Keep Your Eyes On the Prize

Those bittersweet visits I made to the barn filled empty hours with the essence they emit – Kept up my spirits and me looking forward, never allowing me any reason or option to quit.

great ride

All of our childhood days we are instructed to “Look where you are going”. This seemed like wise advice coming from adults at the time. Little did we know, that was a lie – albeit not intentional. The real truth is that you need to keep your focus on where you want to go, not where you are now or where you seem to be going. Keep looking at the desired destination and never waver your attention from that goal. Sooner or later, you will get there, one way or another. This has been one of life’s biggest lessons that I have learned and have found it particularly true when it comes to working with horses. Anyone who has jumped a horse knows that it is fatal mistake to look at the the jump as you approach it. You look up over and past the jump because that is the goal – not the jump itself. The jump is merely an obstacle to overcome to get there. Another example is riding a horse that is intent on trying to get out of the gate when working in the arena. If your thoughts and attention are on the gate such as: “I know he is going to fight me when we go by the gate”, that is what will happen. When your focus is on the gate, so will your horse’s. Don’t even let that thought of the gate come into your mind. Visualize you and your horse heading to a spot past the gate. Even if it takes a few tries, it will no longer be a stopping point for your horse if that is not where the attention is. Life is like riding a horse. We tend to pay way too much attention to where we are at the moment, forgetting what we really set out to do. We get caught up in the moments when things seem to be heading in the wrong direction and put all of our energy there working on the problem instead of the solution. The obstacles become a diversion and instead of figuring out how to get past them, we allow them to change our direction. Stay the course and set your goals and dreams where you want them to be, working constantly toward them. Rarely is there a straight easy path to achieve anything worthwhile – in either life or with horses. Take the detours when necessary and go around the obstacles. They are only temporary setbacks.  Remember that we always get what we really, really want. We also always get what we really, really don’t want. Depends on which aspect we focus on.




Rats In My Head

or establishing a level of involvement I might wish to take – to help a horse get over some human’s insensitive training mistake.

I let them in. You know what I am talking about. Those annoying thoughts that gnaw at your self-confidence. The ugly little beasts that constantly tell you that you can’t do it. That you need to get professionals to do it for you. That your horse will be dangerous to ride unless you resort to the old school “show ’em who’s boss” method of teaching a young horse using dominance, fear and pain to get your point across. That you are too old, too uneducated, not knowledgeable enough to take it on. That men do a better job at “breaking” a horse (That part probably is true if you literally want a broken” horse.) Yep, I let them in. The door was cracked when my peers started dropping hints and then blatantly voicing their opinions about it. The project I had been looking forward to for most of my entire life was now slipping  beyond my reach. I am the first to admit that I am not an expert horse trainer and it had been 35 years since my  last foal and I was now in my 60’s. I began to doubt myself. I started having thoughts of fear where I had never even considered it part of the equation. I knew my horse very well. He was born here and I imprinted him myself. I could sleep in his stall if I wanted to without worrying.

Dream Project in Early Stages

Dream Project in Early Stages

And now I was being told – by experts – that it was a job for someone else to handle. I started to believe them. Those rats multiplied until I was afraid to make a move thinking it would be a wrong move that would permanently ruin my horse or I would get badly injured. I had started him with a bitless bridle and things were going very well but then I was told that I needed a bit.  Twice I let someone else give him a riding lesson and both times it took me months to undo the damage.  I just didn’t trust anyone else to handle him knowing it was not going to be methods I felt good about. He turned five in March and there was no more putting it off. I had to get off the fence. I came to the conclusion that “if it is to be, it is up to me”. I quit listening to everyone and started doing my homework researching and exploring trainers via watching DVD’s of clinics. I dug deeper into the new, more natural way of “gentling” a horse using language that horses understand. I sorted through bits and pieces of what I agreed with, what felt right through trial and error. Every little piece of the puzzle led me to the next. I truly am learning the lesson to go as far as I can see and then I will see further. It is a fascinating and fulfilling journey and we are well on the way. Suddenly my doubts, worries and fears have turned to confidence, eagerness and excitement. I had an amazing “wow” moment yesterday when I climbed up on the fence and my horse walked over to me and positioned himself for me to get on without any guidance. I say we are going to be just fine. The rats are gone but occasionally one or two will try to sneak back in but now I know how to deal with them and I don’t let anyone steal my dream.