that ah-huh moment with you.

Thanks for reading.

Along for the Ride – Body Betrayal

by Robyn Schiller

Robyn is the wife of horse (and people) trainer Warwick Schiller. She invites you to join her as she journeys through her life as trainer’s wife, mother, businesswoman and Internationally competitive rider.

I get stuck writing these blogs because I feel like I have to have the answer for whatever it is that I’m sharing or a moral to the story or something to leave you with.   This one will be different, in that it’s just pure sharing (and commiserating with those in the same boat).

I’m reading/listening to a book given to me by Angela Koning after I posted on the WSPH Facebook Group announcing my first FB live (thank you Angela!).  The post was a musing on how I could contribute in other ways to this incredible community that we have gathered. The book she sent me is called Light is the New Black by Rebecca Campbell.  Today, while listening (I have hard copy and audible version), she said something that made me sit down at the computer and write about something that I haven’t before.  She said that I should write what I most need to hear.

I am going to write about this because it is top of mind right now and I guess I most need to hear that I’m not alone and that our worth is not determined by the numbers on a scale or the size of our bodies.

The best way to put it out there is to define it as a feeling that my body is betraying me.  Shouldn’t there be a silver bullet by now?  Shouldn’t it be as simple as calories in vs. calories out? Shouldn’t your body do the right thing – haha? This has not been my experience.

I’ve been the chubby kid all my life.  I went on my first diet at The Diet Center when I was 12.  Let me just say right here, that I don’t blame anyone. Thin has always been in.

I had grown out of my mom’s & sister’s size bra and pants when I was 13.  I’ve always thought of myself as overweight and have measured myself by the numbers on the scale and size of pants I wear.  The higher the numbers, the worse I feel.

When I was 19, I discovered exercise!  At that time, in the early 90’s, aerobics were all the rage.  I’d always been active, not athletic – I was a cheerleader in the days where we did standard cheering, not the crazy acrobatics they do now. I’d never really exercised outside of gym class at school. But when I found aerobics, I loved the way that I felt! I loved it so much that I went and got a certification to teach it and teach I did.  I’d also do hours on the stairclimber (even before teaching a class).  I had another measure of my worth now – did I exercise enough today?

It’s no surprise that this happened at the same time that I also had a very controlling boyfriend.  He was the sort of “boy”that was jealous of the time that I spent riding my horse (which I had gotten back into after taking a break in high school) or going to school (I was attending a 2-year college then).  I’m glad we didn’t have cell phones then – that would have been a nightmare.  This is when I began a very unhealthy relationship with food and exercise.  Amongst other things, I cut out ALL FAT – it was the devil (that is what we were told at the time) and if I ate something, I had to make sure that the exercise I did negated whatever it was. I did this because it was really all I felt like I could control.  I guess it was to spite the boyfriend – ‘you can’t control what I put in my mouth’.  But, here’s the kicker –   my body betrayed me! I didn’t lose any weight!  (I know now that, in actuality, my body was actually pretty good at survival – still is!  I wish that realization made me nicer to the image in the mirror.)

I got rid of the boyfriend (and engagement) thankfully before I took on more of his stuff and I sought out the help of a therapist that specialized in eating disorders.  He got me back on track and it was when I was really working on this that I met Warwick.  One of the main reasons we didn’t jump right into a relationship was because I was not ready – I was still sorting stuff out.

Through the years I won’t say that I’ve ever been truly happy with my body – there have been times when I’ve been happier with it. Coincidentally always when I my body was cooperating with my efforts! I’ve had some success dieting, I lost 20 pounds after Tyler was born and then 30 pounds 5 years later on Weight Watchers.  I’ve done the Bullet Proof plan and keto and lost weight and felt better on them.  I’ve even – get this – had my belly fat frozen…haha.  I don’t recommend it – I can’t imagine liposuction hurting any worse.

The last couple of years though, dealing with the changing hormones of menopause, I’m back to feeling betrayed again.  I’ve always taken good care of myself, I don’t smoke or do drugs and I exercise modestly (not obsessively anymore). I’m active outside on most days doing horsey chores and riding. I don’t eat processed food anymore and my sugar intake is minimal.  I do enjoy my drinks, but I’m a lightweight and if I have more than 2 I’m miserable the next day, so I don’t. So, why is my setpoint getting higher and higher? It’s embarrassing – I hate looking at pictures of myself these days (just keeping it real).

I wish that it helped to know that at this point in my life it is hormonal – I do blood work and have it reviewed by my naturopath every 6 months. So, I know, scientifically what we are dealing with and it makes total sense what is going on – it is totally hormonal.  We tweak the supplements I’m taking to try and balance them back out.  The latest results: my testosterone levels are so low that they couldn’t even do one of the tests! It had been low before (not this low) and she had given me some supplements for it.  But I had gone off of them because for one of them, the World Equestrian Games Anti-Doping regulations prohibited it and the other I felt had side effects I didn’t want to live with.

I’ve started back on the one supplement and have just gone back to really cutting out sugar.  If this isn’t successful, I’m considering doing some hormone replacement – something I’ve been dead set against because of all the nightmare stories I’ve heard. However, my naturopath seems to think it may be a good option on some lower doses.

May be a good optionIt might work.  But, in her opinion, our weight setpoint goes up until about a year after menopause and then it comes back down again (which is exactly what happened to my mom).  I’m in that grey area of not really being post-menopausal (although some of my blood tests do indicate it).  I can’t reach that year point, it keeps resetting itself! For me, this equals Body Betrayal of the utmost level!

Yesterday, I thought I’d start trying the deflection technique.  What I mean by that (as there is probably a better name for it, but that is what popped into my head) is that anytime I start thinking about how I feel about carrying around too much weight, I will instead practice gratitude or think about something else.   I’ll let you know how I go! I think between that and getting this written (and out of my head) it may help! I’m open to suggestions to those in the boat with me!

I guess that is where I’ll leave it. As Brene Brown says, “I am on the journey with you trying to get there, but I don’t have it mastered.”

Thanks for letting me share.  Please know that I get that there are people out there who have a whole other level of “body betrayal” (not just my narcissistic one) and I can’t imagine that, this blog is not meant to lessen their situation or anything like that.  It’s like another Brene-ism – I might not be in the same situation, but I may have the same emotional feelings as you.