So often I come across horse people who feel a bit confused and lost about which path they should take.
‘I don’t know what style I should do!’ They’ll say. Often these people have very young horses who are still very green or totally untrained at all (lucky them… blank canvas!)
My reaction to that is a blank sort of confusion. I could say it is because I decided very early on what ‘methods’ I was going to follow… and objectively speaking this is true.
What confuses me is the confusion itself. I was never confused about which path I should do, even when I was in the process of finding my way. Because I always knew that my instinct would lead me to the answers I needed.
In the place of confusion I was (still am) consumed by a hungry learning monster, obsessed with finding the answer! No matter time of day or night, nor where I am or what I am doing, this learning monster can and will override all other functioning systems to hold a company meeting, brainstorming, and general pow-wow to get to the bottom of the nagging question as hand. I never had time to voice my concerns to others, I was too busy filling in the blanks.
I often wonder, if you are confused about the path you should take with your horse, to the point that you feel the need to vocalise it to almost perfect strangers, then you might be in a dangerous zone of waiting for the answer to be given to you. Searching for answers is one thing, but advertising for external absolution can be a recipe for disaster. Wasn’t it Laozi who said ‘When the student is ready, the teacher will appear’ ? Advertising yourself to be openly if not temporarily clueless, unless in tried and trusted company, can sound like a victim siren to an aggressor. You might accidentally contrive a situation where you find yourself with a trainer who does not have your best interests at heart, let alone your horses, but is exploiting your ignorance for their own personal gain. Very dangerous. To be frank, if I had let my life be dictated by what others handed to me on a silver platter, I would still be scratching away an existence in my home country, dreaming about who I could have become. Its good to ask for help, but so many of the important things in life require independent action.
I guess I am lucky that I always seemed to have a strong internal compass. I always had a little voice in my belly that said ‘You’re going to be alright, no matter what’. Even when the world around me gave me no reason to believe that I much to be confident about at all, I still had a kind of undying faith that I would survive, and eventually thrive.
From the same place, I draw upon my ability to be decisive in my horsemanship. It is so crucial! You even have to be decisive in situations where no further decisions or actions are needed. Decisively indecisive! To be effective with any horse past the level of pony rides at the local fair ground, you must be capeable of making well informed decisions. Those decisions come in a variety of contexts:
- Training decisions
You horse will need you to be able to decide WHAT you actually want. From them, but also from yourself. Doesn’t matter if your horse is in a moment of trouble, adreneline and danger hazard high, or if they cannot make it around the block fast than the crawl of a neolithic glacier, your horse is asking you to make a decision that is in their best interests, and then stick to it.
- Logistical decisions
What saddle; treed or treeless or flexi-tree, western, dressage, endurance, trail, general purpose, synthetic, expensive, cheap, mid-market or flea-market, bareback or half pads? Bit or bitless; bridle or bridleless? What colour halter; rope or webbed? Leather or Synthetic? Colourful or Classic? What stable; natural, traditional, sporty, recreational, posh, shoestring? What food; grain or not to grain, supplements, ad-lib forage or rationed? Just the tip of the iceberg folks, before you even lay a finger on an equine of your own you need to have demonstrated the ability to make a thousand tiny choices, all of which must relate somehow not only to your horses needs, but who YOU are as a person too. Of course, you can infiltrate a stable community where a lot of those decisions are made for you from a cultural perspective… everyone here feeds 2kgs of oats daily, so will I. But you run the risk of make decisions based upon a collective and very human cultural phenomena, called the herd mentality, that may or may not be the right choice for your horse as an individual. Being an expat for as long as I have, I have lived outside of cultural norms and expectations, I can hardly imagine what it would be like to be part of a collective consciousness anymore. Therefore, every decision is mine to make… not histories.
- Hard decisions
The easiest to explain but the most difficult to consider. Starting from ‘Do I buy them? Can I buy them?’ Right down to the end ‘Do I let them go? Can I let them go? When do I let them go?’. Most lucky horse owners, under the normal set of circumstances, will outlive their beloved horses. We have to remember that their lives are our responsibility, and mostly likely we will have to make some very difficult decisions one day, on their behalf.
If you keep waiting for the next trainer, local guru, stable know-it-all, Youtube sensation, charismatic clinician or page turning author to tell you who you are… you will always remain a faded version of yourself. By all means, go out there and sponge up all the information available to you and your resources! But run everything you learn through your own instinctual, gut-based, common sense filter… and then do what makes sense to you!
Isn’t that what our horses are constantly trying to tell us anyway?