The Horse is NOT a Mirror

Guest columnist Tim Jobe runs NaturalLifemanship and is a leader in equine-assisted therapy. The Texan, who is also an accomplished cowboy poet and horseman, shared this point of view with us:

Tim Jobe

The horse is not a mirror. Before you start shooting, give me a chance to explain:

Would you say your spouse is a mirror? I don’t think I could get away with that. My spouse will react or respond to my emotions, thoughts, or feelings, but definitely doesn’t mirror them back to me. This also happens in a relationship with a horse. The horse responds or reacts to whatever is going on with me and hopefully I do the same thing for the horse. The horse doesn’t mirror my actions. In fact, horse training would be much easier if only this was the case.

If I am too aggressive, the horse may become passive and try to appease me. This often shows up as lowering his head and licking his lips. Some people see this as a good sign. I don’t think that it is. I don’t want my horse to try to appease or submit to me. I want him to make an intelligent, informed decision about the right thing to do.

Appeasing turns into resentment which turns into aggression. If I am too aggressive, the horse may become aggressive which could be mistaken for mirroring but is really just a reaction to my aggression. On the other hand, if I am passive, the horse doesn’t become passive. It will eventually become aggressive.

Have you ever seen passive parents produce passive kids? I think that is pretty rare. It has been my experience that passive parents have overbearing, aggressive kids. I have worked with lots of people who have horses that bully them all the time. These people are usually too passive with their horses and it ends up causing aggression in the horse. That is in no way a mirroring effect.

It is true that when I am calm my horse has a tendency to become calm. Again, this is merely a response to me, not mirroring. If my energy goes up, so does that of the horse.

Sometimes the horse recognizes some of my needs and tries to provide for them, just like my spouse does or anyone else with whom I have a functional relationship. Yawning is a great example of this: when a horse repeatedly yawns she is trying to release tension, either in herself or in the person working with her.

During sessions, frequently, the horse seems to magically do things to meet the client’s needs. We see this in our other relationships but it doesn’t seem as magical because it is what we expect from good relationships. It is a response to our emotions, thoughts, or feelings – not mirroring.

When we categorize it as mirroring, we take away the most valuable element of therapeutic work with horses. That is, the ability to build a relationship in which the emotions, thoughts, and feelings of each are important to both and responded to by both. A relationship with a mirror is called Narcissism. A mirror has a passive role in that relationship, and we believe a horse is more valuable when he/she has an active role.

Horses can only have that role when we understand that they are responding or reacting to us. If we assign the role of mirror to horses we are robbing them of an active status in the relationship. If we want the client to move to a place where they have an understanding of the patterns they create relationships, then the horse must have an active role in that relationship.

The horse is not a mirror. It is a living, breathing being capable of either a functional or dysfunctional relationship depending on what the human wants to build.

What’s a nice shirt got to do with riding?

In many parts of our world, it’s mud season. Our horses don’t necessarily care if they’re covered in mud.

But we do.

Take shirts, for example. When a shirt fits well and looks good, it impacts our wellbeing. We feel better about ourselves. That positivity trickles down to the horse through our horse-human connection.

So, that good-looking shirt? It might just make you a better rider.

That’s what Rhea Scott Follett had in mind when she founded CR RanchWear nine years ago. Based in Dallas, Texas, the company has focused on producing unique and stunning tops for performers and recreationalists. The shirts, many made with Italian cotton, are all sewn in Dallas by a group of seamstresses.

Follett started the company in 2008 by introducing shirts (and, truth be told, pajamas!) at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Initially, CR RanchWear worked with the cutting horse crowd and has since expanded by attending cowhorse, reining, and Arabian shows.

Each community has slightly different tastes and requests, said the owner. Some prefer French cuffs. Some adore the Swarovski crystal details on the front yoke. Some love added bling. Some lean toward the traditional. All appreciate the degree of couture.

CR RanchWear shirts, said Follett, are tailored specifically to athletic women. With seven sizes from XXS to XXL, they fit a body more accurately than typical Western riding shirts.

Not surprisingly, the horse community engenders some “persnickety” customers, said Follett. “And that’s good. I like it like that. It gives me a challenge. We have grown very organically by listening to our customers.”

The Texan has a lifelong passion for riding, getting horseback for the first time at age 5. “CR” stands for her daughter’s name, Chandler Rhea, who’s also an equestrian.

CR RanchWear asked fans to choose between these fun Dia de los Muertos style prints

The company often crowd sources fabric and design decisions by polling their followers on social media. On a recent fabric selection visit to Los Angeles, the company asked its fans to help decide between many brilliant prints.

“We’ve found those in rodeo really embrace fun prints.”

It may be a niche audience, but the company has enjoyed impressive growth. At first, only Follett and one other woman were sewing. Now, a dedicated group of nine seamstresses creates more than 100 shirts per week.

“I’m committed to production here. I will never, ever, ever manufacture overseas,” she said.

Stay tuned. We will be reviewing CR RanchWear shirts soon.

Juni Fisher in a CR RanchWear shirt

Horse-related Spring To-Do’s

Regular deliveries of fly predators will help fly control immensely

In some parts of our horsey world, spring has sprung. Trail riding season is coming and it pays to formulate a spring To Do list and tackle it before the season is upon us. Here are some preliminary suggestions:

  • Consider flies before they show up.

I’ve been using Spalding Labs’ predator flies for the past several years. Their strategy is simple: introduce tiny flies that prey on what us horses and humans consider pesky and irritating flies. It has been incredibly effective; I bought just one bottle of fly repellant last year and didn’t even use all of it.

But here’s the thing: you’ve got to plan ahead. Order now and you will receive your first shipment in May (or earlier, depending on where you live). The proof is in the flies. These little guys will make your summer days exponentially more enjoyable.

Before you load up your equine partner for a fun outing, make sure the carrier of your precious cargo is safe. Ignoring routine maintenance has been known to end tragically. Don’t think that you can just pull it out, hook it up, and take off on your merry way. Read more here.

For years, Bobby Fantarella, owner of Elm City Trailers, has provided us with not just trailers but excellent trailer safety tips. Check them out here.

  • Check and reboot your first aid kit.

Many first aid kit ingredients can go bad over time, especially if they have been frozen or subjected to a wide range of ambient temperatures. You can make up your own or order them.

Here is our check list for what to have for your horses.

Check out Adventure Medical for some excellent human and Me and My Dog kits.

  • Consider Wellness Plans

Invest now, benefit throughout the year. Third Coast Equine has Wellness Plans that can help with planning and optimizing your wallet and your horses’ health.

Horsewoman Amy Skinner is coming to Maine

Amy Skinner of Essence Horsemanship and Bar T Ranch will visit Maine for a weekend of private and semi-private lessons next month.

The accomplished horsewoman teaches English and Western. Skinner has studied at the Andalusian School of Equestrian Art in Spain, with Buck Brannaman, Leslie Desmond, Brent Graef, and many others. Additionally, she is an accomplished guest columnist for NickerNews and BestHorsePractices. Read her articles here.

Currently living in Pittsboro, North Carolina, Skinner is working with Bar T’s Jim Thomas in starting colts, working with mustangs, and helping clients.

Skinner will travel north for two full days of lessons on April 29-30 at Goldenwinds Farm in Norridgewock, Maine. Lessons start at 8 am and go until 6 pm. Each lesson lasts 90 minutes and costs $90. Semi-private lessons last 90 minutes and cost $100 or $50 for each rider (maximum of two riders in each session). Auditors are welcome at $25 per day.

The weekend event will take place in Goldenwinds’ indoor arena, a 60’ x 120’ space.

There are no overnight facilities and attendees are asked to bring their own horse supplies as well as people food.

Stay tuned for registration details and sign-up forms coming next week.

 

LL Bean Packaways are Perfect for Horse Time

Regardless of where you live, this time of year demands layers. That’s especially true when taking our horse work into consideration. Weather is often a crap shoot. Barn calls may come before dawn (and below freezing) or midday (with plenty of sun and mud). It pays to be prepared and comfortable.

This month, we’re focusing on a few impressive products from LL Bean. The Maine company currently is having a Winter Send-Off Sale.

Read Amy Skinner’s review of LL Bean vest here.

When searching for a versatile layer, I gravitated immediately to the PrimaLoft Packaway line. LL Bean offers a jacket, a hooded jacket, and a vest. The three all come in five vibrant colors, offer great insulation, and can all pack down for easy travel and storage.

I tried the PrimaLoft Packaway Hooded Jacket in green with pink trim: think watermelon. And what’s not to like about watermelon this time of year?

The jacket served beautifully as an outermost layer as well as under a heavier jacket. It is tailored for a slim fit which means no extra fabric will encumber or catch during chores. Under another layer, the jacket felt more like a cashmere cardigan.

The shell easily sheds hay and horse hair and, anyway, it’s easy to machine wash and dry. The entire jacket stuffs easily into one of the pockets which has its own ‘stowaway’ zipper for the task. Once stuffed, the 11-ounce package has a handy loop for tying with saddle strings or attaching to backpack, making it easy to store and grab when the weather gets nippier (as it always does).

Like a favorite pair of jeans, the jacket will likely have a quiet, endearing effect on its wearer. It’ll stay on that top hook in the mudroom, all the more easy to grab, day or night. You’ll think of it as a second skin. It will feel good on and it will do its job.

Looking for something different for a trip to town?

Check out the Waxed Cotton and Wool Jacket from LL Bean’s Signature line. It’s warmer, dressier, and bulkier than the PrimaLoft Packaway jacket, with a fun faux-fur hood.

The jacket features a warm, charcoal grey color, brass buttons, two-way pockets, and a zippered breast pocket for your phone. Careful, though, it’s spot clean only. Keep the horses and hay at bay.

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