The R factor – “Reality”

When someone comes to me asking for a lesson, the first step we take is to identify what is going wrong. Most people will not ask for help unless they have already ran into a problem that they cannot solve.

There is a big factor in problem solving. I call it the R factor. Getting into reality is the first step out of a problem. If we cannot see the truth of the situation causing the problem, we will never solve the problem. When we are not in reality and truth, we will work on something that is not the problem – leaving the real problem unsolved.

Let me give you one example that came up this past week. I will not give real names, as these articles are never meant to do anything except help and teach. They are never meant to be negative in any way. I have permission to use this person’s lesson for this example:

Susie Susie brought her horse and videos of some of her runs. She is clocking, but knows that her horse is hesitating coming out of the barrels. The horse’s head comes up and he hesitates on all three barrels. Susie knows that she can gain lots of time if she can come away from the barrels without the hesitations.

When I asked her what she thought the problem was, she had three things that she thought that she needed to work on. First, she thought that the bit must be wrong. She thought this because as the horse was leaving the barrel, he came up and shook his head. Second, she thought that she needed to look up when she came out of the barrels instead of looking down, but did not think that she could stay on if she did this. Thirdly, she commented that she always loses her stirrups because she was “too short” and she had to fold her legs to stay on. (Her legs went up toward the flank and hip bone area and her toes went straight down.)

REALITY When we reviewed the video in very slow motion, you could see that the real problem was neither the bit nor her height. When we problem solve, we must separate the things we can change from the things that we can never change. We cannot change her height, but we can change her shape and muscle toning. The reality of what was really happening was that when her horse turned a good fast barrel and started to shove off and leave hard, she was falling back, looking down and using the reins and a folded leg for balance. When this happens, you will always see the horse get hit in the back over the kidneys when the rider’s body softens and bounces. The next thing that happens is the horse takes a snap in the mouth. Then, because her legs are already behind her, the next kick goes into the flank muscle of the horse. This causes a horse to shorten his stride instead of reaching out in a long stride.

As her head looked down, she was buckling in the middle and her back folded out. She had completely lost her riding position. Instead of balancing using her saddle horn and her muscles, she was balancing on the reins going
to the mouth and gripping the horse in the flanks.

SOLVING Susie has a very good horse. He is a winner. She spends hours and money getting him ready to win. I asked her if she was willing to prepare herself with that same goal in mind – getting into shape. This whole picture would change with a rider that is “shaped up to win.”

When we ride these good running and turning horses, we must look at the muscle toning of our own bodies. Your abdomen muscles are a big factor. When a horse leaves a barrel hard and fast, we must have a muscle system to brace the back and hold our heads up and look ahead to the way we are going. (Just like driving a car.)

Our legs must be strengthened and we must be able to keep the weight down in our stirrups. We don’t lose stirrups because we are too short, but because we have no weight down into the heel. I advised her to get to the gym and began an exercise program that would shape her up and get her ready to be competitive in the spring rodeos. She needs to concentrate on abdomen and leg muscles getting strengthened. Many people are like Susie and work a job sitting for the biggest part of the day. Her work did nothing to help her get into shape. She was very willing to work on herself and has already begun a program.

The point of this article is this: If Susie had tried changing bits, changing stirrups, blaming her height, etc. she would never have an opportunity to better her times. She is now on the road to going forward – not backward or staying the same. Videos and coaching can help us immensely – but ONLY if out attitude is like Susie’s. Don’t play the blame game and stay in unreality. It creates a “loser’s limp” and does not move us forward.


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Last modified: January 05, 2014