“Peace on Earth, good will to men…”
Peace. Good will. Sharing. Giving. Selflessness. Joy. Fun. These are all things we associate with Christmas. I just got to thinking that they’re all things I associate with horsemanship as well.
Christmas season is a beautiful time of year when giving is in abundance. We consider our friends, family and children. I know many people that extend gifts to their pets and horses as well. There’s just a good feeling in that. There is a difference, however, between gifting and giving. This time of year my inbox is full of emails capitalizing on gifting. Last minute Sale or Black Monday extended until 2016 with 0% interest for 6 months and a free Toaster Oven if you order in the next 5 minutes offers flood the internet.
In recent years it’s become obvious in our family that none of us need any more stuff. My parents recently moved and downsized. My barn is full of tubs of items that I don’t have room for in the house. So gifting is difficult. As an alternative to spending money on items I’d much rather spend time with family and friends…go on a trip somewhere or simply go to a movie or out for dinner. Instead of swapping gifts, why not pool our resources and do something fun? Enjoy each other’s company and make some good memories. It’s easy to hand over a gift. It’s much harder in our busy lives to commit a day or more to spending time with those that we might not see very often.
Regardless, I consider giving a root of horsemanship. In my clinics we learn that if you focus on the success of the HORSE vs the success of YOU, the results will be much more profound. This practice extends to many facets of our lives. Consider a hockey team. If the only thing I ever focus on is how I’M going to get the puck in the net, I’m not an effective team member. To be successful I need to consider the other players so I can make a pass or set up a play so that our TEAM can score a goal. The old saying holds true: There is no I in TEAM.
And so it holds true for our horses as well. As much as we strive for personal success, focusing on success without the consideration of the horse will ultimately limit the amount we can achieve.
I’ve learned through experience that the success derived, the pride felt and the goals attained are directly proportional to the amount of time given to, or invested in, the horse. Our time, patience and understanding. Pondering what worked, what didn’t and why, and then setting up situations that support the horse so that he can try and succeed. Our focus on helping him succeed yields far greater results in the end – and much less frustration. Just like giving a meaningful gift to a person, horses appreciate it. It’s true: they learn by repetition and will come to expect that you can provide for them a feeling of success, pride and ultimately peace, when they try.
Not only that, the more you commit to the success of each horse, the more you learn about horses. The more you increase your knowledge base so that you can apply what you’ve learned in training, riding or working with other horses. It’s a recipe for success: You give wholeheartedly to the horse and in turn you receive incredible benefits. A win-win situation, so to speak. A gift exchange, perhaps?
My mare, Belle, has taught me some huge lessons over the years. Years ago, a friend observed us and declared, It looks like you’ve found your soul mate. In that connection we achieve so much. But it’s not always easy. When I’m focused on a technical element, it’s very easy to forget that I’m sitting on an animal that is thinking, feeling and trying to comprehend what I’m doing. And if I neglect that aspect, then Belle stops trying. This last year I was training with Belle and made the comment, We’re renewing our vows this week! We went back to the roots of our connection and concentrated on taking it forward into ground work and riding. We reached new levels because she was aware that I was caring for her. The experience was incredibly moving.
Sound familiar? A marriage requires devotion to your spouse. Raising children requires your attention to their thoughts and needs. They are aware when you are truly sensitive to what they’re thinking and feeling. Horses, also, are very perceptive on that level.
With a horse then, particularly when working on something new, we need to be conscious of that. We need to mix feel and technical in a balance so that we can elevate and maintain our feel within the technical. It requires that we always be alert to what he’s thinking and feeling and that we support that through and within his movement. Not simply before and after, but during.
It might seem that giving that much to a horse is the long way around to achieving some specific maneuver or exercise. In fact the converse is true. It’s the way to build a base of achievements, learning and knowledge…enhancing and adding to our horsemanship repertoire. Showing a horse the way to success, repeatedly, paves the path for trust, pride, effective leadership and so many other great things. Developing these skills can extend past our equine endeavors and enhance our lives and even our relationships with other people.
I consider myself blessed with the horses I own and the opportunity to work with the horses of others. Each one of them continues to teach me so many things. My gift to them is my time. My patience. My desire to understand and support them. My commitment to their success. I extend to them good will…and peace. The product is not only a more capable horse, but one that recognizes me as a good leader, a provider of success and pride…and a true companion.
In turn this yields the best Christmas present I could ever hope for from a horse: that look in his eye that simply says, I like to be with you. I trust in you. I believe in you.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from all the family at Amazing Horse Country.