I have been training horses for several years now, and the more I learn, the more I like who I am as a person.
I used to only like working with certain horses; the ones I “clicked” with that only took slight tweaking of my schooling methods to get the desired response. I would see a wrong answer as deliberate, dangerous and unpredictable, and therefore, would label the horse as naughty. Similarly, I used to only like talking to certain people; people who were my friends or that easily became friends. People who were weird, mean or outside of my friend group I labeled as difficult and not worth it .
Every horse I encounter is different. They are different in their learning styles, how and when they say ‘no’, and even how they accept praise. Because of this, every horse provides me with a new way to teach something, while keeping me on my toes. I honestly believe there are no bad horses, just horses that don’t understand what is being asked of them, and don’t know how to get their questions answered.
About 2 years ago I was just sitting by a pasture, watching a herd of horses communicate, and I realized that each horse had it’s own style. It’s own preferences and desires. Some horses groomed each other, stood silently and swished flies off of each other. Some grazed near the herd, but preferred to be alone; others were comfortable walking up to a group and laying down for a nap. There were subtle differences – such as choosing to stand behind, beside or in front of other horses. Each horse had it’s own comfort zone. I tested my vague theory by approaching the herd, and found that even aiming my body towards various parts of the horse would create a reaction. I could pressure a horse to leave the group, come to me or simply shift their weight. When I took one of these horses away from the herd, they reacted to my training well when I worked to keep them comfortable. For example – if I took one of the horses that was on the outskirts of the herd, I praised him by staying out of his space. If I took one of the horses that was standing with a buddy, I praised him by scratching him.
I say all of this to paint a picture – in this day of instant gratification, manipulation, selfishness and pride, working with horses makes a difference.
You can’t work with horses successfully without learning that you need to listen, and be flexible in your training.
I have found my relationships with horses and people alike improve the most when I do less. To do this, I have to know where the disconnect is, and do as little as possible to ask for a response.
My typical thought process when encountering a problem goes a little like this:
Step One – Shut Up – when I get frustrated, the last thing I need to do is speak or act out of that frustration. Step Two- Step Back – Literally, walk away. Put my hands behind my back and take a breath. I need to be calm before I proceed. Step Three – Listen – what caused this situation to get frustrating? Was it something said or done? Was it something NOT said or done? What can I do to get a different response?
My desire is to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. I want to be used by Him to help His people. I want to become less, so that He can become more. What’s so amazing is that He has used horses to build my character. My hope is that the more experienced I become as a horsewoman, the closer I will be to the person Christ has called me to be, and the more He can use me as a light for Him.