Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Smooth Start

Good morning. It's been a smooth start to the day so far. Chief did not act like a bucking idiot when I turned him out.  That's a nice change, Cheif.  You've been doing that bucking idiot thing for a couple of weeks now.  It's the cold weather/frisky/scatter brained Paint combo.  He's not bad, he's just feeling frisky from the cold, like we talked about last night, and he's being a Paint. Remember, Paints are a few ants shy of a picnic in many cases.

Rose seems to have rested-up from all of that reading, thankfully.  I wasn't going to suffer through another day like Saturday very easily.  I believe in having a professional attitude.  Even though it's a farm, it's a work place.  I expect people to behave like adults in a work place.  I don't do well with moodiness and irritability at work.  Get a grip.  You are an adult. You are being paid to work.  Behave like it.

Be a professional.  Even if you are a professional farm hand, be professional.  You would be absolutely amazed how many farm hands I've been through that can't get all of their personal baggage in check and be professional.  Fortunately, Dod will be here this afternoon. He's one of the most professional farm hands I've ever had.  I'm going to pair Rose with him this afternoon.  Peer modeling often works well.  See, all of that therapist stuff hasn't gone out the window.  It's just cleverly disguised in Carhartts and boots now.

Dod has many handyman talents that I could be using him for this afternoon, but the paddocks need cleaning and Rose needs some peer modeling. So, good ol' Dod gets to help her clean paddocks.  I won't even have to tell him why.  I'll just ask him to clean paddocks with her and he'll go to it with a positive attitude.

Dod has done his fair share of cleaning paddocks, but it's no longer one of his regular duties.  Now, I use him as a handyman and lesson assistant as much as possible.  The handyman help takes some load off of Bart, the lesson assistant helps takes some load off of me with the little kids.

Little kids and riding lessons.  I don't teach anyone under the age of six.  Children younger than this don't have the language development to be able to communicate what they understand, don't understand, or when they are frustrated--before a meltdown when it's very obvious.  This summer I decided to have a "pre-beginner" program.  It's a real term.  It's the first level in the American Pony Club classification of riders.

Pre-beginners are people who basically like the idea of horses but have no experience whatsoever.  They've never been on a horse, but they love horses. Um, yeah, right, your kid loves horses, huh?  Never seen one in person though, but he loves 'em.  Um hm. Yep.  I know just what you mean. I have to remind myself I was a pre-beginner at one point, too.  Ok, I was three years old, but I was a pre-beginner, too.  No, wait, by three I'd actually been on a pony.  So, two and a half, maybe?  See why it's hard for me to remember when I was a pre-beginner?

Six to eight year old pre-beginners take a lot of energy from the instructor.  They have very little focus or frustration tolerance.  Horseback riding is a sport, just like any other sport.  It requires focus and frustration tolerance.  Unlike most other sports, your "equipment" is your horse and he has a mind of his own.  The horse is smarter than all six to eight year olds, period.  Don't argue with me.  I don't care if your child is Einstein, most horses are smarter than the kid.  Why? Horses pay everything.

Not only do horses pay attention 99 times better than the average human of any age, the only animal with a longer memory than a horse is an elephant. That's what science tells us.  So, I'm putting your little kid on a horse that's smarter than he is, stronger than he is, and has a wonderful memory of all the things he can do that your kid can't or won't do anything about.  It is either that horse's field day or irritation day.

In rare cases, there are horses like good ol' Shadow who don't take advantage of the kid.  They know their jobs and they do it.  Milagro has some amount of automatic pilot on her, better than Shadow in some cases, but she will take advantage of the kid by eating at every opportunity.  Shadow doesn't take advantage.  He may decide you don't know how to ask him to turn properly, but he won't take advantage.  Now you see why these two are my most popular lesson horses.  And, the only perfect horse who behaves all the time and never changes is a carousel horse.  I thought you were getting ready to ask, so that's the answer.

And, the pre-beginner program for six to eight year olds? It's 30 minutes for $30.00 and I'm still cutting some of them a break.  The amount of energy some of those kids take is really a $100.00 for 30 minutes. But, they are having fun and their parents keep paying, so ok, here we go.  I do have three exceptions to the "pre-beginner" rule.  They are three kids who've been with me since before I made the "pre-beginner rule."  Two of them are really decent little riders for such little kids.  One of them is a little doll and she's having fun basically being led around. Ok, I'm a sucker sometimes. Besides, they pay the hour rate even though they don't really have enough control to do it a full hour without assistance.

So, you see how Dod comes in handy as a lesson assistant.  He'll lead them around if he has to.  Because, folks, I will NOT be leading your child around.  If you would like to ride with me solo, you must be able to control your own horse.  I will give you a horse to ride that is capable of doing it if you're sitting dead on top of him, but you've gotta be able to show a tiny bit of initiative.

Now, Cowgirl Slim and Cowgirl Hot Tamale (she never gets cold, that's why that nickname) who are my #1 and #2 students say I've gone soft.  They remember, and I do, too, that in the beginning, no one led any student of mine around, ever.  No one came to pull Milagro's head up for a kid because she wouldn't quit eating.  I rode my horse, usually Belle or Merry, and you rode your horse.  I was not getting off of my horse to come help you out of a non-life threatening situation.  A student must learn control.
Cowgirl Slim and Cowgirl Hot Tamale say they are better riders for it.  I agree.  They say, "You used to just sit there on your horse and say, 'I'll wait for you, but you can do it.'" And, yes, I'd just sit there and wait. They weren't going to die, but by golly they were going to learn how to ride.

But, I've got to make money and there aren't a lot of kids out there like Slim and Tamale.  If you want to make a living, you've got to keep the public coming back.  If you want to keep them coming back, you gotta make it fun for them.  So, it's a business decision ladies, I haven't gone soft.  We just want them to be safe #1 and have fun #2...and keep coming back.
Oh, wait! I may have gone soft on one of those little kids, now that I think about it.  Cowgirl Pinkie.  Pinkie is seven.  Pinkie is one of the cutest kids God ever put on this earth.  She's sweet. She's easy to like.  She developed a crush on one of my farm hands last year, Cory. Cory looks like Harry Potter. Cory is off at an Ivy League seminary on a 90% scholarship now.  Cowgirl Pinkie loved for Cory to lead her around.  It was so cute.  She'd start looking like a damsel in distress and she couldn't possibly turn Shadow and Cory would rescue her.  She'd bat her eyes at him like every little girl does when they have a crush on a grown-up.  It's not sexual.  The kid doesn't understand it. Cory was oblivious to it.  He's just soooo niiiiiice. It was funny to watch, but I let her develop a bad habit.  So now, we're focusing on her being a big girl and doing it herself.  She's coming along and is going to make a good little rider. Cory just can't come visit or it'll be all over and he'll be leading her around again. So, maybe, every now and then, I go soft.  I'll have to work on that. Eat some more nails or something to toughen back up.

Ok, folks, some business must be done. I must also take down that darn Christmas tree. It's happening today, I guarantee you...I hope.  I wonder if I can clone Dod while I'm at it?

Have a good day. Thanks for reading. Talk to you later.

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