Budapest settling in

We are back in Budapest, this time for an extended stay of 5 weeks. We will be taking advantage of the easy travel arrangements to visit a few cities and the countryside.

The city is starting to feel familiar, with the gorgeous architecture and the grit. The weather is remarkably pleasant, with full sun and 16-20C, which makes roaming around on foot so much easier. In two days Ive clocked 12 km on foot.

On our first days, I spent quite some time going to different markets and stores to build our inventory of stuff. I am still perplexed on the shopping habits. When do I bag and tag the fruits? When can I pick my own?
Since I was coming down with a cold (thanks to a long germ-infested airplane ride), my next stop was for a warm bowl of soup. This goulash at the every popular Menza just hit the spot.
My next stop was getting a yoga mat and foam roller which was not so obvious to find. Google helped me track down a specialty store: Yoga Bazaar but I struggled to actually find the store. S…

Back in time

It was Spring of 2016, and my 2 year old untrained stud had just arrived to his new winter home from his lavish Florida paradise. I only had plans for groundwork at first, scheduled our first showmanship and halter show for 2 months later and got to work.

I had an excel list of things to accomplish: cross-tying, ground-tying, tarps, lunging, cavaletti, showering, and of course everything that goes with showmanship (stand square, walk/trot at shoulder, pivot). I had devised a thermometer map to track our progress, which looked like this a few weeks before our show.
We had been practicing for several weeks. And, before I proceed, I must say that Q was super quiet at home, and did the showmanship patterns relatively well. He would stand square, back, trot forward, and pivot on his right hind (most of the time). He did all of this on a slack line.
So we took the trip to the showgrounds on the day before so that Q could be familiar with the location before the show. As we waited for …

Teeter-totter through more groundwork

After my “aha” moments of the week, I decided to venture out to the barn and tackle some tarps and stuff. My tools for the day
- Flag
- Tarp
- Rope halter
- Patience

Q was not too impressed with my plan.

I got the snort, the scoot and the jump to the back of the stall when he saw the tarp coming. So by the time I had him in the aisle with his halter on, he was less surprised by their appearance. But he still shrinked away.

Then we got into the arena, Q giving the tarp and flag a wide berth until I asked him to approach. You can see how tentative he is.

This continued for a while but we eventually graduated to walking and trotting both directions, alternating with some flag work and poll release.

I then wanted to get a halt on the tarp, as I believe that the horse doesn't truly "own" the obstacle until he is capable of standing relaxed on the object. It took a few turns, and then he was able to do it. He did struggle with backing up, as it would snag at the tarp and make …

Reactive or training gap?

My horse and I have an issue with plastic, shavings bags, tarps, and plastic kiddy pools. I can usually get Q to accept my fascination with tarps in a session. But every new session starts out the same with snorting, and a reluctance to have me drape the tarp over him. So I take it slow and we eventually are trotting and cantering over it, and moving it all over. But its exhausting tedious work.

After several days of despooking clinic, my husband was tired of hearing me categorize horses into sensitive/reactive vs dull. Well how else do you explain to the non horsey type how a draft cross just plows through the mattress and tarp combo on the first try, while the OTTB jumps from side to side then leaps into the air to finish into a canter pirouette succeeding in completely avoiding the offensive obstacle?

He said : “It seems like you use the term reactive/sensitive as an excuse for a horse that needs more training.” Umm ... but, but ... let me explain. You know Q and tarps and anything…

Does this work on humans?

After four days of despooking clinic and some reflection time, I want to share my broader perspective on what despooking can teach us.

Only humans dwell - sometimes you just need to go with the flow. Horses have wonderful lessons to teach us in this regard. Their desire to be one with the herd, to establish hierarchy and rules, and to be in the present moment forces us to reconsider our thoughts and actions. Being such generous and forgiving souls, horses begin every moment as a new one. They dont dwell on past issues, they dont cry over lost relationships, they dont get angry over spilled milk. They lock in to their surroundings, feel their environment, find the path that leads to safety and grass. They are fluid. Let us learn to connect with the “herd”.Dont focus on the obstacle, focus on what you are doing. Obstacles are everywhere, physical and psychological. Some are created in our minds (“Im not good enough, Im not worthy, I cant do that”) and we fixate on them. We give our obsta…

Despooking Clinic, Second Edition

Day 1 of the second edition, this time with 16 horses. Aside from the first hour of craziness, things proceeded in an orderly fashion and it IS possible to have so many horses in a tight space with multiple obstacles. Makes you go hmmm.

In the first hour, after being fussed over with pool noodles and pom poms, the horses very quickly progressed from the scariness of the first plywood plank to the multiple obstacles including the combo tarp over mattress with the funny squishy sounds.

Funny, so many horses had issues  with the bubbles.

Nobody thought the dancing man would be possible when they started. Now look, calmly proceeding as a herd.

Day 2 of the despooking clinic

Drill formations? As an effective way to despook a horse? That’s a new one.

How does it work? Let me count the ways

#1 to improve your control over your horses movement #2 to increase your own spatial awareness and become one “with the herd”

#3 to distract you and your horse from a worrying object #4 to approach and be approached by threatening objects (“my horse kicks”) and become desensitized

#5 to keep you focused on an important and complicated task (thread the needle) and reduce your anxiety #6 to help you (and your horse) feel successful and confident, because progress is generally quick and measurable

#7 to feel the camraderies of the other riders and find joy #8 to teach your horse to fit into tight spaces and survive / thrive

# 9 to “save the girl” and find a higher purpose
#10 to remember that forward is always the right answer
Say what you will, I found the horses and handlers to be more controlled and confident on the second day. While it challenges my assumptions about tr…