Process and Purpose

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In working with a horse, it is important that one focuses on and understands the connection between the physical process of training the animal and the ultimate goal or purpose for which the horse is being trained. The physical process of training a horse is made up of countless small interactions between horse and rider, and it is important that all of these interactions are carefully considered by the rider. If one interacts carelessly with a horse or does not ensure that each interaction supports the ultimate training goal, the horse is likely to become dull or resistant in his response.

Often times, there are multiple interconnected purposes behind any given process of training. For example, if the training process consists of encouraging a horse to engage physically and mentally, the immediate purpose might be to facilitate a compassionate and clear understanding between the horse and the rider. This purpose may, however, lead to a secondary purpose, such as allowing a horse to think independently, seeking and finding answers for himself.

This example is reflected in the process of starting colts and the purpose behind it. First, in the round pen you indirectly connect the horse’s feet and mind to yourself by correctly positioning yourself in relation to the horse. This process builds the connection necessary for a smooth transition to a direct form of connection, such as halter work. The same concept can then be applied to the transition from halter work to saddle work, in that direct connection between horse and rider via the halter will pave the way for a successful connection between horse and rider under saddle. Ultimately, this direct connection will mean that the human is able to communicate clearly with the horse and support the desired training outcome of fluid, controlled movement of the feet.

Just as correct halter work and saddle work build on the movements of indirect communication established in the round pen, each interaction builds on and refines the foundations of the horse’s training. Complete refinement can only be achieved if there is an even trajectory from indirect connection to direct connection in the horse’s training and each element is in harmony with all the others. Each process must reflect the ultimate purpose and build upon previous processes, never deserting any piece of the training along the way.

With consistent quality work, this process of building connection creates a horse that is the same in all areas of horsemanship, no matter what the given circumstances may be. With a cultivated awareness of purpose behind each element of the horsemanship process, you can reap unimaginable benefits for both yourself and your horse. Beware, though – it takes great desire, effort, and self-reflection to reap the benefits, and all of this has very little to do with the horse. It’s all to do with you!

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What Can We Do For The Horse?

img_0244At the end of the day, we do little for the horse.  Think about it –  the only things we can give the horse are peace of mind in places it naturally finds unnerving, a meaningful and enjoyable job to do, and a sense of superiority over other animals.

Horses, as prey animals whose instinct is to flee, are inclined to stay away from anything dangerous to their well-being. As riders, one of the things we can give horses is a sense of peace in ‘dangerous’ circumstances.  When a horse is encouraged by the rider to be calm and connected in surroundings that seem threatening, a rapport of trust between horse and rider is formed.  This rapport gives the horse a feeling of safety and comfort with the result that it learns to let down its instinctual guard and relax completely.

Horses can also benefit from the work that we, as riders, demand of our mounts. A meaningful and enjoyable job can give a horse a sense of focus and purpose that, once understood, can provide a great deal of enjoyment. A horse that enjoys his job can’t wait to be caught up and go to work.

Finally, by working with horses, we can teach them to be dominant over other animals. As herd animals, horses are constantly trying to establish themselves within the social hierarchy, moving up or down in accordance with their level of aggression or dominance. Horses in the wild often establish their dominance by forcing their herdmates to move away from them in deference to their presence. A newly alpha horse might need to bite or kick another horse to force it to withdraw, but eventually it will take only a look to send another horse away. When we train a horse to herd cattle or other horses, we are reinforcing this dominant behavior and instilling a valuable sense of confidence in the horse. If the horse grows to associate your training with its dominance over other species, it will come to associate you with the endorphin rush of dominant behavior.

In these three ways, we encourage the horse to grow and improve while simultaneously submitting themselves willingly to the training and leadership of their rider. This creates a harmonious partnership between horse and rider that is inspiring, and both parties will seek to strengthen the bond.

Life Learner

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A life learner is someone who focuses not on the end game, but rather on the process of continually refining their idea of the bigger picture. This continual refinement of the bigger picture is intimately connected with the continual refinement of one’s own skills.

In order for wisdom to be accumulated, it is vital that a person improve a little bit every day so that, over time, there is a steady pattern of growth. Over the course of this process of incremental growth, the bigger picture also has to change incrementally and be refined in keeping with the insights one has gained along the way. Personal growth leads to personal change, and consequently the lens through which one views reality must be refined to suit this change. As a result, the life learner is always refining his focus area and changing their views on the world as they understand it.  Life learners therefore gain a deeper understanding of reality than those who are shortsighted, and this gives them considerable insight into many fields.   

The Instagram Effect

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Something I have noticed over the past few years is people saying how perfect someone’s life must be based on their social media page, social status, or profession. All that those people see is the glamorous image that is in front of them at that moment; they never stop to see the whole picture and recognize the long process that brought the person they envy to their current point in life. I call this the Instagram effect.

Those who rely solely on social media’s edited and filtered images to make judgments about the quality of another person’s life are missing the reality of the situation entirely. I have witnessed this time and time again in my own life. A lot of people see my Instagram pictures and think I am just living the dream – and don’t get me wrong, I am living my dream – but they don’t see the other side of my life which is struggling to find my niche away from everything and everyone I know and travelling coast to coast in a truck and trailer by myself for long stretches of time. There are countless days when I would give anything to be back with my family and friends working a 9 to 5 job with a sense of security. Instead, I am always trying to make ends meet as I further my education, moving continually so that I can pursue a life of learning and serving others with the knowledge I am slowly gathering. Of course, I do get lonely and become exhausted, but tomorrow is always a new fresh day to start all over again.

The images that I post on Instagram are invariably the most beautiful and idealistic moments of my life, and this is all that those who follow me on social media see. The reality is that these images are edited to look perfect, and no one’s life (including mine) is actually true to their Instagram photos. If someone were to post honest photos of their day-to-day life, nobody would want to see it. Nobody wants to see and hear about normal every day processes or, even worse, the downsides to certain bad days.  Everyone wants to pretend that if they were that person with the glamorous Instagram everything would be easier and perfect. All their problems would go away. The sad truth is that if they saw the whole picture, they would probably think twice.

I see this same phenomenon with horses all the time. Someone sees a horse they love, they buy it, and within a month or so the incredible horse has seemingly deteriorated into a normal horse.  As George Morris always says with a great smirk, “You can’t buy this,” referring to what he has earned through hard work with horses over a lifetime. Buck offers similar wisdom when he says that “you will need to bleed” in order to understand horses and achieve refinement with them.  You can’t buy a horse and expect it to stay great unless your abilities match or exceed the education level of the previous rider.

No matter how much the “journey” is emphasized as important, however, most people don’t want to go through the hardships in order to reap the benefits. Most people want good results handed to them.  But what would your life look like without the hardships, moments of self-discovery, and the failures that ultimately lead to new wisdom? What if everything was just handed to you and life was just success after success without any effort?  Wouldn’t it be a life full of selfishness and complete meaninglessness? In my experience, the best part of the journey is going through what it takes to progress forward: striving to live a life of meaning by serving others with your special talents and passions. Without the struggle, there is no incentive to continue living life with vigor and a sense of urgency to learn.  I don’t think that I have much to offer now compared to what I will be able to offer in ten or more years, but this is what keeps me going every day.

Don’t get caught up wanting to be someone else because their life looks perfect. Let go of that illusion, and start to do what you can in reality.  Find a way to live a meaningful life by serving others through studying, applying, and reflecting every day.  Nothing is going to happen overnight, and the only way to succeed is by accumulating knowledge over a long period of time.  I wish I had some great success story to tell you about how this process has led me to achieve great things, but I am merely another person trying to survive the journey and learn from the struggle. I have faith that the process will take me where I am meant to go whenever I am meant to go there.

Progression Process: Dedicated Study, Part 4

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Why is it that you need to research and study specific subject matter? We must study the past experiences and findings of others so that we may progress more quickly as a result of understanding their successes and failures. We, in turn, may progress the specific study even further through our own successes and failures for those who come after us.
If you’re not specific in your studies, you will just end up with a little bit of this and that, ending up with a whole lot of nothing worthwhile to anyone.

Through the deliberate time and practice put into your specific subject of interest, you’re able to question everything and reflect upon it. The next step is to dedicate yourself to the study of your interests. An example for me would be:

Horsemanship
I study horsemanship to learn more of how the horse works, both physically and emotionally, in order to understand better how to influence them positively. I learn from past mentors and by examining how they progressed through their growth with themselves and with other horses.

Leadership
I study leadership to learn more about human beings, both physically and emotionally, in order to understand better how to influence myself and others positively. I learn from the past leaders and how they progressed through their growth with themselves and with others.

These are two very specific topics with an amazing breadth to them. The refinement of your specific study will have to shape itself based on your interests because when you first dig into the research, you will most likely become informationally overwhelmed. This is why mentorship is so important, especially in the beginning, to help jumpstart your journey by giving you access to great information. As you find your mentors and get on your way, you will put the study itself through the questioning and reflection processes to help refine the information you want to take in.

The main point of the specific study and research is to develop yourself through others in order to help others. It isn’t about researching for a homework assignment or deadline, it’s about finding your true desire to learn and progressing to pursue your full potential. If you’re not able to develop yourself and your skills, how are you ever supposed to be able to help others or deliver a service to benefit the lives of others? How are you supposed to lead people if you can’t lead yourself?