Pat Your Pony!

One of the aspects of riding horses that I find most intriguing is the constant push and pull around who is training whom. Say you put Thunderbolt in the wash stall cross ties after your lesson. Because it’s hot and you are a conscientious rider, you will wash off your sweaty beast before you put him back in his stall.

But you have sweaty tack to deal with too, so you leave Thunder chilling in the wash stall while you take your sweaty saddle pad outside to dry in the sun. No sooner do you drape that sucker over the fence than you hear, scraaaape, scraaape, scraaape. Mighty steed is pawing in the cross ties, because he wants outta there. He wants his water bucket, or a pile of hay, or the pleasure of rolling in the mud, but he does not want to hang out in the cross ties. Nopity-nope. This is not rocket science, ye human.

You hurry back to the wash stall and shake your finger him. “Naughty pony. Don’t paw.” Then, you don’t want to forget to scrub off your bit and bridle, so you nip into the tack room to hang them by the sink.

Scraaape, scraaape, scraaaaape. You are back to the wash stall in a flash. “Bad pony. No pawing. Just be cool and I’ll get you–”

Scraape, scraape, scraape, and for good measure, Thunder tosses his head, because he is dealing with one slow human. You hose him down and dry him off, and finally, after he has patiently explained to you–THREE TIMES–the necessity to look after your horse and stop dawdling, he gets to saunter back to his stall. He has taught you to come to him hotfoot when he paws, while you have…?

Children do this, dogs do it, social media for sure does it. Attention grabbing is an art and a science, and with horses, the way to get off the merry-go-round is to catch him being good. Ignore the pawing, as difficult as that is, and praise the standing quietly. Set him up so that he seldom has to resort to pawing, and still, praise him for standing quietly. Praise him for coming along like gentleman on the lead rope; tell him he’s a good boy just for going forward off your leg.

Pretty soon, your horse (or your clever and patient instructor) has trained you to look for the small successes, to look for the tiny gains, the minuscule signs of better communication, while you becomes less reactive to what’s wrong (though you still notice it). Instead of resentment and frustration on both sides, you and Brave Steed eventually  become a team able to whisper to each other even in the midst of a gale.

The habit of looking for the positive is all but stomped out of us, particularly in trying times, when negativity is prized by the greedy as “engagement.”  So I’m starting at home, looking for the places where I made a better choice, steered around a pothole, or behaved myself despite all temptation to the contrary. (Like say, responding to last week’s blog comments instead of fooling around on news sites, fr’instance.) Then I am patting myself on the back for that, because reinforcement builds habits–for good or otherwise.

What are you getting right these days? What pothole did you steer around? Where did you make a smarter choice or set yourself up to avoid frustration? To three commenters, I’ll send an e-ARC of My Heart’s True Delight. The book releases in mid-September, the ARC files should be ready to go in the next thirty days.

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27 comments on “Pat Your Pony!

  1. All living in this household this afternoon had *A Talk.* In two weeks time, we normally would be on vacation, heading north to our favorite place in northern Wisconsin. Not this year. We knew it but acknowledged it today.

    Instead, for our two weeks of vacation, we will finish cleaning out the basement in preparation for having it finished (new stairs, rewired and new windows and we need to clean it out)–an extra room and place for entertaining and relaxing. We’ll be cleaning out the garage as well as ordering food out, and spending several days going to a local arboretum and a botanic garden. Not the normal, relaxing, lazy vacation AT ALL.

    I am proud of myself and my family, doing the right thing and taking it in stride. We will get a lot of things accomplished this year and relax and be lazy next year WE HOPE!

    • You won’t forget having that talk. I’m glad you are able to make the stay-cation a family project, and will leaven it with some frolic and detour. Where I went to undergrad there was a venerable cheap eats place just off campus, and over the door they had that line from the Aeneid: haec olim meminisse juvabit (without the perhaps/fortan et). In other words, some day it will be pleasant to remember (even) these things. I hope that’s true of the summer of 2020 for you and yours.

  2. All of the local restaurants have opened up outdoor seating. It is so very tempting on a hot and humid day to want to go out to eat. We have chosen not to eat out. I think it’s too scary. Many summer visitors in my town come from out of state and some of those states have high infection rates. Is it worth it? Not to me.

    In terms of potholes? I am trying my best to keep walking and to stay on my diet. Walking Greg and Rose in the early morning. We just walk in the neighborhood – the heat is not kind to older dogs. I take Laci after dinner and we walk the bigger walk. As the weather cools down, I am hoping to get back to my 10,000 steps a day.

    As far as the work from home schedule. I am trying to get up and move a couple of times a day. There is so much work…I could sit at stare at the screen for days! I try to remember to take a morning and afternoon break. This plan seems to be working as I don’t feel as isolated.

    Take care and keep cool this week!

    • I am watering my trees and flowers before 8 am, then heading in doors until about 8 pm. It’s stinkin’ hot, but then, it’s July. I have done one take out and no eat out. I never did much of either, but I have the passing thought, “I could stop at Subway…NAH.” As for work from home, I saw one post saying we ought to call it Living At Work instead of work from home. So much to do…

  3. In the long ago and far away times of pre-covid, my husband and I had a routine of eating out twice a week. Being both mostly retired and unable to take traditional vacations (two cats, one diabetic needing insulin twice daily), eating out is our “recreation.” We would have breakfast out once a week (my favorite meal to eat at a restaurant, a reminder of my childhood when my Dad would want to leave for vacation early in the day to avoid the NYC traffic; we would stop to eat breakfast an hour or so out of the city). Our other weekly restaurant splurge was dinner, with each of us taking turns choosing the venue. As much as cases are diminishing around us now (we still live in the northeast), we still have not, and will not for the foreseeable future, eat out at a restaurant. It just seems like too great a risk for too little reward. We do order curbside pickup at our favorite restaurants, to help them economically, but in person eating? No thanks!

    By the same token, we do try to avoid the “pothole” of stress eating. I do love to cook, but rather than indulge in eating to soothe, we are trying to keep meals healthy. In that pursuit, we have joined a produce subscription service. Getting each week’s box has become like a culinary challenge, figuring out healthy recipes to use each item, some of which are not our usual fare, all before it spoils or our next box arrives!

    We will get through this (and hopefully, emerge sane–or at least as sane as we were going in….that’s for another discussion!) Stay well everyone!!!

    • I hope a lot of people are doing the produce subscriptions, because in many areas, the farmers’ markets are suffering, and yet, its safer to shop there than at the grocery store. My big pitfall with respect to stressing eating is that I type at the kitchen table. My downstairs is two rooms, and eat in kitchen and a 20×20 living room. It’s much cheaper to cool just the kitchen, so here I sits… Summer won’t last forever. As you say, we will get through this.

  4. I’ve been alternating between much needed personal repairs, viral spikes permitting, & rewarding the good self-care behavior with treats like day-long wallows with good books or allowing my artistic side a dive down the rabbit hole of foreign design shows on YouTube. If I must self-isolate, is there really a better time to hole up in my little patch of paradise & heal from a procedure or two? Plus the soul finds solace in binge watching such jewels as Scotland’s House of the Year. Turns out the 2019 & 2020 seasons are lurking on the interweb for free. I can ignore heat advisories & contemplating the rising cost of my air conditioning while resting my eyes on cool green countrysides, castles, & gardens.

    There’s also the added benefit of my read pile slowly sorting itself into keepers & the growing box of trade-ins waiting by the door to haul to my favorite used book store as soon as the plague recedes sufficiently to permit.

    Interim, the local crane family is better than any thermometer. When beaks open wide & wings unfurl to half mast while drooping birds stand on one leg under a shade tree in an attempt at cooling, I know it’s too hot to leave my sanctuary & deal with the outside world.

    • What a lovely thermometer you have! For me it’s impatiens and dogwood trees. They do not like it hot, and the pansies have long since given up. I will give House of the Year a peek, because I really miss Scotland. Glad I got to go, hope I get to go again.

      • This might be the year of horticultural surprises. A scraggly bundle of twigs optimistically called “a tree” & planted by the builder at one corner of my garage unexpectedly exploded into leaves & lavender flowers. Turns out I have a crepe myrtle that decided heat advisories & flood warnings were just the right conditions to wake up & put on a growth spurt after a four year sulk.

        Perhaps your garden will yield a pleasant surprise as well.

  5. I’m afraid I’m not avoiding many potholes these says. Heavy sigh.
    Good for you, Grace, that you are, and that you are recognizing it!

    • I have my good days and bad days. There seems to be a high correlation with avoiding the news/social media and having a good day. What a coincidence.

  6. I have learned to pick my times when working with frustrated people (aka my son). It’s sometimes better to wait until they are more receptive to listening and dealing (unless there is an actual fire involved).

    Life has taught me not to procrastinate (except with house work) so that was hard so me.

    I’m glad you figures out how to deal with your pony.

    • It’s amazing how rejuvenating it is to spend one or two hours a week trying to accomplish something with somebody who cannot use words–at all, ever. For somebody like me, Wordy McWordface, it’s terrific therapy. It’s unplugging from a lot of noise, and tuning into my senses and my body. Learning to listen for what the horse is communicating becomes like a jigsaw puzzle, and when it’s going right, the time just flies.

  7. Not missing many potholes either. Teeth-jarring, tongue-biting, didn’t-see-that-coming potholes. However, we are camping for a few days about 40 miles from home. We truly live in a beautiful, even if remote, neck of the woods.

    • I am so, so, so grateful to live in the countryside right now. My county has fewer than 1000 cases total, and though the area is very conservative, my neighbors are also sensible. You don’t go to the store without a danged mask….

  8. The picture of the mud covered horse reminded me of my daughter’s horse who we used to have here on our 2.5 acres. Like most horses he loved to roll – especially when he was wet. One of our neighbors was driving by with her kids one day and the kids had never seen him in action. They were convinced he was dying, and were very upset that she wouldn’t call us to let us know. For months they would slowly walk by the house and hang out at the fence – and give him treats – hoping they could prove their mom wrong. After mom and I chatted, they came by while my daughter was washing him down but stayed out of his line of sight. I’ll give you one guess what they finally saw. Yep, Doc rolling around, all 4 legs up in the air.

    Things I’ve done well this past week some of which are setting myself up for success include. We had to say goodbye to our almost 16 year old golden retriever 3 weeks ago. I was finally able to return most of the unused dog food and treats and roll that money into frozen raw food for the cats. (I worked for the company where I bought the food for many years and I know that they claim refunds on most returns that can’t be reshelved.) I also divided the cat food up into 2-3 day portions and vaccuum packed it so it will last longer for my picky cats who are not eating as much as they did when their ‘brother’ was still around. Today my hubby and I vaccuumed the many throw rugs, swept the tile, and rearranged the multiple carpets into one large central rug exposing the tile that the pup had trouble negotiating for months without slipping (causing us to purchase the area rugs). I mopped all the tile as well. It will be easier to clean now and the house looks less like a senior center for dogs.

    I do still need to call our vet to let them know Bounder is no longer with us. We had a vet who does house calls take care of him so he could be at home, and so we could be with him since our regular vet is not letting owners inside the practice right now. It turns out, the vet who does house calls charges less over all for end of life service than our vet. We also have a lot of dog toys that need to be washed and stored for our next dog, or to pass on to our kids when they adopt. Neither my hubby now I have had the energy to unpack the bag with his cremated remains. That will come in time.

    • I am sorry you lost your dear old friend at a time when having a dog is an even better idea than usual. My neighbors came by the other day with their great big Schnauzer/Poodle/Labrador/We’re Not Sure… I just wanted to hug him and hug him and hug him. It was like, “Dog!!!! Be right with you people, I hafta love up on the Dog!!!”
      So I hope you find a successor to embark on the next chapter of dog-loving with, though I know that takes time. Good on ya for dealing with the logistics. It has to be done, painful though it may be.

  9. Hi Grace
    I fell headfirst into the stress eating pothole and stayed there wallowing for far too long. I have just clawed my way out to the straighter and narrower but am now looking around and seeing some other potholes, like too much news reading and Johns Hopkins checking…which added to the stress…see above.
    Looking forward to Sept for next book.

    • I check the Maryland Corona Virus site once a day, and for the past week, the news has Not Been Good. I’d rather know the truth, and the sad reality is, more and more of our new cases are people ages 20-40. I am so grateful that I am reader. Give me good books and a weekly grocery run, and I can last a long, long time home with my HEAs.

  10. I totally understand getting sucked into negative things. I am deliberately avoiding engaging with people who post about what is wrong with the world, in their opinion. That means I don’t go on social media much lately. Probably not a detriment to me, but I then miss the posts I enjoy, like my friend showing her cat sitting on the car hood looking like a hood ornament, in the pouring rain. I “wish” social media had a positive post only option.

    • So do I!
      The premise–using the internet to build online and offline community–has a lot of promise, but the reality of social media (using user-supplied content to build a hugely profitable data mine) isn’t proving itself to have much value.
      I say we scrap the current models, add up the lessons learned, and try, try again.

  11. I have been good about cutting myself some slack, stepping around the frustration pothole and just letting myself be inefficient and need more decompression time. With a winter coming soon that will no doubt be spent at home, I feel like getting practice being gentle with myself is going to bear fruit.s

    • Where I am, it looks like a heat wave will break in a couple days (temps around 100F with stinky old humidity to match). After that, it’s shorter days, cooler nights, the underbrush dying back, and then… finally, fall. My most wonderful time of year!

      I hope others can view it similarly, because this has turned out to be one tough summer. Good on ya for easing your way through it.

  12. I am enormously privileged to live in a beautiful place and, as an introvert, am (mostly) happily alone. That said, the local rowing club (more privilege) re-opened with very strict protocols and I am back on the water. I am the eldest rower in my cohort by enough years to be Granny to the rest of them. As well, I’m the shortest which matters in rowing AND most recent-to-the-sport: it would be very easy to be intimidated and anxious and the first couple of days were a bit tough. However, I was/am smart enough to realize that (a) we are all simply doing our best and (b) life is not a rehearsal and (c) yes, one day, I will flip but I can swim. So, I stopped fretting. The water has been gloriously flat and scary rough but I’m on it and I’m learning new skills and potholes be damned!!