Thursday, October 23, 2014

I don't remember the moment when I knew I wanted a German Shepherd, but I do know that it wasn't something I had thought about forever. In fact, when my roommate during my senior year of college came home with a dog (we had a no pet lease) I specifically remember thinking, "wow, what a terrible idea." 

Not only do I not remember when exactly I decided I needed to have a German Shepherd, but I don't remember when I decided that I was going to have to have a dog ASAP. I think it was a longing that grew over time, and came to a point while I was in grad school. It was my first year living alone, and while I was totally fine with not having other people around, I still wanted some kind of companionship. 

I'm allergic to cats and having horses in the house is generally frowned upon by landlords, so that left me with dogs. I somehow ended up living in a complex that didn't allow dogs over 35 pounds, and well, I'm not a big fan of small dogs. While there were a whole bunch that I found along the way to foster and rehome or track down their owners, I knew that I would have to wait to get the dog of my dreams. 

Those who know me know that I value discipline and consistency. It's what I use to train horses, and I wanted a dog that would fit well into that lifestyle. I wanted a smart dog. The dog also needed to be loyal. I've always been someone who just does my own thing. This dog would be my sidekick. I also didn't really have a solid plan for what life was going to look like, so I wanted a dog that could seem intimidating if it needed to. A dog that would say, "Hey bud, keep walking, this is my human and if you mess with her, you'll have to deal with me."

I brought Finn home when she was 7 weeks and 7 pounds. I think when I told mom that I was getting a puppy her reaction was about the same as mine to my college roommate, "wow, that's a terrible idea." Lucky for me this is perfect, she's everything I ever wanted and everything I didn't know I needed. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

On learning to teach humans

For the longest time I didn't really care for teaching students, I only really cared about teaching the horses. To me they were the more honest of the two, and honestly, also the more willing. I've done a fair amount of growing up in the past six years. That's to be expected though, because if we aren't growing and changing then what is the point? 

There have been major life milestones and minor ones. There are people that come and go from our lives, some that we wish would stay, and some we can't wait to forget about. One of the great indicators of growth and maturity though, is to look back at experiences, both good and bad, and realize that we can't change the way things were, only the way things can be in the future. 

When I was twelve years old, traveling the country playing club soccer for PDA, my coach told the team, "Life is 10% about what happens to you, and 90% how you react to it." He meant it in terms of soccer, and yeah, that's how I thought about it at the time. Little did he know, that quote would stay with me and continue to affect my worldview.

I was probably 13 years old when I taught my first riding lesson. I probably knew just enough to be dangerous, but all I cared about was finding anyway I could to spend more time in the saddle. I was working off my riding lessons at that point, and if the barn owner considered teaching work, I was happy to do it with a smile on my face. 

Since moving to Florida I've found a wonderful little farm where I can teach lessons a few days a week. The horses are nice, the people are nice, the trainers are nice. It's a major change for me to be working with quality horses that are already broke. I'm so used to starting the young ones that I find a fascinating correlation in my approach to teaching young horses and inexperienced kids. 

I'm still learning and developing my teaching style, and some days I wonder if the things I say make any sense to the students. As a kinesthetic learner, I spend a lot of time coaching on feel. I think this is why training the horses was always more appealing - I could feel the feedback the horse was giving me and feel my correction. In teaching you have to use your words!

Looking back I realize I spent so many years working in exchange for the chance to ride that often I sacrificed the opportunity to take lessons in exchange for consistency in the saddle. I spent the same amount boarding a horse that I would have on two lessons a week in college when I had Aston. I worked at the big jumper barn so that I could sit on made horses rather than working somewhere else for the money to afford lessons there. While I sometimes wish that I had the chance to train on a nice horse with a great trainer on a consistent basis, I know that I'm the rider and horse person I am because of how I've had to work for it.

I'm grateful that I had people willing to sit and watch my constant videos to give me feedback when I didn't have someone near me that I could afford to work with. Now it is my turn to pay it forward. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Right where you need to be

Do you ever get that feeling that you are right where you need to be? Even when things aren't going right, there is still a sort of comfort in knowing you are moving in the right direction, that you energy isn't being wasted on minutia.

I moved to Florida without knowing a single person. I thought there were some people that I could get in touch with but I didn't end up bothering. It has only been three months, but already I feel like I'm building a life here.

It isn't easy - picking up and moving to a place where you don't know anybody. Staying within your comfort zone, not pushing yourself to create social opportunities, and living in isolation are the easy.

"It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power."