I grew up in town, on a small acreage, in a now, large city in Texas. That I was extremely horse crazy from the time I was four years old would be an understatement, but at that time, having a horse wasn’t in the cards. In the summer of 1989, we moved from a small town in Oklahoma, to the then small, planned community of Flower Mound, Texas. Finally. My dream would come true, only 7 years after falling in love with horses.
My first horse was a 5 year old, blood-bay, grade, appendix-bred gelding named Butch. He was kind, thoughtful and pretty much bombproof. He’d come off the local dude string and he was my best friend. Daddy gave me 6 weeks to tire of feeding him twice a day. Obviously, he underestimated my determination. We rode all over the community, he and I, having adventures. He was the beginning of my journey.
I’ve been around horses my entire life since then. Everything from exercising polo ponies, to barrel racing, to roping calves in and out of the arena. I’ve always wanted my horses to love me as much as I loved them, but I didn’t realize I wasn’t offering them much that they could understand or love. Mind you, it wasn’t because I didn’t want to provide that for them; it was simply because I didn’t know any better. I hadn’t realized how much more there was to horses and horsemanship than what I was doing.
In 2010 I went to ride with Buck Brannaman (I’ve ridden annually with him since then). The concepts weren’t new. I’d been at the ranch since the summer of 2008, and had been exposed to doing things the way he does for a couple years. But I wasn’t a believer -- yet. I’d made my living riding horses before moving 1000 miles north to the ranch, so I had stuff pretty much figured out. I thought.
I had taken a very gentle colt to Texas with me in the winter of 2010, to start. My approach had created problems in his progress which had only increased the fear and uncertainty I had about doing things this way. The things Mr. Brannaman said and demonstrated during that clinic really shed light on why I was only marginally effective. It also helped me begin to realize that the more I’d apply these principles to the rest of my life, the better my time with my horses would be. “Horses and Life, it’s all the same to me” is how Mr. Brannaman puts it.
I left that clinic, and rode a lot more, but really, wasn’t completely convinced. I knew a lot of things in theory, but didn’t believe they’d work, and I didn’t always implement the things I knew. I waivered. Going back to the things I believed in, things that had in the past worked for me, all the time watching Zach, keeping on, keeping on, and getting more done on his horses than I thought could actually be done on a horse.
Now, I believe in what I’m doing. As I get farther in my journey, I am finding not only my relationships with my horses are improving markedly; so are my relationships with people, and dogs, and the rest of the world for that matter. I try not to fret over whether I’m being loved or liked, or seek approval. I’ve become more aware and try be more thoughtful and considerate as a way of life; instead of as means to garner approval. It has yielded much better results than all of my previous efforts.
My desire to “be in control” has diminished. I realize that nothing can be perfect. The horse doesn’t hold on to wrongs done to him. He doesn’t worry that the boss horse doesn’t “like” him. He gets out of his way and goes back to eating. Life situations I’ve found myself in forced me to take a look at why my back was constantly knotted up, have shown me that the principles and philosophies we apply to horsemanship, work just as well in life in general. I’ve always held my heart in my hand when I rubbed a horse, but I’m betting that even ol’ Butch would have loved the new me a lot more than he loved the old me. And he loved me a lot.
I look forward to continuing my growth here at Project H3LP! and hopefully helping others more quickly navigate the early parts of this journey to Lifemanship.