Embrace Your “Horse Gene” – Life Lessons From the Equestrian Lifestyle

For as long as I can remember, I knew that horses were something special.  They were four-legged dreams that galloped through my mind at night; they were the constant pencil sketches in my notebooks, the daydreams that got me in trouble…more than once.  I devoured every book, movie, television show and story that I could find in which horses played a key role, and then I began writing my own stories – the dreams of an adolescent growing as I grew.  These musings became part of me; as real as anything tangible.

sarah-and-porkyWhen I got my first horse, I was only five-years-old, and looking back now – some thirty years later – it almost feels as though I willed my world of horses into existence.  Throughout the years, there have been many times when it would have been easier to give up on horses – a teenager trying to find her way with friends and schoolwork, a college student struggling to make grades and work at the same time, an adult struggling to make ends meet – but to eradicate horses from my life would be something akin to losing an arm or a leg.

Developing Life Strength from Horses

At this point in my life, I realize that as much as I was learning about how to care for my horses, ride, show, etc., I was also learning how to live simply by maintaining my relationship with these animals, both in struggling and overcoming.  Owning horse has allowed me to be a better person – a stronger person – and has taught me that when you dream big, if you are willing to work hard, you can achieve and overcome just about anything that gets in your way.

This year has been one of transition and change for me personally, and I often find myself drawing upon the hurdles and triumphs that I have experienced in my “horse world” to get myself through some pretty dark days.  There have been times when it feels as though life is throwing me curve ball after curve ball, and instead of throwing down the bat and walking off the field, I think about the first horse that I trained.  She was my first real project – an unbroken, nearly 2-year-old mare with a mind of her own.  From the beginning, I had to puzzle out my encounters with her, kind as she was, because she made me work for everything that she gave to me.  I can remember the first time that I tried to teach her to load into the horse trailer – it took six hours and I got one of her front feet into the trailer and called that a victory.  I could have given up – called a trainer, told myself “this isn’t worth it”, or succumbed to frustration, but instead I went home, slept on it and started back again the next day.  Eventually, she was loading like a seasoned pro.

Riding Experiences Help us Create Solutions for Life

titanicLittle experiences like the one above have taught me that when I put my mind to something, I can figure out a solution.  I have also learned that while nothing is impossible when it comes to horses, you also “get what you give”.  I take this with me through life – more often now than I have in the past – because just as it takes compassion, strength, mental fortitude and humility to be a good horsewoman, it also takes these same traits to be a “good person” in general; it takes these traits to be successful in life.

As crazy as the world has become, both on a large scale and here at home, having a foundation as a horsewoman has allowed me a unique perspective on how to handle and conquer the tough things that life throws my way.  For this reason, I do my best to tell my story, share my experiences, and teach other horse people to learn to relate their experiences at the barn and in the saddle to their lives.  If you’re having a tough day, week, or even year, think about the things that you have managed to accomplish with your horse or horses, and it’s almost a guarantee that you will see how persistence, patience, gratitude and thoughtfulness can get you through these difficult times.

Horses Help us Work on our Human Relationships

Recently, I was with a friend in line at the drive-through at Starbucks.  She was frustrated with how long it was taking for the Baristas to get her order, and when they did manage to hand her the drink she had been longing for, it was not what she had ordered.  I saw her frustration building into anger, and I could tell that she was about to lash out.  I turned to her and said, “If you asked Cash (her gelding) to pick up his left lead (he has trouble with this, and it’s the thing that she is currently working on the most with him) and he got it wrong, what would you do?”.  She looked at me quizzically, but then she answered, “Well, I would stop him and ask him again.”  I responded with, “Would you get more out of him if you were patient and asked him softly, or would you jerk back on the reins and get frustrated?”  Of course, being a good horsewoman, she responded with, “I would ask him softly”.  I gestured to the Barista, and I saw a smile spread across my friend’s face.  She got the message – frustration and anger gets you nowhere in the saddle, and it gets you to the same place in life.

So, the next time that life is dragging you down, beating you over the head with a proverbial baseball bat, or simply dragging out and leaving you feeling insecure, think about how you would handle a similar situation with your horse.  When you have the “horse gene”, you can’t escape it; it permeates throughout every part of your life, so embrace that and use it to your advantage.

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