Training the Mind of the Horse and Rider

Training the Mind of the Horse and Rider
Click on Logo (Original artwork by Lanie Frick for Messick Quarter Horses. Not permitted to be copied)

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Final Goodbye Tribute to Finny


I’ll end the year with a final goodbye tribute to my wonderful riding partner of 5 years, Finny. I always want to remember the good times that I had with him. I didn’t know it until he died, but he was as much a part of me as my heart is. We were bonding really well together. I knew what he felt and I tried to give him what he needed when we rode. When he died, part of my heart died. Now the memories are healing my sorrowed heart. More importantly, Finny’s memories are helping me to love horses again, for what they can be in our lives.

He lived a short 8 years, first as an orphan at 1 month, to a scrawny yearling, then on to those terrible 2’s. We made sure not to treat him as a pet and kept him in with the other mares and babies. Finny was friendly, but a little pistol when he wanted his own way. On the lunge line as a yearling and 2 year old, if he would act up and I pulled too hard on the line, he would almost fall over. As a 3 year old in the spring, he acted the same way with a saddle on while lunging. I put him away until fall, spent 30 more days lunging him, watching him act up, wondering if he was ever going to be good. Then 1 day, he acted great and I decided to step up on him. I rode him ever since that day.

Finny, this spring, fat and needing to get into condition!

As an orphan, I made sure to feed him well, supplementing with alfalfa and a youth grain. He grew from a 13 hand yearling, to a 14 hand 2 year old, to a 15 hand 3 year old, to mature out at 15.3. I rode him in the fields as a 4 year old, going through tree lines, over ditches, through water. He didn’t like to step down into small ditches or go through water. We worked on all the ditches in the field, and especially on 1 small ditch that he wanted to jump. It took a year, but we could finally walk through anything. He would always veer away from mucky ground if he could, knowing where he should step and where he shouldn‘t.

The water was another training time that went slowly for a year. Finny went from being scared of even putting feet into water to ears perked while he splashed around. The drains on the field’s terraces were a great training ground. One day, the fields dried up but there was a lot of water around the drains. We rode around one of the big water holes, circling the muddy edges, closing the distance between dry ground and muddy ground. After about 45 minutes, as he neared the very edge of the muddy water, he was relaxing and I turned him directly into the water. When he realized he was in the water, he splashed from end to end. I moved him onto dry ground, circling the muddy edges once again, but only after 2 circles, as I turned him toward the water, he went right in. We stayed longer in the water, moving back and forth. The following day, he went directly into the water. What an accomplishment for Finny!

I will always have the special memories of the last 2 years. Conditioning rides in the fields, long trotting in 2 point position to feel his every movement.

Tom and I spent part of a week at Ft Rob, NE with Finny and another horse.

Riding CTR’s for 2 years, being in competition with the mileage and obstacles.

And this year was the best, realizing, while riding Finny in the Centered Riding Clinics and in the Instructors Course, that I found what I wanted to do with him.

Our riding and understanding of each other clicked when there was no other pressure except riding centered.

Finny helped me to realize what I wanted to teach in my training program and what type of instructor I wanted to be.

Finny taught me how I should be training horses.

I will always be so grateful for having Finny in my life and what he showed me.

God Jumps
printed with written permission by Lauren Davis Baker

God gives us horses and compels some of us to love them. Yet why does the horse, an animal with such a big heart, live such a short life? Perhaps it's because if our horses lived any longer, we wouldn't be able to bear losing them. Or, perhaps it's because God wants to jump.

Perhaps God looks down on the fine horses we raise and decides when it's His turn to ride. He gives us a few good years to care for and learn from them, but when the time is right, it's up to us to see them off gracefully.

O.K., perhaps not gracefully. Blowing into a Kleenex is rarely graceful. But we can be grateful.

To have a horse in your life is a gift. In the matter of a few short years, a horse can teach a girl courage, if she chooses to grab mane and hang on for dear life. Even the smallest of ponies is mightier than the tallest of girls. To conquer the fear of falling off, having one's toes crushed, or being publicly humiliated at a horse show is an admirable feat for any child. For that, we can be grateful.

Horses teach us responsibility. Unlike a bicycle-or a computer-a horse needs regular care and most of it requires that you get dirty and smelly and up off the couch. Choosing to leave your cozy kitchen to break the crust of ice off the water buckets is to choose
responsibility. When our horses dip their noses and drink heartily, we know we've made the right choice.

Learning to care for a horse is both an art and a science. Some are easy keepers, requiring little more than regular turn-out, a flake of hay, and a trough of clean water. Others will test you-you'll struggle to keep them from being too fat or too thin. You'll have their feet shod regularly only to find shoes gone missing. Some are so accident-prone you'll swear they're intentionally finding new ways to injure themselves.

If you weren't raised with horses, you can't know that they have unique personalities. You'd expect this from dogs, but horses? Indeed, there are clever horses, grumpy horses, and even horses with a sense of humor. Those prone to humor will test you by finding new ways to escape from the barn when you least expect it. I found one of ours on the front porch one morning, eating the cornstalks I'd carefully arranged as Halloween decorations.

Horses can be timid or brave, lazy or athletic, obstinate or willing. You will hit it off with some horses and others will elude you altogether. There are as many "types" of horses as there are people-which makes the whole partnership thing all the more interesting.

If you've never ridden a horse, you probably assume it's a simple thing you can learn in a weekend. You can, in fact, learn the basics on a Sunday-but to truly ride well takes a lifetime. Working with a living being is far more complex than turning a key in the ignition and putting the car in "drive."

In addition to listening to your instructor, your horse will have a few things to say to you as well. On a good day, he'll be happy to go along with the program and tolerate your mistakes; on a bad day, you'll swear he's trying to kill you. Perhaps he's naughty or perhaps he's fed up with how slowly you're learning his language. Regardless, the horse will have an opinion. He may choose to challenge you (which can ultimately make you a better rider) or he may carefully carry you over fences-if it suits him. It all depends on the partnership-and partnership is what it's all about.

If you face your fears, swallow your pride, and are willing to work at it, you'll learn lessons in courage, commitment, and compassion in addition to basic survival skills. You'll discover just how hard you're willing to work toward a goal, how little you know, and how much you have to learn. And, while some people think the horse "does all the work", you'll be challenged physically as well as mentally. Your horse may humble you completely. Or, you may find that sitting on his back is the closest you'll get to heaven.

You can choose to intimidate your horse, but do you really want to? The results may come more quickly but will your work ever be as graceful as that gained through trust? The best partners choose to listen, as well as to tell. When it works, we experience a sweet sense of accomplishment brought about by smarts, hard work, and mutual understanding between horse and rider. These are the days when you know with absolute certainty that your horse is enjoying his work.

If we make it to adulthood with horses still in our lives, most of us have to squeeze riding into our oversaturated schedules; balancing our need for things equine with those of our households and employers. There is never enough time to ride, or to ride as well as we'd like. Hours in the barn are stolen pleasures.

If it is in your blood to love horses, you share your life with them. Our horses know our secrets; we braid our tears into their manes and whisper our hopes into their ears. A barn is a sanctuary in an unsettled world, a sheltered place where life's true priorities are clear: a warm place to sleep, someone who loves us, and the luxury of regular meals.
Some of us need these reminders.

When you step back, it's not just about horses-it's about love, life, and learning. On any given day, a friend is celebrating the birth of a foal, a blue ribbon, or recovery from an illness. That same day, there is also loss: a broken limb, a case of colic, a decision to sustain a life or end it gently. As horse people, we share the accelerated life cycle of horses: the hurried rush of life, love, loss, and death that caring for these animals brings us. When our partners pass, it is more than a moment of sorrow.

We mark our loss with words of gratitude for the ways our lives have been blessed. Our memories are of joy, awe, and wonder. Absolute union. We honor our horses for their brave hearts, courage, and willingness to give.

To those outside our circle, it must seem strange. To see us in our muddy boots, who would guess such poetry lives in our hearts? We celebrate our companions with praise worthy of heroes.
Indeed, horses have the hearts of warriors and often carry us into and out of fields of battle.

Listen to stories of that once-in-a-lifetime horse; of journeys made and challenges met. The best of horses rise to the challenges we set before them, asking little in return.

Those who know them understand how fully a horse can hold a human heart. Together, we share the pain of sudden loss and the lingering taste of long-term illness. We shoulder the burden of deciding when or whether to end the life of a true companion.

In the end, we're not certain if God entrusts us to our horses or our horses to us. Does it matter?
We're grateful God loaned us the horse in the first place. And so we pray:

Dear God,
After You've enjoyed a bit of jumping,
please give our fine horses the best of care.
And, if it's not too much,
might we have at least one more good gallop when we meet again?


Only You Could Love Me This Way
Keith Urbom

Well I know there’s a reason,
And I know there’s a rhyme,
We were meant to be together,
That’s why

We can roll with the punches
We can stroll hand in hand
And while I say it’s forever
You understand…

That you’re always in my heart
You’re always on my mind
When it all becomes too much
You’re never far behind

And there’s no one
That comes close to you
Could ever take your place
Because only you could love me this way.

I could have turned a different corner,
I could have gone another place,
Then I’d never have this feeling
That I feel today.

That you’re always in my heart
You’re always on my mind
When it all becomes too much
You’re never far behind

And there’s no one
That comes close to you
Could ever take your place
Because only you could love me this way.

That you’re always in my heart,
Always on my mind,
When it becomes too much,
You’re never far behind

And there’s no one
That comes close to you
Could ever take your place

Only you could love me this way.

Only you could love me this way.

I love you, Finny. I love your heart, your enthusiasm, your patience, your understanding.

I will always love you!

So long, not Goodbye, my friend, as I'll ride you again in Heaven.


Tammy said...

Written from the heart, this made me cry. I'll miss him. Godspeed, Finny.

Brenda said...

thanks, Tammy. It has been a rollercoaster ride for the last, almost, 3 months. Now, with hindsight, I'm glad I waited this long to make myself write or that I needed the time so I could write it. I was crying, too, a few times while I wrote. Then, I have heard that song every single day for at least 2 months after Finny died. I knew I had to do his tribute to the song. While I found all the wonderful pictures I had taken of him over the year, I kept looking forward to seeing the next pic, and so on. By the time I posted, I wasn't sad. Not even a little. I felt a great relief. It was a strange feeling the minute I felt that. Maybe reading the "God Jumps" poem again, and telling Finny that I would see him again in Heaven, made me say "so long", and not goodbye. Good bye is so final, and so long means I'll see you again. And that makes me smile.

NetPosse said...

I just stumbled onto this page. I read about Finny but somehow I missed what happen to him.

Stolen Horse International

Horses Are Our Lives said...

Finny died of colic on Oct 10, 2009, after my first day of my last CTR for the year. I've just been having a very hard time getting over it.


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