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Thursday, April 4, 2013

"Is it really this hard, or am I doing something wrong?"

I have always tried to educate myself on the art and science of the blacksmith. In the winter of 2002, when business was a little slow, I drove to Blacksburg Virginia on a very cold and snowy day to attend the Lower Leg Symposium at The Virginia Tech School of Veterinary Science. The symposium brought together farriers and 1st and 2nd year vet students from the region to hear about the newest research regarding lameness and innovative lameness treatments. The fist half of the day was devoted to lectures and presentations from some of the best minds on the topic from all over the mid-Atlantic region . The second half of the day they sent all of us to the barn and asked each farrier to pair up with a vet student and teach them to prepare a lame horse for treatment. I drew a petite blond girl, maybe 23 years old, from southern Connecticut who might have weighed 85 pounds dripping wet. I could see that this was going to be a challenge.

It was cold. I mean really cold; like 22 degrees cold! (that is cold for Blacksburg) The organizers of the symposium brought us an old, crippled  Arabian Mare with geriatric lameness issue.
First order of business; pull the shoes. I provided a play by play for my petite but enthusiastic vet student as I took five minutes and worked the left front an hind, pulling the shoes, paring out the sole, and generally preparing the horse to be treated (left side only, I wanted her to have the experience of working both a front and hind foot). Now it was her turn to prepare the right side of the horse. Carefully she approached the mare like I had instructed her, and with great effort and some really good coaching (if I do say so myself) she had the right front foot wedged between her knees and she began her work. She worked, and worked, and worked. I corrected her, gave her tips, and generally encouraged her, hoping that she would be able to get these shoes off.
Finally after 10 minutes of gasps and grunts and many physical gyrations I hadn't seen before, she let the foot fall from between her knees, and she collapsed in a heap on the dusty floor of the barn. I asked if she was alright, and helped her to her feet. She looked up at me, sweat dripping down her face and onto her thick orange ski parka and said with exasperation, "is it really this hard, or am I doing something wrong?!" Well, the answer to that question was yes, and yes! It was really that hard, and she was indeed doing many things wrong.

I have thought about that experience many times through the years as I have learned new skills and tried to master them. I would guess it is safe to say that everything we attempt to master, whether it be a physical, mental, or an emotional skill, requires careful instruction, huge amounts of encouragement, and most of all deliberate practice. This really is the only way to acquire the skills we need to improve our lives and be successful in all our endeavors. Enjoy this short 2 minute video from Geoff Colvin, author of "Talent is Overrated" called "Deliberate Practice." We can acquire new skills and achieve at a very high level if we don't run away from the painful and time consuming learning no matter how challenging that might be.

Remember, not only am I the blacksmith, but you are the blacksmith too; the agent of creation and change in your own life.