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Musings, insight, and pro tips
Happy 4th of July!
We hope your holiday is festive, firework-filled, and as horsey as possible!
To celebrate, please enjoy these 8 epic horses who shaped America
Happy 4th & Happy Trails!
As we all know, horses are amazing creatures. They’re beautiful, whimsical, strong, wise…I could go on and on. Horses are not only amazing creatures, though. They are teachers.
In my 21 years, I have had a handful of people impact my life greatly, but I believe that horses have taught me some of the most valuable lessons I've learned.
I'll spare you the full list of life lessons a la horses, but here are two essentials:
Hard Work Pays Off
When you first meet a horse, you see a pair of eyes, a mouth, those big ole’ ears, four hooves,... basically an animal that looks just like the other horse one stall down (aside from the superficial things like color, height, etc). Each horse, however, has something much more intellectual and deep behind those eyes - something that can only be revealed after you have listened to the horse and have done the work to earn their trust in you as their guider.
You work to earn their trust. You work to nail that jump course. You work, you work, you work, and you never stop working. If done with humility, tactfulness, sincerity, and direct focus, it will pay off. Just like anything else in life.
It’s important to remember that learning how to ride and connect with a horse is a lifelong learning experience. This isn’t something that can be learned overnight, and if that is the expectation, the pay off will never show.
It is an evolution - something that is understood better and gets stronger with time.
This leads me into the idea of mindfulness. After you’ve accepted that there will always be “on” days and “off” days due to the nature of this sport, you can find the fine line in the middle that opens this perspective of mindfulness.
You accept errors as learning opportunities and move onward with more wisdom than before - because you are mindful. You are able to tune in to your horse, because you’re working with them every step of the way, adjusting and changing the plan in a split second as needed - because you are mindful.
Then, when you’re walking around and go to order your coffee from a barista who seems to have a bad attitude - you’re able to be understanding instead of defensive - because you are mindful. And once you apply a lesson a horse has taught you in a situation outside of the barn...
you have obtained the mindset of a true horseman.
Some days you know everything, then the next day you are greatly humbled…
Sandy was the coolest girl at camp. By the third day of sleep-away camp outside Knoxville, TN, I knew I needed to befriend this girl. She was smart, interesting, AND she knew everything about horses. How could I become her new best friend?
Summer camp was my first real experience with horses, and I was instantly hooked. From that day forth I started sporting dirt under my nails and the faintest smell of hay and sweet feed in my hair. My coat pockets had Mrs. Pastures Cookie crumbs in the bottoms, and I'd hoard peppermints like a sugar addict.
One evening Sandy whipped out an encyclopedia of horses. She flipped to the page that showed the differences between male and female horses and said, “So, remember - a female horse is a mare, a male horse is a stallion, and a male horse who’s been ‘neutered,' is called a gelding. Can you tell me which is which?”
Here was my chance.
“This horse is a gelding, and that one is a mare,” I enthusiastically pointed so she wouldn't know that deep down, I had no idea.
Sandy and I sat there in silence. An awkward pause ensued, and she slowly shook her head,
Darnit. That’s the moment I realized this horse stuff is hard. I wanted to believe I was right because, in that instant, I knew that I wanted to master this mysteriously wonderful world of riding horses. But I had no freaking clue that the mastery I thought I wanted would never come.
Fast forward to where I am now.… I’ve come a long way and learned a ton. I mastered the difference between mare, gelding, and stallion, thankfully, yet some days I feel like that's about all I know.
One day, I'll ride the pants off of a spicy thoroughbred and feel on top of the world. Then the next day I hop on a 'made' warmblood who’s supposed to tote you around, but somehow I have managed to piss that warmblood off royally and I can’t figure out why. The horse is rooting, not going at the pace I want, and all of a sudden everything I learned up until this point feels moot.
After I found myself humbled time and time again, I learned to trust the easy, continuous flow of momentum and started really listening to the horse:
- Asking the horse things through the silence of our equilibrium.
- Channeling my energy into a meditative state.
- Being patient, and treating the horse with respect.
Once I found myself relaxed, enjoying the moment, and feeling the horse's hooves grazing the ground beneath me, I realized that all things can be answered if you just listen.
After you accept that you do not know everything and will never know everything, your mind expands into a world you never thought possible. All of a sudden your communication between you and the horse becomes clear as day.
The truth is, there are many, MANY ways to do the right thing with your horse. Each horse is different. If we maintain an open mind, listen to what different trainers have to say, and genuinely LISTEN to the horse we are riding, we will learn more than we could ever imagine.
Let yourself be humbled, and grow as a result.