Toughen Up

“If you want to be a horse trainer, you’ve got to toughen up!”
I can remember hearing that over and over. My instructors would say that as they kneed my lesson horse in the gut while cinching up. They would say that when putting on correction bits. Even the teachers of kinder approaches would say this as I watched scared horses get roped, lay down, running around in a panic with a leg hobbled.
Obviously there are kinder and more coarse ways to approach these things.

“You’ve got to toughen up!” I was told when riding a broncy young horse who probably was nowhere near ready to ride.

“You’ve got to toughen up!” They say you shouldn’t care when clients chose the wrong path for the horse you’ve worked with and come to love. It’s a money game so I shouldn’t care, and you can’t save them all right?

You can teach people technique, you can teach them theory, but you can’t teach them empathy. As a teacher, it’s pretty obvious who has it and who doesn’t. My husband always says – would you want to be taught that same way? A horse is not some machine devoid of feelings, though they aren’t human and don’t have human emotions.

Empathy is what separates the surface workers from the real deals. And to those teachers who warned me to toughen up; I say I have. It takes guts to go against the stream, and it takes guts to feel what your horse feels, especially when you’ve caused it.

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