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June 28, 2014: Lessons Learned: The Power of Observation

When I taught writing courses, I impressed upon the students that the more you look, the more you see. At times, like last night, I’m reminded of this. I heard early in the day from Vickie that the evening’s lesson site had been moved from Beth’s Three Rivers Ranch to the Sindorf Center, which has an indoor arena. I decided not to go to Sindorf because of the cost. You of course have to pay the regular instructor fee, but in addition you have to pay an arena fee. Fair, but right now out of the question since we are attempting to make ends meet until September.

Sindorf Center

In the past (last winter), I stood behind the arena wall and watched Beth instruct those who are now my classmates. I could not hear her most of the time, so I usually left early. Last night was different. I was standing in the grooming area when Beth’s horse, Liam, who was in the wash area began acting up. Beth was at that time in the arena, instructing. She immediately came and got him, and continued to instruct while holding him. It reminded me of a woman with a child on her hip, trying to get her work done.

I went into the arena, and suggested to Beth that I hold Liam. Beth readily agreed, then said to me “Just make sure he stays out of your space!” She then went back to instructing while I held onto this huge Irish sport horse. And I do mean huge. He reminded me of Secretariat. He is the color of a copper penny, and has four white socks. And he radiates good will and good health.

Holding a big red 17 hand horse is different than holding a little 13 hand red horse, for sure. His head was way above mine, and when he walked, he took huge strides. And because he was large, it was difficult parking him in the limited parking space. Raudi is compact. I can situate her between other horses and have plenty of room between us. Not so this dude.

I found a good space that both Liam and I liked, and from there we watched most of the lesson. I had a good view of the entire arena, which is one that allowed me to watch the others as they were put through their equitation paces. This portion of the class centered around having the horses develop a consistent and clean canter—Beth would have one horse take off and go to end of the line, then have another follow. Then, all at first a trot and then a canter circled at various points in the arena.

Then came the jumping portion of the class. The half-dozen horses and riders did well. I paid particular attention to Marie, who was on her own horse, Ash, another large sport horse. The difference from this horse and Liam is that he is white. Marie began having problems with him when she asked him to canter – he just wanted to go. Beth, in a calm voice, had her do a one rein stop. This involved sitting back in her seat, grabbing a hold of the mane and rein in one hand, and gently pulling the horse’s head around in the other hand. The first time, Ash bounced to a stop. Then in subsequent attempts, he gradually slowed down. Beth then had Marie take him over a few jumps before asking for the stop.

My heart was in my throat watching this. Marie is small – has black horn rimmed glasses that at one point slipped down her nose a ways. Her face was a study in concentration, as was Beth’s. It was as though when they were working together, that no one else in the world existed. Had either been inattentive or fearful, the lesson would not have been as successful as it was. Ash went over the one jump, repeatedly, as asked – and after, slowed down when asked. I thought that if I were the instructor, I would have had Marie to stand by the side of the arena while the others jumped. But what good would that have done? The horse would have learned nothing.

Watching this all was inspiring. It made me even more trusting of Beth’s judgment. It also reminded me that one can learn as much from being an observer as they might being a participant.

Next: 178. 6/29/14: Horse Camp: CTR Training