Today was a beautiful day at the Double Horn Ranch. In general, unless I am on the road working clinics, I spend my time, 7 days a week here. Every single day I am happy to walk out to work, because I am passionate about what I do. Some days, it can be tiring and a little daunting with all the work that needs to be done, but then I remember that I could be in an office doing paperwork day in and day out. When I think of that, I remember that I am one of the luckiest people in the world. I am fortunate enough to say, that I love my job and am always working on learning more about every aspect of my career.
I can never take what I have for granted. I’ve been blessed with an incredible family and a beautiful place to live. I am surrounded by the people, places and things that I love most. With this privilege, I have learned many lessons from many great teachers, mentors and friends. However, my greatest lessons have not been spoken to me, or written down for me to read, but rather have come from my walk alongside the horse. To condense these lessons down to just five, will not even begin to scratch the surface of what I’ve learned. The horse is constantly teaching me new things every day, if I am willing to learn and my guess is… if you’ll start listening, you’ll learn these things as well.
1. You get what you give
What I always want to remember, is that a horse is what he is. To me he’s perfect by nature and untouched by man. From the horse’s perspective, I’m introducing a lot of things that are unnatural and scary to him. I have to be aware he is going to do a lot of things I won’t be happy with or want, but that’s part of the learning process. I need to allow him to make those mistakes and be forgiving towards his actions.
When it comes to horsemanship, I’m always trying to make the wrong thing difficult and the right thing easy for my horses. I have to understand, these animals will come around, they just need to find what they need to do. When they do, I give them rest, relief, relaxation, a pat on the neck or something to let them know they’ve done the right thing.
I need to keep in mind, with horses there will always be good days and there will always be bad days. I will have good moments in training, and also bad ones. Those are the ebbs and tides of horsemanship and of life. I have to learn to roll with that.
2. Patience and Understanding
As a horseman, the more experienced I have become, the more I realize that it is not me teaching the horse, but rather the horse teaching me the art of horsemanship.
Each day in their presence, I have realized more and more the depth of their being, their mind and their spirit. They amaze me with their awareness and understanding of the world around them.
As I work on my own awareness, I feel I am developing a better understanding of the horse in his way of communicating. Every twitch of an ear, flicker of a tail, gesture of his body, blinking of his eyes, lowering or raising of his head, a snort or a whinny all have meaning. This is their way of talking to other horses and to us. This is how they tell us how they feel and accept or not accept what is going on around them. With this awareness and the desire to understand the horse, his language teaches me to work with him and not against him. When applied correctly, this is truly speaking “horse”. One must slow down and listen to the horse. They must master the feel of the horse and for the horse, to know what you should or should not do.
In my opinion, to achieve true communication and great results you must accept that it is a privilege – and not a chore, or simply just a job – to work with this amazing animal.
To me, there is so much more to horses than competing and winning, and horses have humbled me because even the smallest of victories seem so sweet. They’ve taught me how much I don’t know and they’ve completely changed my views and goals.
We need to be aware that humility starts with the same letters as human does. Being human is having the ability to make mistakes. We are giving the ability to learn from these mistakes, and we need to extend that grace to the horse. Don’t approach a horse with a cocky or god-like attitude. You are going to have good days and bad days in your training. What you can do is to stay in a learning frame of mind. You are always capable of learning, especially from your mistakes. Your mistakes are what humanize you the most and these are the best learning experiences.
I always come out every morning with a respect for the horse. He is big, strong, fast, and instinctive. In a lot of ways, I am at his mercy. My goal is the golden rule; to do a good job treating my horse the way he would treat me, and to always stay humble and kind.
4. Peace and Contentment
When I felt like I had nothing else, horses were always my go-to. They were about all I looked forward to every week when I was a kid. Horses have always interested me the most. I’ve always had a “thing” for horses, even as a little kid. I like the way they sound, the way they move and even the way they smell. I still do.
Horses have given me a purpose, they have given me drive. They untimely have led me to what is my career and I am so grateful, because all of the blood, sweat and tears opened so many doors for me and has given me an education that is priceless. Horses have been my life, and I’m still working at it.
5. To dig a little more
As I grow and mature through the spirit of the horse, I am finding the true spirit of myself. It is in this spirit that the magic of life lives. To find that magic and that privilege, one must be willing to slow down, listen to the horse, and realize that like people, each horse is different. Allow them to learn. Allow them to make mistakes. Allow them to be a horse. And remember, learning takes time — for people and the horse! And this learning process is the privilege. In many ways, that is the gift that the horse gives us.
Don’t just work on a surface level. Don’t just go through the steps, or just do “the method”… dig deeper. Ask more of yourself by not only working physically, but mentally and emotionally. Work from the inside of you to the inside of the horse. These are more than just words. You have to work hard to understand that… to FEEL that. Feel isn’t just physical, it’s much deeper. The ability to feel of the horse and for the horse in mind, body and spirit. That feel for the horse is something that you carry with you all the time, so that you can share that good feeling with all living creatures.
Everything is about uniting with the horse on a deeper level and therein lies the privilege of horsemanship.
Until next time,