This is a question I have thought about deeply over the past six months. The decision probably seems very odd to those who know me, especially those within the horse industry. The decision came down to results, refinement, and practicing what I preach in every aspect of my life, not just my profession.
I will forever be grateful to the horse industry. I got paid to travel the US to work with the most beautiful horses, work alongside some legendary mentors within the industry and outside of it, tour the natural landscapes of ranches, explore perfectly manicured farms, meet some amazing people, and most of all, learn from the interactions between horses and humans. At the end of the day, though, there was always a gut-wrenching feeling in my soul that something wasn’t right with what I was doing.
That feeling took me a long time to dissect in order to understand and accept the truth behind it. First, I was working for other people within a bureaucratic system that ensured that change was almost impossible. The result was that you worked against your own being and became the robot they most desired you to be. Then I began exploring the horse industry on my own, because I decided that I would rather be miserable and work for myself provided that it led to actual improvement, rather than seeing what needed to be done and not being able to do it for all the most nonsensical reasons.
Oddly enough, I really didn’t even begin my journey of learning until I had the opportunity to pause, which happened to about eight years in. At that time, I went from survival mode to a point where I didn’t have to worry about finances, and as a result I was then able to think and reflect upon everything that had happened up to that point. Before that, it was all I could do to find the next job that would pay for my next meal, and I had no time or brain capacity left to think. I only had room for action. This is the worst spot for any individual to be in, because it’s a vicious cycle that is tough to break out of.
The reason why entering the horse industry in the first place had been a no brainer for me was because of what the horse helped me through on a personal level (which is a story for another time). Through my learning process with the horse, I felt that I had finally found a medium through which I could help others live their lives better. It didn’t take me long to realize that the only way for a person to improve their horsemanship is for them to be very intentional with their actions and cultivate the proper mindset right from the start. This mindset is one that accepts the fact that change must occur within ourselves before any change can manifest outside ourselves, i.e. with the horse. Unfortunately, I soon figured out that people were not interested in that type of learning process because it is one in which the blame can fall only on the person involved.
This is where I stubbornly trudged headfirst into a metaphorical brick wall for far too long. I betrayed myself and the principles I believed in by succumbing to outside influences that I knew were wrong. Instead of leaving the path I was on, I became the embodiment of all the problems within the industry that I despised. I became an enabler, saying and doing the exact things that I was against just in order to “survive”, thinking that someday I would be able to change the industry for the better. This was, of course, an impossibility, but I clung to it in order to be able to stifle the sense of discomfort I felt every day, a feeling that tainted every dollar received and every horse I trained from that moment on.
The saddest part of all of this was that I did it to myself. I should have realized long before that I was going about everything in the wrong way and that I was ultimately in the wrong industry to accomplish what I had originally set out to do. This was all my fault, and no one was going to tell me any other way of doing it. I guess some people just need to suffer before they believe they deserve something better.
I ignorantly believed in the idea that when one is in doubt, one should just work harder and harder. I traded in my desire to change the rider to suit the horse, and I began to fit the horse to the rider. Meanwhile, a darkness continued to spread throughout my entire being, screaming and yelling at me to change my path, but I went deeper into the darkness by hiding my unhappiness from everyone and pretending that I was “living the dream”. I felt like every second that I spent with a horse was a second during which I was betraying them on a exponentially increasing level.
Mind you, this is all happening within me, and the horses were not conscious of or affected by this inner struggle. This is merely a journey within my own head, and it was one that I needed to experience in order to break down the old false realities, unrealistic expectations, and irrationalities that I had let take root.
So I soon figured out how to fit horses to their riders, which was invaluable. I learned amazing things about the human mind by honing my skills of observation and deductive reasoning over time. This allowed me to completely ignore any words out of the riders’ mouths because I knew how to get them to help their horses without really involving them at all. In other words, I found out how to take humans out of the equation and deal only with the horses in front of me.
I know that sounds heartless and arrogant – and I agree – but at the end of the day, it kept me sane. I’m sure everyone can relate to this scenario in some way? Sometimes with family, significant others, or coworkers, you just find a way to work around them.
Then came the last piece of the puzzle: figuring out how to make money working with horses. Toward the end of my journey in the horse industry, I was making an average of $15,000 per month, but I had never felt worse in my life. This financial stability did, however, finally allow me the space and time to step back and take full account of what I had created. Did I even enjoy it anymore? Was there any indication that I had helped change occur within the individuals I worked with? Was this really what I wanted my career to be about from the beginning? The more I thought about all of this, the sicker I felt within.
The answer to all these questions was a resounding NO! It was the same “no” I felt when I started this process long ago. The big question that followed naturally was what did I want my career to be and how do I go about doing it? Keep in mind the fact that I had been riding on average between six and fifteen horses each day, six or seven days per week, for the past ten years, traveling nonstop, coast to coast, across the US. I was utterly exhausted all day, every day. I know, right? How stupid was I? Pretty obvious in hindsight that something needed to change.
The transition process went something like this. I knew I wanted to work forever on becoming my best self, but instead of working on that through the horse, I thought that maybe I should try doing that directly through other people. (When I say work on being my best self, the essence of that statement is centered in the fact that the better I can become as a person, the more I can help others do the same for themselves). That’s what led me to life coaching, or, in my words, “a guide to the journey of self-mastery.” For obvious reasons, it’s easier just to call it life coaching. The next step was simply to try it out and see how it went. After just one session, I was in love all over again, just as I had been at the beginning of my journey with the horse. After seven months of full time life coaching, the only thing I wonder is why it took me so damn long to figure this out.
I still work with horses, but now I do it for the purity of the experience and so that I can continue to grow as a person alongside the horse. I only work with four clients per day in order to maximize the quality of my work The rest of my time is spent working on all the things I practice and preach, both with the horse and with guiding others through the mentoring process. A lot of my time is allocated to spending quality time with the people I want to be around most, learning from all the aspects of life and ranch living, and considering how everything relates to the beauty of the surrounding landscape. I am maximizing my ability to improve myself through the daily process of self-education and the application of this education to all aspects of my life. I am taking the time to reflect on my own being and thoughts. It has all been very intentional to get to this place, and of course things are constantly changing, but I can honestly say this has been the best seven months of my life.
This post is in no way meant to degrade the horse industry because I wouldn’t trade a single moment of my time spent on the road working horses for the public. Every person, every city, and every horse taught me more about myself and others than I could have discovered in any other way. This is why I am grateful for all the help I received from everyone along the way. I couldn’t have done any of this without them! If I expressed any negativity along my journey, it was simply due to the state I was in personally at the time. I was the one who gave in to the negativity and ignored the clear signs within myself that said I needed to change.
If there are a few last words I can leave you with, they are these: there is a way to live a simple, more meaningful life through intentionality. Take ownership for yourself. Don’t let others decide your future for you, but don’t hesitate to seek out the guidance of those around you; it will help you realize that we’re all going through the same hardships, they’re just in different forms that correspond to our individual journeys. We all need to raise our awareness by learning how to observe ourselves and our world more carefully, but guidance sure helps to speed up the process. Thanks for your time, and I appreciate you greatly.