Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Interesting lives

The four day RDA intensive coach training course for Level 2 trainees (top RDA level) was always going to be strenuous for presenters and participants. It certainly was fun, interesting and exhausting.

By the time coaches come to their third level of qualification they have a wide range of experience, opinions and expertise. People upgrade their qualifications in RDA not because they are going to earn more money but because they are passionate about the work they are doing - using horses to increase the quality of life of people with disabilities. Some of the 14 coaches were starting off their Level 2 training while others were able to complete the syllabus and leave the workshop as Level 2 coaches.

Coaches came from Queensland, Victoria and South Australia and it was funded by the Ian Potter Foundation. If each coach teaches an average of 10 riders a week then 140 riders will immediately benefit from the workshop!

Nikki was one of the coaches who is now an RDA level 2 Coach. She came with her husband and three children to Mt. Gambier from Zimbabwe four years ago. Their farm was taken from them and they left with very little. They were sponsored by a family in Mt. Gambier.  When they left, all their horses and donkeys were given to an RDA centre in South Africa who were in desperate need of well trained horses and ponies. They had been used in their riding school and some had come from other families whose properties were taken over. They had  lots of problems finding a way to travel the animals out of the country. Finally a truck driver, who himself had cerebral palsy, agreed to take them even though he knew there would be repercussions for him at the border.

As Nikki trained as a teacher after Rhodesia became Zimbabwe the Australian Government do not accept her teaching qualifications. Her mother is also a trained teacher and her qualifications are accepted, but she is not allowed to work as she is on a temporary refugee visa. Nikki can work as a teacher's aide but otherwise has to complete the 4 years of training over again. How soul destroying!

RDA are the lucky ones as Nikki has time to coach at the Mt. Gambier RDA centre.

Nikki is happy for these photographs taken in Zimbabwe to be in this blog.

She grew up riding a zebra which they had found as a baby stuck and abandoned in a waterhole. It would not drink out of bottle - only a bucket.

Her mother trained the zebra to be ridden. Apparently it was always rather flighty. Zebras are said to be the hardest animal to train.

I am not sure which donkey this is but it is clearly enjoying jumping on the lunge and with such excellent style.

We are so lucky. We do not live in constant fear for the safety of our family, animals, or property. We do not scour the 'land for sale' ads to see if our properties have been listed and are up for grabs. We may choose to move - we may choose to but we do not have to relocate to a new country and start our lives again.

It would be nice for Nikki's mother, who joined them in Mt. Gambier, to have a nice young donkey to  work with so she can enjoy her animal training again.  When her property was taken, several people wanted it and it ended up being burned to the ground. As Nikki says 'such a waste'. If anyone (in Australia) knows of a large size donkey weanling that is looking for an active home please let me know.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Time to learn

We only really learn something when we need to learn it! Without motivation there is a lack of concentration and attention and poor quality learning takes place. I had been shown how to use the little tractor before I bought my new property but the learning was not a priority at the time. I am a bit scared of tractors due to past experiences with tractors, snow blowers and snow covered ditches in Canada. However, now I need to be able to confidently drive this one as it has a lawn mower on it.

So early this morning I had a lesson in tractor driving. As a coach it was a good reminder about how ones perception of something and actual reality tend to differ. I was fine while the tractor was not turned on. Then I felt an instantaneous adrenalin rush as the tractor cranked into action. My 'trainer' and neighbour Philip, who works with tractors and tractor owners of all sizes and ages, just carried on starting and stopping the tractor quite unperturbed by its noise, smell and extrusions of smoke. My fear did not last long - just long enough to remind me that riders have the same fears - whether justified or not.   An unemotional coach is a wonderful thing in times of stress. The other aspect that interested me was his patience. It did not worry him how long it took for me to understand and feel confident to drive the tractor in and out of the shed. He was only interested in knowing that I knew exactly how to do it in a safe and confident way - and that I was going to remember how to do it next time.

When we teach horses we need to have the same attitude. It does not matter how long the learning takes. What is important is the quality of the learning. If learning takes a little longer than was anticipated does it matter? No - it is only the permanent result that counts. Correct methodology and confidence is everything. A big responsibility for coaches and those who train horses.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Wonthaggi ARC and the dog hunt

Yesterday I taught at Wonthaggi Adult Riding Club. Great day! Everyone I taught six weeks ago had improved in some way despite the fact that the weather has been awful and so the riders had not ridden much. The weather started cold but warmed up. No wind and no rain. Even if they were not jumping everyone stayed for lunch. The club is a wonderful example of what adult riding clubs are all about - having fun with horses and people - and possibly learning something and improving ones skills!

As a coach it is the little improvements, at any level of riding, that keep you keen.

It is really easy to give a lesson where you give very little of yourself but make the riders keep going so long that they are exhausted. Some riders think that being exhausted must mean that the lesson was good! With riders and horses that are not very fit the lesson needs to be a combination of learning and then practicing the new skills and refinements. Seeing and feeling the difference and going home with the skills to carry on.

I have taught a lot of the riders in Wonthaggi off and on for many years. It is so easy to teach people that understand what you are saying and then have the necessary skills to get results. These are what I class as 'easy' lessons. The impossible lessons that I hate are the ones where riders are not interested and do not try to understand what you are saying and do not try to change. It is interesting to me that it only takes one uncooperative rider to ruin your day and kill your enthusiasm. There were no riders like that yesterday so the day continued to be fun as the riders 'rode towards excellence'.

Keeping a show jump rider focussed on dressage is difficult at the best of times. I knew it was a  losing battle when Andy's grand daughter was on the side lines.

Grandmother Janine was far more focussed. She needed to be as she rides a rather large horse!

Back at home the hunt continues. There is a hollow tree totally under-run with passages.

Unfortunately for Bessie she is too big to fit in. Thomas, on the other hand, goes underground and barks - a rather muffled bark. He always comes out again - in his own time! He only just manages to squeeze out of the tree.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Wonders of Jindivick

After Aachen and my final FEI Para Equestrian meeting (completion of maximum years on committee) I went to Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver where I consulted to the Canadian Para Equestrian program. As the World Equestrian Games are coming up I feel that the training is a private matter.

It was a long 4 weeks away as I had only just moved to Jindivick before I left for New Zealand, Germany and Canada. Now I am home for a couple of weeks. Such a treat.

What a joy it is to wake up in the morning.  Seeing gorgeous views without even having to get out of bed!

The two cats came back from the cattery and after two days of roaring around the house and leaping on and off bookcases and kitchen cabinets to stay out of reach of Thomas I opened a window onto the enclosed swimming pool area that the dogs do not have access to.

It may not be shorter in time as the road is very windy but the back way to the Yarra Valley is stunningly beautiful. Next time I will stop the car to take a photo.