All I’ve Learned About Life I’ve Learned From My Horses

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All of my life I’ve been an equestrian.  This makes me fortunate.  But it also makes me dedicated and full of fortitude because anyone who knows horses will tell you that it only looks easy.  During the rest of it you’re getting rained on, stepped on, farted on.  You’re scrubbing buckets and filling troughs in freezing cold weather.  You’re dumping wheelbarrows into already full spreaders, harrowing a field at 7pm when dinner is still an hour out, stacking 100 bales of hay on a Sunday morning.  You’re falling on your head and spraining ankles.  And you get up in the morning and do it all over again the next day…

1. Life requires resilience. When you get knocked down, stand up.  There is a world famous jump coach who says; “get in the ambulance or get back on that horse.”  I used to think it was so that the horse knows that he can’t buck you off and get away with it.  Now I know that it isn’t about showing the horse how resilient you are, it’s about showing yourself.

Life, just like horses, takes guts.  It takes heart.  In life, just like in horses, it isn’t IF you will fall, it’s WHEN.  So know that you will get hurt.  The faster you can accept this Universal Law, the more time you can spend on actually living life on your terms. The longer that you revel in the pain, the confusion, the resentment, the longer you prolong your own happiness.

2. Some people should not be a part of your life.  Cowboy code states: “Never approach a bull from the front, a horse from the rear, or a fool from any direction.”  Guess what? There is no law that states that you must remain in a toxic person’s life because of length of friendship or blood lines.  It’s liberating and taboo at the same time.

3. Look only where you want to go.  I had one of the best trainers in the business.  She always used to catch me looking down at the ground while doing my half passes.  “Is that where you want to go?” She used to ask.  In horses, where you’re looking is where you’ll end up and it’s the same in life.  If you look forward, you’ll go forward.  If you look back, you’ll stay there.

4. Life requires balance.  To stay in the saddle you must do 3 things: Keep your head up, shoulders back, and your heels down, it is the only way to stay balanced.  If any of the three are missing, you are in danger of falling off no matter how fast you are going.  In life, if you stay rooted (heels down), keep your head up and shoulders back, you are prepared and confident for any obstacle coming at you.

5. Don’t be useless.  Did you ever hear a cowboy describe someone as being “as useful as tits on a bull”?  What they mean is that person is useless.  Bulls have no use for tits, and cowboys have no use for those that just stand there or get in the way of others making good use of their time.  Be of service.  Be efficient.  If you don’t want to help clean the barn, or change the world, then get out of the way of those doing it.

6. We are only as healthy as our surroundings. I have never been in a dirty barn.  Every stable has been immaculate to the point of obnoxious because vet bills are expensive.  Horse people know that a clean and well maintained barn is paramount in keeping horses healthy and injury free.  There is nothing like walking into a fresh barn with the smell of leather and hay, just like there is nothing better than walking into a clean home after a long day.  They are sanctuaries, and sanctuaries deserve respect.  It should fill your heart to be there.

7. We are only as healthy as our herd.  “Birds of a feather flock together”.  “You become like the 5 people you are around the most.”  Just like my no vice horse became a cribber while on stall rest just by being stalled across from a cribber, we become like our herd.  Want to be healthy and successful? Then surround yourself with healthy and successful people.

8. Everything poops.  Wake up, feed horses, muck stalls, go to work.  Come home, feed, muck stalls, go to sleep.  Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.  There are just some routine fundamentals that you must do in life.  Day in and day out.  No matter if it is sunny out, or gail force winds with hail.  It is called responsibility.  Just empty the dishwasher.  Just do the laundry.  It’s only a big deal if you make it one.

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9. The biggest lessons are unspoken.  Do you want to know what kind of person you are? Just ask your horse.  Do you get bitten and bucked because you’re full of conflict and anger? Or met with whinnies, and nuzzles?  When I’m not being forthright in my feelings, my horse will run from me.  I know that if she does that, I need to examine and change something about myself.  Your horse, just like your personal world, can tell yo a lot about yourself.

10. Sometimes, you have to “emergency dismount.” Young riders are taught that if you horse is out of control and running for a cliff or a road, jump off.  Horses have a mind of their own that we only pretend to think that we control.  You are only ever really in control of yourself.  If you don’t want to go over the cliff or risk being smooshed by a truck, then swing your right leg over, push off, then tuck and roll.  Same thing with life.  If the crowd is running for the cliff and you don’t want to go over with them, emergency dismount.  If your bad patterns keep providing you with undesirable results, emergency dismount.

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11. Every month, the grain truck comes. In horses you can count on feed bills, vet bills, farrier bills, and hay bills.  You can count on them just like the mortgage note, the water bill, the electric bill and taxes.  These are just the basics, there will be unexpected expenses.  It never ceases to amaze me that some people forget that the 1st of the month comes every month.  Budgeting and financial planning are very simple.  Spend less than you make, put some of it somewhere so you don’t spend it.

12. Always end on a good note.  Sometimes in horses, we equestrians get into trouble when we say “I’m going to take that jump just one more time.” “I’m going to try for a flying lead change just once more.”  When things are good, end there.  Don’t drink that one last drink.  Don’t have “just one” cigarette.  Don’t say that one last thing…stop while you are a head.

13.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Shit happens.  We all know that.  But what makes the shitty situation shittier is the realization that you could have done something, no matter how tiny the action, to prevent it all from happening in the first place.  Car making a noise? Get it looked at.  Have a miscommunication with a friend? Talk it over when things simmer down.  Waiting until the last minute to change that fan belt or to say I love you is not a good idea.

In Service,

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