Stuff My Horse Has Taught Me

Posted in: Horse Training, Ranch Life

Those of you that know me, know I follow the teachings of Buck Brannaman. One of his famous quotes is: “Horses and life, it’s all the same to me.”

I’ve known that quote. And in theory I’ve known what it means. But there’s a difference between what you think you know, and actually putting that into practice. I’ve heard my other half, say for years, “we’ll just feel our way through the [any given] situation.”


*cue crickets*


But the correlation is simple if you have an open mind. Mine, wasn’t very open. Not because I didn’t want it to be. But because I wasn’t in a place in my life where it was open the right way.

Recently, I rode my hackamore horse, Dino. I’m working on a few things with him, mainly, trying to get his feet un-stuck. They’re stuck for a couple reasons. First, I’ve lacked the conviction needed to get him to move out, and second, I feel this need to not upset the apple cart because I want him to “like me”.  But this time, I half hitched the reins around my saddle horn and worked on getting him to move out. Just trot the speed I’m riding, or lope, or slow down, or walk, if that’s what I’m doing, and my instructions from my cowboy were clear: Don’t steer him, don’t worry about where he goes, just that he goes.

A few things crossed my mind while I was doing this exercise:

1. I really over-think things.

2. I don’t like to feel like I am out of control.

3. I really have trouble letting go.

Isn’t it interesting that I learned all of these things on my horse? If you answered “No”, then you’re on the right track, friends. And if not, that’s okay too. Life is a journey, and we’re all on different paths. And we don’t all ride horses!

Another famous quote from Buck: “The horse is a mirror to your soul. Sometimes you might not like what you see. Sometimes you will.”

The things I discovered on that ride, they’re true for me when it comes to my human interactions. I convince myself that people don’t like me (over-think) and that affects my relationship with them in person. I don’t like to find myself in situations I think I can’t get out of (control) or situations that I created that I have to own up to (fixing Dino’s sticky feet is MY doing, and mine alone, or hurting someone’s feelings because I said something insensitive, or something that was better left unsaid). The Cowboy rides him and there are no sticky feet.  Dino knows the difference between us, and he understands intent. So do those around us -dogs, horses, cats, humans… And I struggle to let things go (be it my perceptions of how people view me, control over my horse’s face, or his movements, just to name a few). What someone thinks of me isn’t my business, anyway. I tend to get so wrapped up in making myself likable (because I’m often not confident) that I forget to be likable in the process. I’m forcing the issue. I’m bottling myself up (or my horse, by keeping hold of his face), and not simply going with the flow.

Prior to discovering and more fully embracing this “way”, I’d been lead to believe that my default setting was negativity. Well, you know what? That has only caused me heartache and drama and it’s an unhealthy way to live. There is good surrounding us, and there is good in every situation. Besides, if we can’t find the good and we’re constantly bothered by “things”, we will have knots in our back, and we can’t expect our horses to NOT be bothered by stuff either. We have to let go.

There is always causation for how we react in any given situation, until we realize what causes the reaction. Once we are “aware” of the root cause for how we respond, we can work to change the response for the better. After all – the only person we can ever really control is ourselves and how we’ll react in any given situation. We can either react, or through increased awareness (selflessness) we can adjust (Observe, Remember, Compare, Adjust) to fit the situation – before it needs reaction. We can take some time to think about it and be “aware” how our reaction is going to affect others. Believing it is possible to do this, is the first step.

Now that I’m “aware” of the “why”, I know I can overcome that. I can “feel” my way through a situation, because human body language, it’s not that different from that of a horse. And that’s what my other half has meant all these years by “feeling” my way through [human] interactions. My actions/presentation have a direct effect on the people in my life, the horses in my life, the dogs in my life…the list can go on. My presentation is why it took me so long to learn to catch Dino’s older brother, Gump.  My need for perfection is what drives Dino away from me and makes him hard to catch, for me, because he feels like nothing he does for me is good enough. My inconsistency has, among other things, created sticky feet with my horse, and I need to be aware of that so as I’m starting my next string of colts, I don’t build that in them.

I will only think positive thoughts.

I am actually in control of my perception, awareness, and presentation.

I can let go. I can let the reins, down, and let my horse, or people, explore, and be themselves.

The world doesn’t have to operate within my parameters.

I can operate within the parameters of the world.

And that my friends, is a better way to go.

What are some things your horse has taught you?

Posted in: Horse Training, Ranch Life

About Jenn Zeller

Jenn Zeller is the creative mind and boss lady behind The South Dakota Cowgirl. She is an aspiring horsewoman, photographer, brilliant social media strategist and lover of all things western. After a brief career in the investment world to support her horse habit (and satisfy her...

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