Saturday, August 22, 2009

Trees and Thunderstorms

One After Another

Thunderstorms have been rolling in all day. I do wonder if they are connected to Hurricane/now tropical storm Bill moving up the coast. If my little cat rain gauge is right, we have had nearly 3 inches of rain already.

On to the trees! You guys are good. But what could I expect from such an observant group. In my classes, at least 90% of the students selected brown for the tree trunk and green for the leaves.

Frankly, it's not the leaf color that matters at all, but what does matter is the color of the tree trunk. Every tree trunk I ever colored as a child--at least that I can remember--was brown. Burnt sienna in my crayola box was my favorite brown. It wasn't until I was an adult that a set designer at our theatre called my attention the the fact that tree trunks are not brown, but rather a gray or even black. As a matter of fact, ever since, I have really looked at trees here and the only browns I've ever seen were in the small shoots/branches of a few trees. Some trunks are greenish gray, olive greenish, but mostly gray. Look around you, if you have trees and you will probably see the same thing.

So where did the brown come in? Most wood furniture is brown, as is most the finished wood we see around us. So, naturally, since wood comes from trees, we think "brown." Then, to top it off, as we go through school our art teachers teach us "brown." My set designer remembers distinctly being corrected in class for coloring her tree trunk gray. Just like the turkeys, as children, we saw what is there and then, society teaches us to see what it believes we should see.

That is the price of formal education. Instead of learning to think for ourselves, we too often learn to think to suit some kind of standard instead. We "unlearn" the truth to suit society.

With that little lesson, I tried to get my students to understand that "thinking outside the box" was just fine in my class. If the solution solves the problem, then why not?

It's the same with training our horses. Surely there are books and methods and traditions long set in stone for training. And while we can all do well to keep those practices in mind, it does not mean one or even any of those methods will work with every horse we encounter.

The Natural Horsemanship people love to categorize horses by personality types. Linda Tellington Jones tTouch method likes to name all kinds of specialized handling tactics as the only way to sensitize a horse. The Germans have a strick training scale and have been known to say, "There is only one way to ride."

But while we can depend on certain defined animal behavior to help us along, why can we not see our horses as much as individuals as people are? I love a trainer who has the instincts to travel the side paths when needed. (Lockie Richards was a master of this.)

It is not an easy path to travel, for sure. In essence you have to throw away the GPS and guidebook and start to listen to the horse.

I still love Burnt Sienna, but use it to color my bay horses now.


  1. now that's very philosophical..

    i think there's probably one "correct" way to ride a horse, but you have to then take into account the individual horses personality, physical issues etc, and your own ditto....

    and use as many "correct" tool sin the box as you can learn..

    the trouble is, some of the tools people suggest are no good at all!

  2. I've never been able to put everything neatly into a box. There is so much information out there about how to train a certain type of horse or some say there is only one method to be used etc...I think if you have the basics you must take each horse individually and work with the horse you have. We've had so many over the years and each one was different. So in my opinion there is no set way to train any horse.

    I'm glad I didn't take your color the tree test, I'm sure I would have failed because I would have put down white bark with black/brown spots. A stand of Birch trees is one of my favorite trees to color, they are beautiful in any season, but I like them most in winter.

  3. Anonymous8:45 PM

    I guess I see it as basic themes/ideas of how to deal with horses effectively, in a non-coercive manner, applied in a way that takes into account the specific needs and abilities of each horse. No "system" of training can do this, and although many "systems" have useful information in them, each horse is unique. And of course there are lots of "systems" that include a lot of questionable or even downright bad stuff.

    I think the "horse personality type" and "horse head shape determining personality" is a bunch of hooey. Horses are a lot more complex than that.

  4. All the different methods give different tools to get to a similar goal : a soft responsive horse able to do teh job he is asked for, from pulling a cart to jump 1m60 obstacle or to run 160 km.

    I swear by horsenalities, but not one second I think that my horse has a two words defining her personality. Hey! she is mare, she has MANY sides ^-^
    But the horsenalities help me to determine what to do when she behaves in a way.

    I was reading the lastest book by Mark Rashid, it is mainly a photo-coffee-table-type book. But he was describing what he did with a Mustang. Not once did he explain why he did it, after 45 minutes, he had the result. I would love to have seen the same horse with a trainer with a more systemic approach. I believe it would have gotten a faster result.

    The problem is that many brillaintly talented horsemen are uneducated and they go "all mystic unicorn magical puppies and kittens" on you.

    Horses riding and handling is NOT rocket science, but it takes a lifetime and 1000 horses to develop the right feel and timing to work with them.

  5. Critical thinking is the most valuable tool we have throughout life, with horses and without.

  6. "We wish we could speak their language; and, meanwhile, they learn ours." from "Other Nations", by Kate Barnes

  7. Someone called Jazz brown today and I almost took offence. I think he's red, not brown.