From the horses mouth: Why every leader should hang out with western horses

My Sunday started out like any regular Sunday. Had a nice long breakfast, worked on a couple of communication concepts, did some proofreading and then off I went to the stables. The show season’s over and now we’ve put away our training hats until next spring and just enjoy nice rides out in the countryside. But the weather shifted, so it was either riding in the rain or riding in the arena… So arena it was. Practicng the basics.

Having been born in Texas, one would think the choice of riding western style would be an obvious one. But that is definitely not the case. What really appealed to me was the seemingly effortless way that riders and their horses interact – when done right. I loved the loose reins, the natural way cowboys and cowgirls would maneuver their horse around as if by magic…. No pulling, no kicking – just a smooth flow of wonderfully orchestrated movement.

Or so I thought – I started out with all the very best intentions. I was bucked off, thrown off, holding on for my dear life as my horse took off with me into the wild green yonder for apparently no reason at all.

And then, of course, like most people. My first reaction “stupid horse”, I need a better horse, better equipment, better this, better that…. You know, same old – same old. And then my trainer, who was barely out of his teens, but basically born on the back of a horse and wise beyond his years, said, “You know, if you don’t connect with the horse at a very basic “horse” level, it’s never going to work with you. It’s stronger than you, faster then you and smarter than you – you’re not going to win by expecting your horse to understand you.

So I let go…

Letting go is hard. Trusting when you don’t know what’s going to happen is hard. Getting on your horse, and instead of imposing your will on it  – just listening and feeling….is hard. But it worked, I left all my books and theories and how-to’s at home, sat on my horse and listened and felt, its breathing, its movement… and you know what? It listened back. I suddenly realized how its ears twitched in my direction with every little movement I made. I realized it was sensing my most minute movements. So I started letting go and lo and behold, if I looked slightly to the left, the horse moved slightly to the left. If I “felt” like moving backward, the horse would reverse. I let go of my own complex language and an entirely new world open up to me.

And now I know what it feels like to be part of the magical and wonderfully orchestrated movement that I so wanted to achieve. Me and my horse; well, I guess we kind of let each other in.

Be open for other worlds, let go and have faith, you won’t regret it…. from the horses mouth.