This past week I took a course on halter starting in Amarillo, TX with Brent Graef. It was an incredible time learning to handle young horses who required me to be smooth, clear, and to provide support in the right ways at the right time. I learned a lot about providing enough support so as to not abandon the young horses, but not so much that it was micromanaging or overbearing (my mom says parenting is the same deal, but I think she had a way harder job…horses can’t talk…). I learned way too much to write all in one blog post, but there was a point when I had been working with my 18 month old colt, who I named Comanche after the Indians who had once claimed the area as their territory, when I realized what a commitment this stuff really is. A few short days ago he had never been touched by or around a person, and now he was looking to me for support and letting me handle him. What that meant is that I had a responsibility to help him keep feeling of the lead rope and not learn to lean on it,to be on my game all the time and be smooth, aware, and help him to keep finding the slack. This little guy had never experienced tension in the lead rope, dullness or disrespect, and had no reason to not trust me so far. That also meant I had a huge responsibility to keep him out of trouble and to keep preparing him for all the new things he would experience in life so as to not break down that precious trust.
I realized while working with Comanche that this horsemanship stuff is so much more than just good reflexes, knowledge of the horse, and smooth rope and rein handling. I had to be centered to help him, and I am still on that journey to be more centered so I have something to offer horses. Just having skill isn’t enough. As Brent modeled, you have to be quiet inside, to be still enough to listen and observe, and you have to be able to offer real peace to the horse – in order to do that, you have to have peace with yourself.
I thought about how many times I had worked with a horse and expected so much of him, but not had any peace to offer him. How many times, I wondered, had I micromanaged, or left horses completely to their own devices in an attempt to be soft? How do I find that balance with each new horse on each new day?
Willingness to experiment is important, but I think having good feelings for the horse and a dedication to do your best for the horse can mean the world, and be the difference between making something effective or not effective.
All the horsemen and women I respect and hope to emulate have this “something” going for them. It isn’t just skill. It isn’t just who’s name they drop, it isn’t what kind of horse they ride or how big their hat is, or how expensive their rig is. It’s definitely not how many ribbons, buckles, and trophies they’ve won. What really captivates me is someone who walks to talk, and strives to be a better person daily so as to have something to really offer not just the horse, but the world. Any lasting education I’ve received has come from these types of folks who have “it” – folks who catch your attention and make you think, I want that, and I’m dying to learn how to get it.
I think the horse feels the exact same way in the prescence of someone who has a heart pure enough to offer.