Saturday, June 27, 2015

Off the Shelf

I've had a stack of books, mainly about photography, writing and horses, sitting on an end table next to the couch for months, possibly years, but haven't had much luck in finding the time and patience to read them without interruption.  I knew I had also downloaded a couple of books to my Kindle, so I began perusing what I had on its virtual shelf, and I was disgusted with myself to find about ten ebooks I've never read.  I knew I also had about that many ebooks on my laptop as well.  Then I pulled Midge's kennel away from a bookshelf in the bedroom, and found another stack of print books I had either bought or borrowed, all of which still had not been read.  As you can imagine, my disgust with myself was intensifying with each unread book I found.  I then looked at all of my horse training books, and saw that the majority of them still had bookmarks sitting in the first chapter.

I'm not a wasteful person, so this neglect was over the top for me.  My biggest problem is my memory.  Once I put a stack of unread books on a shelf instead of in front of my face, I completely forget that I have them.  The Kindle is especially challenging, because it's one little electronic device that easily gets out of sight, and you have to log on and search to find your books.  I love it because I don't have to take up anymore wall space with bookshelves, but at the same time, it's easy to forget that I have it.  Also, the battery tends to die right when I reach the end of a book, forcing me to leave it charging near an outlet for several hours while I am left wondering about the conclusion.  It's not wise to read with a cord attached to an ebook reader in my house with all the dogs running around.

I can read a suspense novel from cover to cover fairly fast, because suspense holds my attention and is usually presented in a linear fashion.  I recently read fellow blogger Desiree Prosapio's thriller titled MATCHBOOK, and had no problem plowing through it.  I highly recommend it if you haven't read it.  I know I really enjoyed the book, because I saw something on TV the other night about The Alamo, and immediately thought of the story behind MATCHBOOK.  Usually, once I set a book down, it's out of sight -- out of mind, but MATCHBOOK has stuck with me.

I have the most difficulty reading non-fiction reference type books because publishers are incessant about constantly interrupting the flow of the main text by interjecting with all these boxes filled with side stories and tips.  My ADD mind can't handle having the subject changed on me every time I turn the page.  It's obnoxious.  It's as bad as having a lengthy, important conversation with someone, and having all these other people walking into the room changing the subject.  Note to self:  Don't buy anymore non-fiction books.

I honestly don't know how I made it through 8, maybe 10, years of college.  I seriously lost count, because while I earned a Bachelor's Degree and a teaching credential in 5 years, I continued my education at various colleges throughout my life.  The textbooks must have been so painful to slog through, yet somehow I managed to read 4 to 8 of them every quarter.  There is no way I could go back to a university to take classes that require several hours of daily reading.  That's why I stick to the community colleges and their adult/continuing education courses.  The instructors understand that grown ups are too busy to read, so they just teach, and if you want something to read, you can read your own notes.

Anyway, while looking at all these unread books, I realized that part of why I don't read them is because there are so many of them that I am overwhelmed.  Also, if one book doesn't hold my interest, I set it down and pick up another.  Reading multiple books simultaneously doesn't help my situation.  It's like flipping channels at commercial breaks to watch three different shows at once, and then being frustrated because I missed the ending of two of them.  Since our summer is turning into hot, stifling, thick, humid air with the deafening thunder of monsoon storms sprinkled in, I can't do much of anything outside, so I decided to pick a book and challenge myself to read it cover to cover, regardless of how bored or distracted I got.  The first book I picked was THE RIDING HORSE REPAIR MANUAL by Doug Payne.

I found his bio or introduction at the front of the book to be rather fascinating.  I also loved the photos, because he was grinning ear to ear while riding rearing, bucking, bolting, and spooking horses.  This is a man who clearly enjoys a challenge.  Having ridden horses his entire life, sometimes riding 10 horses a day, he's had his share of falls, but pain and fear never seemed to deter him.  Give him a unruly horse, and he'll turn it into a champion.

The first few chapters kind of left me feeling frustrated, because he fell into that method that most horse trainers do when writing books -- he told us to ask our horse to do A, and once A is achieved, ask our horse to do B, and so on.  He presented the order in which we should train various skills to our horse, but he neglected to explain how to do it.  I could just imagine someone completely new to horse ownership saying out loud, "Okay, horse.  Will you please walk?" and the horse just stands there because it doesn't speak human.

But then I got further into the book, and he did start giving specifics.  In retrospect, the first few chapters are titled in such a way that he warns us that they are general information.

PART 1:  Getting Started
One:  A Strategy for Avoiding Behavior Problems
Two:  How to Start a Green Horse:  A Brief Guide
Three:  Training Step by Step:  Work on the Ground
Four:  Training Step by Step:  Ridden Work
Five:  Behavior Problems:  A General Assessment

"PART 2:  Let the Games Begin" is where he starts getting into the mechanics of working a horse through contact issues, unruly outbursts, and jumping problems.  In PART 3, he ends with strategies and case studies.  I suspect that PART 1 could have been an entire book in itself had he not cut it down.

There's a world of difference between how he rides in eventing competitions and how I ride on the trails, and there were a few tips he gave that I didn't agree with because they didn't line up with my experience.  However, I know that his knowledge comes from way more experience than mine, so I had to respect it.  Horse trainers don't just keep on using a technique if it doesn't work.

One tip he gave that I had never heard of before involved helping an insecure or anxious horse who is lacking confidence by always staying in contact with it.  He mentioned Temple Grandin and the Thundershirts for dogs with anxiety problems, and said that you should keep your legs wrapped around the barrel of a nervous horse like your are hugging it and always have direct contact with its mouth through taut reins.  That seems counter-intuitive, because you don't want to squeeze or accidentally kick an anxious horse, so I've been riding my nervous Nellys on a loose rein and keeping my legs off them all these years.  However, I think I'm going to give this constant contact like a blanket idea a chance and try it out.  Payne's feeling is that not only do hot, nervous horses feel more relaxed when they are being hugged, but you need to keep their minds busy with constant requests of pressure and release.

I also liked that he addressed horses who freeze up.  Interestingly, there are a variety of reasons why horses do that, so you have to figure out what the horse's feelings or motivations are behind freezing up, because how you approach fixing it depends on that.  Stubborn or barn sour horses who just refuse to go in the direction you point them in by freezing up, need to be driven forward with legs, spurs, and/or a whip.  Nervous horses who are terrified should not have pressure added in, because the results can be dangerous.  It's better to slowly turn the horse with an opening inside rein to get him to snap out of it.  If he bolts, you want to slow him down by turning him into a circle gradually, not abruptly.  That makes sense, because a fearful horse can explode in an instant if it feels threatened.

I managed to finish ready THE RIDING HORSE REPAIR MANUAL in three days once I put my mind to it.  I'm proud of myself for finally completing the reading of a non-fiction book.  Now I am on to picking out the next book.


Jen said...

Always nice to check stuff off that perpetual ToDo list, isn't it? I am totally addicted to the Kindle app on my smartphone (I'll never be bored waiting in line again ;o)

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Jen - Oh yeah. The one thing I always do remember to do is to shove my Kindle in my purse whenever I know I'm going to be sitting in a waiting room. I also carry those little tiny word search booklets in my purse. It's funny, because the people sitting on each side of me start looking for words too. I also have a word search puzzle on my Kindle.

Crystal said...

I too have lots of unread books and magazines. I really like to read but get so distracted by other stuff going on I forget sometimes. But here too with the hot weather I have finished 2 books this week already.

I like his idea of hugging your horse, I try keeping a shorter rein (than my usual mile long ones) and asking for them to do easy stuff making their brain work but I'll try keeping my legs closer too worth a try and if I don't like it I will quit it.

Cut-N-Jump said...

Sally Swift- Centered Riding is a good one although I have yet to finish reading it myself. Also Common Sense Dressage is another one in my arsenal/library. Both good reads and easy to follow along. If you need any pointers/tips, you know where to find me....