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November 9, 2012: Home schooling

The best teachers are those who, along with their students, see themselves as learners. My one regret about teaching is that I didn’t then embrace this concept. I could have. But at the time I was more focused on saving time so that I’d have time to write. If I was now teaching at the college level, my attitude would be different. And it would be even more different if I was teaching what I wanted to be teaching (creative nonfiction writing) and the number of classes and class sizes were smaller.

I continue to wait for my dream job to materialize. In the meantime, I’m continuing to teach. The difference between teaching now and teaching then is that my students are now horses. On the days in which I work with my crew of five, I learn something new. This, even on blustery days like this one.

Five examples:

Tinni was the first one out on the trail today. He’s doing a great deal better, now that he has his ice shoes on. He tolted nicely and was upbeat and chipper the entire time he was out. Lesson # 1 learned: It sometimes takes a few days for tender footed horses to feel better once they’ve been shod. I also rode Tinni bareback today—I never once gave this any thought at all. Lesson # 2 learned: Becoming a good rider takes considerable time. You just have to be patient with yourself.

I next went riding with Pete. He rode Siggi and I rode Signy. Hrimmi, Jenna, and Rainbow followed. We took the trail to the left of the bench trail. Pete suggested that we go and check out his cross-country ski

trail. The going was so rough that we elected to retrace or steps and ride our normal route. On the way back to it, Hrimmi stepped out onto an ice patch and lost her footing. I leapt off Signy and Pete leapt off Siggi. We both dropped our horses’ reins and ran over to Hrimmi, who by then was back up on her feet. Pete turned around and discovered that his horse was running in the direction of home. We followed him a ways, me on Signy, and Pete on foot. Then, when we came to a trail crossroads, we decided to try and trick Siggi by continuing on our usual route. Siggi, who didn’t want to either be left behind or go home, began running our direction, the whole while bucking, cantering, and squealing. He passed, I reached for him, and missed. He then did a second very large circle. This time, Pete got on Signy and kept pace with Siggi. When finally, Pete was in range, he got off Signy and grabbed Siggi. We then stopped and I took Pete’s photo. Lesson learned: Patience really is a virtue. The entire time Pete and I stayed calm, as did all the other animals. The dogs, well they had a wonderful time playing what I called diversionary tag.

I got ready to take Raudi out after lunch. Princess Chub Chub made it clear at the onset of what I thought was a short jaunt, and she thought was a long jaunt, that she did not want to leave her lunch behind. I told her with voice, crop, and body that she had no choice. Going up-road she got increasingly more resistant to the prospect of checking out the great north woods. I began thinking that perhaps the problem was that feared passing an overturned tree stump. It was indeed different—it had snow on it. She skittered past it. I then began giving her a neck scratch for having gotten past her road nemesis. It was at that very moment that she spun around and bolted in the direction of home. She didn’t get far. I gritted my teeth and urged her forward. I happened, once we were past Mr. Tree Stump, to look to my left. There, on a slight rise was a young moose. Raudi wiggled her ears and it wiggled its ears. I suspected that because of this exchange, that they had previously met one another. We passed it, and I again gave her a neck scratch. Lesson #3 learned: Horses do, at times jerk our chains. This was one of those times. If we’d encountered the moose on the return trip home, Raudi would have passed it without even giving it a second glance. Lesson #4 learned: There was a time when I would have returned home with Raudi upon sighting the moose. Now it’s just no big deal. Sometimes it’s good to think about just how far one has come as a teacher/student.

Lastly, I took a few minutes of time at the end of the waning day, and worked with Hrimmi on target training, which is using a clicker and a target (in this case a fish buoy on a dowel). What I hoped was that she’d figure out what leading is all about. She almost has it down, but not quite. In time, she’ll learn that when she touches the buoy, that she’ll get a reinforcer. Silly me, I left two piles of hay out, one by the shed and one by the hitching post. So Hrimmi went back and forth between the two, once in a while touching the buoy. Lesson learned: When using this, a variation upon treat training, make sure the other food sources are out of reach.

There were today, other teachable moments, another being Hrimmi’s ponying lesson. But these were the highlights. The question some might have is, why am I spending so much time with these animals? The answer is, I really enjoy being a student. If I didn’t, I would find another line of work for the horses.

Next: 335. 11/1012: Straight from the Horse’s Mouth