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This Says It All, Folks
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DrDeb
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 Posted: Sun Jun 6th, 2010 05:50 am
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Dear People: This is a transcript of one installment in the "Parenting" column that appears regularly in our local newspaper. The series is by family psychologist John Rosemond. The intent of the article, of course, is improving human parenting, but you will have no difficulty relating the two stories told here to the kind of "nursing" activity we very commonly see in stables. By "nursing" I mean the continual search that some horse owners make to blame anything but themselves for their failure to create and maintain their horse as a safe and pleasant ride and a willing worker. The continual search of the horse-owning "nurse" very often leads them to seek out, and find, any number of spurious syndromes to explain what might be wrong with their horse. Read on:

"Sensory Disorder Pure Speculation" by John Rosemond

"On its Web site -- http://www.spdfoundation.net -- the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation defines SPD (also known as sensory integration disorder) thus: "A condition that exists when sensory signals don't get organized into appropriate responses." They go on to liken SPD to "a neurological 'traffic jam' that prevents certain parts of the brain from receiving the information needed to interpret sensory information correctly. A person with SPD finds it difficult to process and act upon information received through the senses, which creates challenges in performing countless everyday tasks. Motor clumsiness, behavioral problems, anxiety, depression, school failure and other impacts may result if the disorder is not treated effectively."

Those are not tentative, 'we think' statements. They boldly declare the existence of a brain condition called SPD and they assert its nature. As such, these statements are completely misleading. (The preceding sentence is also declarative). The following statements are factual: In the absence of obvious, significant, quantifiable brain deficiency, as would be the case with, say, cerebral palsy, there is no known way of determining that certain otherwise normal children's brains don't organize sensory data appropriately. Therefore, the above statements from SPDF are completely speculative. Therefore, the existence of SPD is completely speculative.

A mother recently told me that her 4 year old daughter has been diagnosed (at a prominent hospital clinic) with SPD. (The clinic had recommended therapy, which the parents had not pursued up until asking my advice). The primary symptom was complaint of her clothes, especially underwear, not feeling right. They itched. They scratched. They felt funny.

Almost every morning for the past two years, tantrums have occurred over getting dressed, during which time the father stays in his daughter's room until they find something to wear that feels OK. This trial-and-error process sometimes takes a couple of hours.

Instead of speculating on why this little girl would find certain clothing/fabrics uncomfortable, I focused on what was taking place: The child was refusing to get dressed in the morning.

That is known as defiance.

I told the parents to strip the little girl's room of everything except essential furniture and clothing. She could sleep with her favorite stuffed animals, but they were to be removed in the morning. All of her toys were henceforth kept in a play room. Her parents then explained that this was not punishment. Rather, 'The Doctor' had recommended removing all distractions so she could focus on getting dressed. Furthermore, no one was going to help her get dressed or come to her aid if she had a problem.

When she woke up, she had to stay in her room until she was dressed. 'Take as long as you want,' they said.

Two weeks later, I received the following e-mail from Mom: 'The very first morning, (daughter) reminded us to remove her sleep toys so she could get dressed. She then put on underwear and clothes and came out for breakfast. She has done this with no tantrums or requests for help since we began two weeks ago.'

At this writing, it's been five weeks since this little girl complained of her clothes not feeling right.

I report. You decide."

Jeannie
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 Posted: Sun Jun 6th, 2010 06:51 pm
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Dr Deb,  since the" horse nurse syndrome" is so prevalent that most of us know someone who practices it, what do you think is the driving psychological force behind it? Fear? Fear of failing?
  As you mentioned before, they tend to be  smart ,educated people. It doesn't seem to matter how many horses they've run through, they end up in the same place.

                                                       Jeannie

Jeannie
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 Posted: Sat Jun 12th, 2010 10:56 am
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From " Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" by Robert M Pirsig :

          "The new ones start out as good looking strangers and, depending on how they are treated, degenerate rapidly into bad-acting grouches or even cripples, or else turn into healthy, good- natured, long-lasting friends."

                                     Jeannie

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sun Jun 13th, 2010 05:40 am
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Dear Jeannie: Yes, "nursing" is very common. I think what motivates it in one person is not always exactly the same as in another.

Fear is always behind it, though -- fear in one disguise or another. I think among fortysomething and fiftysomething horse owners, the plain old fear of falling off is quite common.

This is not unreasonable, given that the middle-aged person no longer bounces when she hits, as she did in her girlhood and in her twenties and thirties.

But let us be clear: most adults that I've said this to at first will say they disagree. They say, "but I'm NOT afraid of my horse." I think they misunderstand when I say 'you're afraid' -- they think I mean that somehow they don't have the backbone or gumption to be a horse owner, that they can't enforce discipline. That's another matter too: because often, they also totally miss on how to do even that. But what I mean when I initiate this conversation is that the person is afraid of what the horse might do that they could not control.

This is the motivation behind when people use severe bits, and the root of all successful advertising to sell "control devices" of all kinds: that the horse owner is afraid of what the horse might do that they could not control. So they therefore take direct, mechanical steps to try to obtain physical control.

Now, it is one purpose of our presence in this classroom to teach that getting a more severe bit, tying the horse up, tying the horse down, is not really how you get control. Ultimately, there is no device on earth that can physically control any horse.

Once the owner grasps this fact -- that the intelligent way and the more effective way to get control is more subtle -- then they can get hooked on the so-called "natural horsemanship" thing, or they go to one or another of the well self-advertised gurus, and they follow that program, that protocol, and this then is supposed to solve that control problem FOR them.

25 years ago, I was at a Ray Hunt clinic in Tennessee. There were a bunch of us students staying in the same motel, and the place served the free continental breakfast so there were a dozen people in the little dining room eating breakfast before going over to the arena. And there was a middle-aged couple there. And the man says, "boy I sure am glad to have found this Ray Hunt fella. He's amazing. He's so great. FINALLY I've found where I can get total control." And I shook my head and said to him, "I really admire Ray too, sir, but there is no such thing as having 'total control' over any horse, at any time". And later that day the same man, who had obviously been thinking about this, asked Ray that question and Ray said, "no, son, you're looking for something that no one can have."

Fast forward 25 years....I'm sitting at a picnic table at the Pasadena Horsemens' Arena with Ray. It's the last day and the last hour that I will ever see him alive. And a guy walks up and says, "Ray, I've got this horse and he spooks all the time. What would you advise me to do about that?" And Ray said, "Well, you know he's like that." And the guy replied, in a tone of slight confusion, "Well....yeah." And Ray said, "Well, you know he's like that. So you go ahead and ride your horse."

In other words -- Ray is telling the guy to stop trying to ride some horse OTHER than the one he is on when he is on it. To stop wishing, stop blaming the horse, commit, and apply whatever he knows.

Ray used to say, all the time: "So smile and go at it."

And he also used to say: "Whatever you do....just don't be afraid."

So, if big bits aren't going to get you control, and ground-schooling your horse until he's sick of it isn't going to get you control, what gets you control?

Remember that what they are afraid of is what the horse might do that they couldn't control.

And what MIGHT the horse do? Someone in an interview one time asked Ray what his first impression of Tom Dorrance was. "Waal," said Ray, "Ah'd never met a man who knew what a horse might do before he done what he did."

The key word in that sentence is BEFORE. I can't tell you how many hundreds of times I heard our elderly teacher repeat that, both to me and to other people. "You need to be BEFORE," he would say, or "You need to be there a little earlier."

And that's the answer: 'before' is the essence of deep work, and to be safe and effective around horses, you have to be willing to learn deep work. And how you learn deep work is by living it.

But most horse owners don't want to go there. They'll tell you they don't believe in it, because when they are around somebody who is regularly there "before", it looks exactly like telepathy. Or else, they engage in idol-worship: which means that they think to themselves, "well the well self-advertised guru can do it, but I MYSELF cannot do it". Or "Dr. Deb can do it but I cannot". This is total bullshit but it's the way most people approach any type of greatness -- "Mozart is a genius but I am not a genius". It's the attitude Garrison Keillor makes fun of in his "Lake Woebegone" books and on his weekly radio show. They could have greatness but they are, as you suggested, afraid of this -- probably more afraid than they are of plain old falling off. The most horrible, terrifying fate that many people can imagine would be to be outstanding, because it would make them "too different" from others.

Recently I have been reading Sogyal Rinpoche's really wonderful "The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying." Much higher quality, I must say, than "Zen in the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance," the latter being a book I have never recommended. Sogyal says this under the heading "Compassion" (italics are the author's own):

"....It cannot be said too often that the self-cherishing which is destroyed by compassion is the grasping and cherishing of a false self....To say that self-cherishing is the root of all harm should never be misunderstood as meaning either that it is selfish, or wrong, to be kind to ourselves or that by simply thinking of others our problems will dissolve of their own accord. [It is very important] to begin by working on ourselves....before going on to help others. Otherwise our 'help' could ultimately be motivated by a subtle selfishness; it could become just a burden to others; it could even make them dependent on us, so robbing them of the opportunity to take responsibility for themselves, and obstructing their development."

This precisely sums up the motivation and action of the "horse nurse". "Love thy neighbor as thyself," said Jesus: but what he is explicitly saying is that before you can love your neighbor you have to love yourself. And to love yourself you need to have a very clear idea of who your "self" actually is. The "nurse" does not know that it is her false "self" -- her ego -- that is running the show; this is the precise condition which the Buddhists and Hindus refer to as "ignorance". 

The false "self" wants praise and attention: indeed must have it in order to survive. So they nurse in hopes that their animal will love them, and they also nurse sometimes very ostentatiously so as to impress other people. They are the "posse comitatus" at the stable, who make it their business to go out into the back lot or the field or the stalls or pens, and inspect other peoples' horses, and then gossip or even complain to management that the other person's horse isn't being well enough cared-for. Not nearly as well as if the animal had belonged to them!

I've seen many of these harpies-in-nurses'-clothing over the years, and I've seen them rush in with ointments and bandages upon the slightest cut or scratch, even when they haven't been asked for their help and "expertise". But one thing I haven't seen, and that is these ladies actually riding their horses. Nor either have I seen them be in the slightest degree effective even with ground schooling.

Anybody who has hung around stables for any length of time will have noticed that horses appear to attract people who have psychological and emotional problems. That they do so is probably part of God's intention. It's a certainty that we all learn many things from horses, and that our interaction with them is beneficial to us. If the "nurse" doesn't wind up hurting her horse, or anybody else's, then I have really nothing to say to them, and I wish them every grace and benefit.

However, if anyone writes in here and asks for advice, then that is going to be the beginning of the end of their nursing, if the person has been doing that. Because (if you read the title at the top of the Home Page of our Institute website), this is where people can come to experience "....the fun of learning how to work successfully with horses."

It does not say "learn how to work any old way with horses": it says SUCCESSFULLY. Nursing, in the sense we have been discussing it here, is incompatible with success. So I agree with you, again: fear of falling off, fear of what the horse might do that the person could not control, and fear of success are all aspects of the fear that can turn someone who has the dream of being a capable horsewoman into a neurotic "nurse." -- Dr. Deb

Jeannie
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 Posted: Sun Jun 13th, 2010 09:48 pm
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Dr Deb,  Now there's  some food for thought. I think the fact that horse nurses tend to be successful in other parts of their lives up to the point where they begin their horse journey is important. They became successful by being in control. and now they have a situation where not only can they not control what the horse might do, but sometimes the harder they work at it, the worse the horse seems to become.

  Then perhaps they are feeling like a bit of a failure, not realizing it's impossible to get good at horsemanship unless you fail a little bit, and learn from it, constantly. So then maybe a different horse, but wait, that's not it either. Then they get a little stuck, and  they are afraid. The nursing is something they can feel successful about, to the point they are telling you what is wrong with your horse. I've had that happen, as you mentioned. And goodness knows there are plenty of professional people in the horse business who are only too happy to encourage them and take their money.

     I've noticed if you watch people who are good with horses, it always looks like the horse is reacting to them, rather than the person reacting to the horse. I think it must be because they see something early, as you say , so then the horse is reacting to the person. And it can be so subtle, it seems the person isn't doing much at all.

                           Jeannie


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