Posts Tagged With: training horses

Best Friend … Best Teacher


Today,  I’m  talking about a very special horse in my life and what I learned from her. This is a repeat of one of my first blogs, but I think it illustrates how important it is to get to really know your horse–how he/she thinks, reacts and views life.

small__389080670We all turn to friends for fun, companionship and support with life’s difficulties. If we’re really lucky a good friend can also teach us a lot about life.

My best friend when I was a kid was a horse named Star. I had started riding off and on when I was four, but I didn’t get a horse of my own until I was ten. A year later I got the love of my young life. Star was a beautiful, liver chestnut (dark brown) Morgan mare who turned into the best pal a kid could want.

She didn’t start out that way, though. Six months after we bought her, I was ready to give up and try for another horse. While she was sweet and loving on the ground, she had been badly handled under saddle and was very hard to control on the trail as a result. There were few professional horsemen in my area. Most people bought horses with some basic training and just got on and rode. If a horse gave you problems, you tried a stronger bit and maybe a tie down. The advice we were given by more “experienced” people and even books was the harsh “make her behave” variety. I now know, of course, that was exactly the wrong approach for her.( See my early post Sex and the Single Horse where I talk about “asking” mares.)

One day when I was at a really low point, I began playing around with Star on the ground. When we bought her we also bought her yearling colt, Comet. My dad used to play with him and taught him a couple of tricks. Of course Comet got lots of carrots and praise when he did them right. For some reason that afternoon, I gave Star the signal for one of her son’s tricks…and SHE DID IT. I was flabbergasted and tried again and she did it again. It was then I realized that she really wanted the pats and treats too, which had not been many because of her “bad” behavior.

The next day I went to the library and got a book on teaching tricks. I started with the simple ones, such as bowing, counting, nodding “yes” and shaking her head “no.” I soon discovered I had an astonishingly smart horse who would do anything for a carrot and praise. Over the years we developed a large number of tricks and even put on demonstrations at small horse shows. But I also discovered I had a horse who would try her best if you asked her, but would fight like mad against anyone who tried to force her.

I spent a lot of time developing a good relationship with Star on the ground and she learned to trust me. I changed to a milder bit and tried to listen to her as I realized how much she wanted to please. Eventually, we became an inseparable team. We competed in small shows, jumped cross-country, danced in parades, led a Western drill team and covered hundreds of miles of trails. When things got difficult at home, I’d take off on her and find my peace.

Star taught me a different way to deal with life. My family’s approach to life tended to be harsh and critical. She showed me a gentler way to handle problems. And to try and see what was really going on rather than reacting to appearances. She taught me how to be a friend by being my best friend.

Did you have a good friend who taught you something special or made a difference in your life? Who are the people you value?

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/bombeador/389080670/”>Eduardo Amorim</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;
Categories: horse care, horse personalities, Horses, nature, outdoors, riding, Trail riding, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

THE HORSE NEVER DIES!

Today I’m going to switch my animal loving guests to Mondays, while I’ll continue my posts on Wednesdays.

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My first Monday guest is Shannon Kennedy, who also writes as Josie Malone.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs a child, Shannon loved to dream away the days in an old cherry tree on her family’s pony farm. In her imagination, the tree became a beautiful Arabian stallion, a medieval castle and even a pirate ship. She got in trouble for making her bratty little sisters walk the plank, but hey, they never broke any bones. On rainy days, she headed for her fort in the hayloft. While the rain thudded on the cedar shingled roof, she read books, eventually trading Carolyn Keene for Georgette Heyer. Today, she lives on the family ranch in the Cascade foothills. Now, she’s teaching the kids and grandkids of the ones she taught way back when we started. She’s had a lot of adventures over the years and plans to write all about them.  Hope you enjoy reading about them!

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Take it away Shannon!

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I live on the family farm, a riding stable in the Cascade foothills. I organize most of the riding programs, teach horsemanship around my day-job as a substitute teacher, nurse sick horses, hold for the shoer, train whoever needs it – four-legged and two-legged.  And write mainstream western romances as Josie Malone for SirenBookStrand.  I write young adult realistic fiction under what the kids at the barn call my “real name,” Shannon Kennedy for Black Opal Books and Fire & Ice YA.

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Writing what I know means horses show up in most of my books. Because it’s fiction, the horse never dies – unlike real life. My veterinarian, Dr. Tim Cavenaugh of All Creatures Great and Small up in Arlington, Washington says, “We choose to love those who have a shorter life span than we do,” and I’ve lost my share of dearly beloved horses over the past forty years. In March 2011, my equine companion of almost twenty-four years, Lucky Lady died of cancer and I’m still grieving her.

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So, what can I tell you about horses? And how do you make them authentic in your books? First, remember that although they’re big, they’re also surprisingly fragile in spite of their size. A horse has one stomach so it is not like a cow, a goat or a deer. The stomach is small, so the horse eats approximately twenty hours a day in the wild and sleeps four hours, usually in naps.

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Adult horses still lie down but not for long, about fifteen minutes. Lady used to empty the whole barn when she snored. She would lie down for a half hour and her weight; all eleven-hundred pounds would press on her lungs. She would groan as if she were dying. I’d run down to the barn and get her to roll up on her chest. Then, she would go back to normal breathing. Of course, once I interrupted nap-time, she would stand up and give me the look that meant “Just where are the carrots, Mom?”

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I love horses and I was thrilled when I found a publishing house that does too. My latest series from Fire & Ice YA centers around Shamrock Stable, a fictional “down-home” riding stable near Marysville, WA. The first book came out in this summer. No Horse Wanted is the story of Robin Gibson who wants a 1968 Presidential blue Mustang for her birthday. When she gets the opportunity to choose a horse of her own, Robin isn’t happy.

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I based the horse she rescues on one that I actually brought to our barn several years ago. Lady made a guest appearance and my wonderful editor allowed me to dedicate this book to the two horses that inspired it. The second book in the series, No Time For Horses will be out in October. Deck The Stalls, a holiday novella comes out in November/December. I hope you enjoy the Shamrock Stable series and the horsy facts that make the stories authentic.

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Happy Writing and Riding!

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Shamrock Stable, Book 1 – NO HORSE WANTED

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No Horse WantedThe only thing that Robin Gibson wants for her sixteenth birthday is a 1968 Presidential Blue Mustang. Following their family tradition, what her parents promise her is a horse of her own, one with four legs, not four wheels. Mom competes in endurance riding, Dad does calf roping, her older brother games and her older sister loves three-day eventing, but Robin proudly says that she doesn’t do horses. She’ll teach her controlling family a lesson by bringing home the worst horse she can find, a starved, abused two-year-old named Twaziem.

Robin figures she’ll nurse him back to health, sell him and have the money for her car. Rescuing and rehabilitating the Morab gelding might be a bigger challenge than what she planned. He comes between her and her family. He upsets her friends when she looks after his needs first. Is he just an investment or is he part of her future? And if she lets him into her heart will she win or will she lose?

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http://www.fireandiceya.com/authors/shannonkennedy/nohorsewanted.html

http://www.amazon.com/Horse-Wanted-Shamrock-Stable-ebook/dp/B00F6EMBK2/

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You can contact Shannon at:

www.josiemalone.com

www.shannonkennedybooks.com

Categories: Horses, nature, outdoors, riding, training horses, Uncategorized, writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

The Art of Breathing for Two

Imported Photos 00004 Joining us today is Susan Schreyer, the author of the just released Shooting To Kill, the fifth book in the Thea Campbell mystery series. Set in the real-life town of Snohomish, Washington, her books feature amateur dressage rider and solver-of-crimes, Thea Campbell.

For those of you not familiar with dressage, it is a type of very precise, formal riding that you see in the Olympics and in the Disney movie The Miracle of the White Stallions.

When not working diligently on her next book, Susan trains horses in the art of dressage and teaches people how to ride them. Today she talks about one of the exultant moments every rider hopes to have. Take it away Susan!

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I was watching a video the other day—Edward Gal and Totilas (European and World Champions, with the highest scores ever achieved) in a freestyle ride that earned the pair a score in excess of 90%—and was struck by something rather profound which, of course, like any truth is not new, but re-experienced.

That truth is: good riding, really good riding, transcends the correct application of the aids and the ability to perform the various movements.

Think about that for a moment.

Do you agree? I’ll bet you do.

Now, tell me this: what is the defining moment—the transcendent point in time where technically proficient grows a soul and becomes art? How do you recognize it when you see it, feel it?

I believe it is that moment when you cease to be the controller of the other creature, and become one—a symbiotic relationship, if you will. You can see it in the relaxation, the fluidity of both parties. There exists a grace that, when I see it (even on video), can reduce me (and likely a couple other of you) to tears. It’s that powerful. You cannot mistake it, you cannot pretend it isn’t there. When witnessed, it hits you in the heart.

When you experience that moment it is like nothing else, no matter how technically wonderful, that has come before. It is an ease that lies at the level of breathing, an effortless balance that requires only intention to shift direction or gait, an open door that allows access to levels of power at once heady and frightening when first encountered.

It’s the Buzz Lightyear moment: to infinity and beyond.

The Holy Grail of dressage.

If you’ve been riding for a while, and trying to improve, there is a good chance you’ve experienced this—even if for a brief moment six months ago. Quite a number of riders are familiar with that transcendent point. Perhaps it was fleeting, something that happened by “mistake.” Or, if you’re very lucky (not to mention diligent) it was something you achieved and can return to at will. Nevertheless, it is that joining of our souls to that of our four-legged companions that keeps us going, keeps us striving, keeps us getting our butts out to the barn when we’d rather be curled up with a glass of wine and a good book.

This possibility to become one, to join with our noble friend, gets us into the saddle when our bones are too old and our bodies hurt. We smile when we remember the times we touched the dream, and we willingly try again for just one more taste.

Happy riding, people.

If you’d like to see the video Susan is talking about:
http://www.horseandcountry.tv/episode/edward-gal-moorlands-totilas-record-breaking-wdm-kur

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300x480 72dpi shooting to killWhen Thea Campbell’s veterinarian collapses after accidentally injecting himself with a horse vaccine, Thea rushes to his aid. Despite her best efforts, the much-loved vet dies. In the wake of this tragic fluke, Thea reconsiders her own cautious approach to relationships.

Life, Thea decides, might be shorter than you expect, and procrastination a death-bed regret.

She immediately accepts her best friend’s last-minute wedding invitation and embraces the planning of her own marriage to fiancé Paul Hudson.

However, on return from her friend’s wedding, Thea has little opportunity to pursue her new philosophy. Her veterinarian’s death has been ruled a murder, his young assistant arrested and accused of deliberately substituting euthanasia solution for the West Nile vaccine.

The only person to believe in the assistant’s innocence is Thea’s sister Juliet. She intends to investigate and begs Thea for help. But Thea believes the case is closed and the police have arrest the right person. Besides, she intends to concentrate on planning her wedding.

…However, the chilling fact is Thea was right about life being shorter than expected. Procrastination is not on the killer’s agenda.

http://tinyurl.com/qauup5a

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Susan can be run to earth at most bookstores and ebook retailers, as well as the following locations;

Susan Schreyer Mysteries website: http://www.susanschreyer.com

Things I Learned From My Horse blog: http://thingsilearnedfrommyhorse.blogspot.com

Writing Horses blog: http://writinghorses.blogspot.com

Twitter @susanschreyer

FaceBook: Susan Schreyer Mysteries

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Susan-Schreyer-Mysteries/161359303906634

Categories: Books, dressage, Horses, Mystery, riding, Romantic suspense, suspense, training horses, Uncategorized, writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Horses and Victims

Glory #2Lacy cowered in the closet, her arms wrapped tight around her legs and listened to the footsteps coming closer and closer. The door swung open and she tried to scream but she couldn’t make a sound as the knife descended.

We’ve all read and seen variations on this scene, a victim, usually a woman or child, too frightened to do anything to help themselves. You’ve probably felt that way a time or two in less dire situations. I know I have. Interestingly, people aren’t the only beings that react this way. Horses and other animals often do too.

Today I’m going to finish my series on horse personalities and how they connect with writing novels. Since it’s been a while, I’ll do a short recap. Horses can be generally classified as four personality types. The extrovert-thinker compares to the typical alpha hero—confident, outgoing and brave. The extrovert-reactor is similar to the smart-ass heroines—emotional, reacting before thinking and taking chances. The introvert-thinker is more like a stalker villain—quiet, careful and determined.

The fourth type is the introvert-reactor—horses who are easily overwhelmed by their emotions. My horse Glory is a typical example. An extremely sensitive Thoroughbred, intended for racing, she was apparently handled inappropriately for her personality and was too timid to fight back. Instead, she shut down and stopped reacting to anything at all. She was very well-trained and my instructor had recommended I get her as a school master for learning dressage. (For learning an intricate skill such as dressage it’s best to have a horse that already knows what to do and can teach you to do it right.)

She seemed very sweet and obviously knew her stuff, so I decided to take a chance on her. And she ended up teaching me much more than I ever expected. It soon became apparent that she was very different from any horse I had handled before. Not only was she so sensitive that she hated being brushed, she was unexpectedly uptight, but expressed it in an unusual way. While most horses act out in some way if they’re upset, she shut down and turned it inside. During one of our first rides, we weren’t communicating well and suddenly she got a nose-bleed. When this happened again in different situations, I realized this was a stress reaction.

The thing that I found oddest was how afraid she was of making a mistake. I was used to horses trying to do what I asked and if it wasn’t quite right, we’d just do it again. Not Glory. If she thought she’d made a mistake, she’d either get a nose-bleed or stop and start shaking, obviously expecting to be punished. This fear carried over to the trail. Another horse could spook big time at something unexpected and she wouldn’t move a muscle. It was eerie.

I almost gave up on her the first year, she wasn’t much fun. But gradually she started being less uptight and we began to communicate better. It took a lot of years for her to really trust that she’d found a safe place and it was okay to express opinions on things. Now she will boss around the other two horses and she doesn’t worry about miscues. Now she really is MY horse and I am her person.

I’m so glad that girls and young women are being taught to stand up for themselves nowadays. We’ll always need helpless victims for our stories, but hopefully they’ll be less common in real life.

Have you encountered a situation where you froze and were unable to react? Do you use helpless victims in your stories?

Categories: Books, dressage, horse personalities, Horses, suspense, Trail riding, training horses, writing, writing characters | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Riders and Writers

 

What I’m reading: Gnome on the Range by Jennifer Zane       http://tinyurl.com/c4yztwh

While watching a video of an Olympic equestrian contest, I nearly fell out of my chair at a commentator’s remark to the effect that “the riders weren’t really athletes.” After regaining my equilibrium, I came to the conclusion the guy must never have ridden at a competitive level. What was even more jaw-dropping was he made the comment about a rider in Three-Day Eventing—the equestrian equivalent of the triathlon.

As the name implies, a three-day consists of three separate competitions whose scores are combined to determine the winner. The first day is a dressage test, the second is a cross-country race against time over jumps, and the third is jumping in an arena.

On the first day, the horses are well aware of what is coming and most will be eagerly anticipating the exciting cross-country. But in a dressage test, the horse and rider must execute a series of precise movements at specific points within a small arena. Even the slightest error adds to your overall score. (Eventing is scored sort of like golf. Lowest number of errors wins.) So you have to get your horse into a quiet, relaxed mode where it is listening to you and concentrating on the dressage moves. This can be quite a challenge and at times the riders look like they are mounted on powder kegs ready to explode. To achieve the calm focus, you must be still and quiet, and communicate with subtle, precise cues, which require superb muscle control.

Day two, the horses and riders gallop plus or minus four miles at top speed over varied terrain while jumping 40-45 solid and challenging obstacles. The horses have to be extremely fit, amazingly courageous and highly motivated. To ride an equestrian athlete of this level, you have to be equally fit, courageous and motivated. Among other things, you ride most of the course in what is called a two-point position, where you are partially standing in the stirrups with your seat out of the saddle while maintaining your balance over hills, drops, water, or whatever else the designers throw at you. And this is not counting the jumps themselves. Can you say wet noodle legs by the end?

Since every movement of your body affects the horse’s balance and ability to perform, you need tremendous core strength to keep still and not interfere. You also need strong legs, as I mentioned earlier, and strong arms to control and sometimes contain an overly excited, 1200 pound animal that has a mind of its own. As a result, most competitive riders do extensive aerobic and strength training, cross-train in another sport, and spend hours each day on a variety of horses, perfecting their skills.

The last day is the show jumping phase, where the horses must negotiate a demanding, intricate jump course within a specified time. Knocking down a rail or refusing to jump affects your score. These jumps are much higher and closer together than those of the previous day, which add to their difficulty. Again, balance and control are imperative.

To make it even more demanding, many of the top riders compete more than one horse at a time. This means double the physical effort and double the mental stress of having to get the best out of distinctly different equine personalities. Don’t tell me these riders aren’t athletes!

Of course, most casual riders, like most weekend skiers or tennis players, aren’t superbly fit athletes. And lots of people have taken horse rides where they’ve just been passengers, so they tend to think that’s all there is to riding. They couldn’t be more wrong. To compete in any sport, including equestrian events, it takes dedication and skill and athletic prowess.

This attitude reminds me of the mindset writers often encounter when talking to non-writers. Most people have no concept of the effort, dedication and hair-pulling mental agony writers go through for their art. The off-hand dismissive, “anyone can do that” attitude is infuriating to say the least.

Have you experienced this kind of put-down? What has been the most objectionable or ignorant comment that you’ve had to deal with?

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Horses and Villains

Coming Soon:

Wyoming Escape
Two dead bodies.
One dirty cop.
Will she be next?


What I’m reading: BushWhacked, A Thea Campbell Mystery by Susan Schreyer

I don’t know about you, but the villains who scare me the most are the quiet ones you don’t know are after you. The stalkers, revenge seekers, serial killers. They don’t attract attention. Instead they stubbornly and relentlessly do their thing in the background.

Oddly enough, there are horses like this too. While not intent on hurting anyone, they can be quite determined to get their own way. When the Introvert-Thinker decides on something, it can be difficult to change his/her mind.

My husband’s horse Koko is a strong I-T. A sweet, laid-back Quarter Horse type, she is the poster child for stubborn. She’s quite happy carrying along a beginner, non-demanding rider, but if you ask for something that takes more energy than she’s willing to put out at the time, you should be prepared for a difficult “discussion.” One time when our trainer was giving my husband a lesson, Koko absolutely refused to take the right lead at the canter. (When you are on a circle, you want the inside front leg to move first [lead]. It’s more balanced and comfortable that way.) So the trainer hopped on to fix the problem. About ten minutes later she gave up in frustration. It wasn’t going to happen that day.

On the other hand, the Introvert-Thinker can be great for inexperienced riders. Nothing much ever bothers Koko, so she takes good care of her passengers. We can put anyone on her and they will have a good time. She’s our “pony -ride” horse. And since hubby only rides occasionally, her lazy attitude works well for him.

Even though she’s laid-back, Koko is definitely not dull. She is a thinker, with a busy mind and likes to play with things when she’s bored. One time my husband put up lights on the eaves of the barn. A couple of days later she had removed them all. She is also a master at turning the barn lights on and off, opening gates, untying ropes and even removing shoe laces! As my husband says, she has a very dry sense of humor—which he thoroughly enjoys.

To be quite clear, it’s very rare for a horse to deliberately try to hurt anyone, but, just as with people, there are occasional bad apples. Perhaps they’ve had bad treatment or just have a screw loose. An I-T with a personality disorder can be really dangerous because you aren’t expecting a problem. But watch out. They will plot to get you. I’ve encountered a couple and the experience wasn’t pleasant.

One time I was trying out a sale horse. After unsuccessfully attempting to scrape me off on a tree, he started rearing. I leaned forward to keep my balance and he quite deliberately swung his head back and smashed me in the face. After I wiped off the blood and picked up my broken glasses, I led him back to the barn. He’d gotten what he wanted.

So, are your villains Thinker or Reactor types? Do they plot behind the scenes, planning an elaborate revenge? Or do they get caught up in a situation and respond without thinking? Both are scary. Which is worse?

Coming Soon:  Wyoming Escape
                           
Two dead bodies.  One dirty cop.  Will she be next?

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Horses and Heroines

What I’m reading: The Girl in The Box by Janet Miller – Futuristic tale about true love – what else?

In my last blog three weeks ago I talked about different horse personalities, particularly the Extrovert Thinker as typified by my horse Star and how this type relates to Alpha Heroes. Today, I’d like to discuss the Extrovert Reactor and the smart-ass, quirky heroine.

First, a quick note. These personality types are on a continuum, of course. Some are more extroverted than others, some are less reactive. Some can change—become less introverted or more of a thinker. But their basic type remains and influences their actions.

Portia at 29

My mare Portia, a grey Anglo-Arab (half Thoroughbred and half Arabian), is a typical Extrovert Reactor. She’s very sensitive to stimuli and hyper-aware of her environment. Even at age twenty-nine and retired, she can be challenging and needs an experienced handler. Not that she’d ever deliberately hurt someone, she just tends to react first and think later.

She’s also a horse that really enjoys life. She loves to play and will try her best to please. She’s the one who yells a greeting when she sees me and comes running up to the gate eager for a treat or an outing. In the show ring or a parade, when she “turned on” all eyes were on her. She also used to fly down a new trail with her incredible walk, eager to see what was around the next corner. Even though she can be a pain in the butt, her exuberance is a lot of fun.

When I first got her as a seven year-old, she was ready to spin and bolt at the slightest provocation—a rock that looked funny, a horse scratching it’s ear with a hind leg, a COW on the trail! She soon learned bolting wasn’t acceptable behavior so she tried others. Like teleporting half way across the arena or jittering in place or jumping straight up. I eventually discovered that part of the reason for her reactivity was because she was in pain. She needed chiropractic care (just starting with horses at that time and not widely accepted) and a correctly fitted saddle (which proved to be almost impossible to find). Once those problems were solved, she settled down a lot.

But she still retained her quirky personality. One time we hung a bright pink piñata in a tree near the pasture and she and my daughter’s horse decided that it was a decidedly SCARY thing. They came up close to the fence, took a look, then snorted and high-tailed it back to the barn. Duchess stayed there, but Portia couldn’t resist. She’d dance back up to the fence and watch big-eyed as one of kids swung at the colorful unicorn. Then she’d take off for the other end. A few minutes later, she was back, waiting to be “scared” again. I swear she was disappointed when the thing finally broke and everyone went away.

Her playfulness and sensitivity made her a delight to train. She was eager to learn new things and would try her hardest to do what I asked. Of course, this meant I had to be quite careful  with my corrections so I wouldn’t discourage her. In general, she’s always required a very light hand. As a result, I got a horse responsive to the slightest cue and that just about read my mind.

Riding her was never dull. As I mentioned, she is a sweet love and would never deliberately hurt anyone. But she could be a handful. She saved my bacon a few times—even if she caused the problem in the first place.

One time we were exploring in the mountains and I twisted around in the saddle to get a map out of the saddlebag behind me. Just then a pair of fawns exploded across the trail, directly in front of us. Portia spun aside–out from under me because of the way I was turned. I ended up hanging off her, one hand somehow on her bridle, one hand on the breast collar, one foot still in a stirrup under her belly and the other still in the stirrup on top of her back. Because of how far down I was and the fact the saddle was slipping, I couldn’t get back up. Another horse might have freaked and tried to get rid of me, but Portia stood perfectly still and waited for me to work myself loose of the stirrups and drop to the ground. I really couldn’t blame her for dodging  the fawns and I certainly appreciated her being sensible.

She reminds me of the funny, smart-aleck heroines who react without thinking things through. They may get into trouble for their impulsiveness, but they care about people and manage to come out okay. I can think of several. How about you?

Opportunity Knocks at Marketing For Romance Writers Summer Camp. Open the door to our MOTTO: SEEK, TEACH, LEARN, SHARE, SUCCEED

 http://groups.yahoo.com/group/MarketingForRomanceWriters/

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Personalities, Horses and Heroes

Opportunity Knocks at Marketing For Romance Writers Summer Camp. Open the door to our MOTTO: SEEK, TEACH, LEARN, SHARE, SUCCEED

What I’m reading: Satin Pleasures by Karen Docter – Fun frolic about keeping priorities straight.

Next week I’ll be hosting Pauline Baird Jones who is going to talk about being teachable—an important ability for everyone, including riders and writers. So this time I thought I’d talk about how personality influences teaching and learning.

StockFreeImages.com

I started training animals when I was a pre-teen, taught school in my 20’s, educated my kids (at least in some things) as I raised them and  ended up teaching engineers to use sophisticated software to design computer components. Along the way I learned how much the personality of the animal or human influences how they learn.

My first instructor in this area was my horse, Star, who I talked about last time. I became pretty successful in teaching her to do a lot of different things. Then her second son, Junior, came along and I discovered I needed a different set of tools to work with him. And this has been true with each horse I’ve dealt with.

You can classify horses as having one of four basic personalities. Just like with people, they can be Extroverts or Introverts. They also can be Thinkers or Reacters (emotional). So you can have an extroverted thinker, an extroverted reacter, an introverted thinker and an introverted reacter. Then you add their gender and their experience into the equation and you have a complicated being that requires some thought to train effectively. Each personality type has its pluses and minuses and is good for different things and different riders.

Star was an extroverted thinker. She was friendly, self-confident, rarely afraid of anything and willing to try whatever I asked her. She was also strong-willed and could be difficult. Horses are prey animals and, as such, are basically “scaredy cats.” In the wild they stay alive by being hyper-aware of their environment and ready to run on an instant. Domestication hasn’t done away with that basic instinct. A horse whose emotions dominate sees threats everywhere and can react without thinking. My Portia is a prime example. When I first got her, she would whirl and try to bolt at the slightest provocation. Typical extroverted reacter.

Star, on the other hand, rarely ever reacted to anything. Her version of a spook was to stop, study the offending object for a minute and then go up and sniff it. She had grown up along a railroad track and had experienced earth moving equipment moving around her space, so she learned early that loud noises and big things weren’t usually dangerous. Given her basic self-confidence, she extended this attitude to the rest of her world. You could surprise her, of course. She wasn’t bothered by the fire engine racing down the street, but nearly jumped onto our neighbor’s porch when it suddenly blasted its siren right alongside her. Scared the dickens out of me too!

Because of her personality, Star was easy to teach, once we started communicating properly. She enjoyed learning, experiencing new things and exploring new trails. Portia likes to learn too but gets upset easily, which shuts down her brain. On the other hand, Glory, an introverted reacter, is harder to teach because she’s afraid to try new things. And my husband’s horse, Koko, an introverted thinker, can be down right stubborn about trying anything new. So I have to adjust my methods for each personality.

These personality styles correlate to the characters I write about too. Alpha heroes, particularly military men, are commonly the extroverted thinker type. Brave, self-confident, ready to take on anything. Spunky, smart-ass heroines are usually extrovert reacters. They often take chances, letting their emotions rule their common sense. The quieter “beta” heroes, introverted thinkers, stubbornly do what they think is best. And often the heroine starts out as an introverted reacter but changes during the story.

What personality types do you like best? What type are you? What types do you like to read or write about?

I’m helping to promote an upcoming program for writers called Marketing for Romance Writers Summer Camp. It takes place July 14th – July 15th. To receive updates for the camp or learn more about it and MFRW, please sign up here:

 http://groups.yahoo.com/group/MarketingForRomanceWriters/

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