Saturday, January 23, 2010

What's Your Story?

How have you changed since working with horses?

This is something I've been thinking about as I've contemplated the theme--writing and horses. I'm still in the middle of this book giveaway--two copies of Kiss Tomorrow Hello (drawing February 10th)--and I'm wondering what makes a good horse/human story.

Here's my list on how I've changed working with horses:

1. I talk to them less than I did. I've evolved toward quieter exchanges. Even in the saddle, I cluck and kiss less--moving more toward physical cues than verbal ones.

2. I'm calmer when they start to get excited. I'm with them so often, I have a pretty good idea of what sets them off and how they'll react. If I stay quiet, it helps them to calm down.

3. I don't sweat about how good they look day to day. I know they clean up good when I want them to, other than that, they seem to like to be dirty, so I don't fight it.

4. I rarely use gadgets anymore. I have a few staples, and that's about it. Rope halter, lead, long line, long whip, saddle, spurs, etc. I buy a lot less, too.

How have I changed personally?

1. I'm more of a loner or more in need of my alone times. I think it's because my animals draw me toward home.

2. As a follow-up to number one--all of my friends anymore seem to be horse people. Most of my socializing is on the trail or, in winter, at the Cowgirl Coffee shop. We like to talk, horses. So, it's a self-limiting group.

3. I deleted three because I thought about it and it wasn't really true. Maybe I'm more honest with myself after working with horses. LOL.

4. More tuned into my natural environment. This is a BIG one. I used to be a person who did not key into the fine details of nature--horseback rides and seeing things from my horse's perspective, has made me hyper-sensitive to sounds, sights, smells, feelings--on the trail.

5. I'm more forgiving of myself. I don't know why this is--it could be because I'm getting older, but I also guess that it's because I spend so much time with animals, who, as you know, take you as you are that day--were you kind? Did you tend to them? Were you present?--it's rubbed off onto my own views of myself. Which could also be worded--"helped me overcome my fears"--since my greatest fear when I started working with horses again was that my failures defined me. It's been a rare gift to see the day through the eyes of the horse--you are who you are today. Good human beings are the ones who also see people like that--it shows humility and strength to take people where they're at right now and not hold grudges--grudges come from FEAR. (Since I had so much to write about number five, I think it's safe to assume that this is where my own horse/human story would begin.)

6. I have more patience for menial tasks. Think, groom horse, horse rolls in dirt--clean stall, horse messes in stall immediately. It's like dishes and laundry, but stinkier and messier.

These are just some thoughts--I'm sure I've changed in other ways, too.

I'm curious--how have you all changed? If you don't have horses--how have your opinions changed about them? Opinions of Mustangs? Thoughts about a life with horses?

Here are a few shots from the barn--as I sign off from the blog today (remember--every one of your comments is an entry in to the book giveaway):

My sweet horse-husband tolerating Ezzie on the 4-wheeler as he works on repairing the guttering that Beautiful ripped off the barn. (He's "allergic" to cats--though he seems much less allergic to barn cats who earn their living!)

Remember what I said about having more tolerance for menial tasks?

Good job on the guttering! Day 6 and it's still up, though I put my odds on Beautiful for pulling it down again.

Ezzie loves the wheel barrow--she insists on staying in it to the last moment--no matter what's being put in there!

The pond that formed in Beautiful's turnout.

Beautiful eating.

42 and Ezzy--"barn sisters"


  1. I love reading how horses have helped you grow as a person, to be more tuned in, more tolerant. I've had little experience with horses in my life, except for a bit of trail rides, and living across the street from a stallion for a couple years in NH as a child. I think I've learned most about horses from visiting your blog and following your journey with Beautiful.

    And all this made me think of a book I think you'll love. It's called Why We Ride ... Women Writers on the Horses in their Lives, put out by Seal Press. Here's the link to the book:

    I'm familiar with this book because I did submit a story for consideration when they were putting it together a couple years back, about that stallion I mentioned, but the story was declined :(

    But the book really looks amazing, let me know what you think!

  2. I actually talk to my mare more, just random muttering. She doesn't seem to mind. I also seek solace in my mare's presence, which is why, with the increased demands of work right now, I'm having a harder time than usual with her out at winter pasture. :(

  3. Boy, it would take me days to come up with all the ways horses have changed me. I'll see what I can come up with off the top of my head. I've learned better patience, better emotional control, better attention to detail. I know my flaws pretty well through their feedback and I'm able to work on them. Same as you, I've learned to stay pretty level headed through their panic attacks. To trust them to find their way out of a bind when I can't safely get in there and help. I've learned that a lot of troubles are caused by the human end of the partnership, or by physical or emotional discomfort in the horse, not often willful disobedience. They are usually looking for the answer and it's our job to help them find it.

    Of course it's all a work in progress, as it will be all through life. That's another thing I've learned. There's always more to learn! And even if you "know" something, it doesn't mean you can do it right now. It takes a lot of effort to develop some of these skills, and to strive to be the person we want to be.

    Excellent post! What a wonderful subject to sit and reflect on.

  4. Really good post! I like reading your reflections. I especially like #3 from the top list! :)
    I'm happy to see that my horse isn't the only one with mud!!
    I sure wish I had a place like the cowgirl coffeehouse you mentioned!
    I'm about to embark on a journey of taking some lessons and learning a new style of riding. I'm really excited, and a bit scared!
    Have a wonderful weekend!

  5. I've been riding for a long time, but only recently - the past 5 years or so - have I really begin to pay attention to horses, and how they think and respond, rather than just riding and controlling their behavior. I have a much greater sense of horses as individuals, with their own thoughts and feelings, and I also find I am noticing so much more - the very subtle gestures and communications that happen. I feel that I've started over from scratch - that before, although I could get a job done, I really didn't know how to ride or work with horses at all, and now I'm beginning to find my way. Fascinating post!

  6. Joanne--I followed the link and I will plan to read the book when it's out. I sure wish your story had been included!! I'm interested to read it. I've never lived across the street from a stallion, but I can only imagine the things you witnessed!!! (Hope they had good fencing!!)

  7. Gun Diva--that's interesting that you talk more and I talk less. It's not that I don't talk at all--I have been known to carry on conversations with him when we're alone on the trail--like, if there's someone mean in the woods here, you'll protect me, right Cowboy. I think he says something like, if there's something mean in the woods, I'm outta here, and you're on your own--unless you can hold on!!

  8. Andrea--that's some good wisdom for off the cuff remarks. Sometimes you have to trust them to get out of tight situations--it's true. I agree that it's a work in progress, too. And that most of our job is learning to communicate to them. Reading your comment for some reason made me think of one more thing I've learned--leadership--or what being a good herd leader is, but that's another post. Maybe the reason I thought of it is because good leadership encompasses all the things in your list.

  9. PonyGirl--a new style of riding?!? I'm dying to find out more. At to #3, it seems like your Boy is always looking pretty good--but then your photographs make everything look better!

  10. Kate--I follow your blog and know how much reflection/study/thoughtfulness, you've put into your relationship with horses. It's interesting to me that you came by that later in life since you were so successful a rider already. I think a lot of my thoughtfulness came from self-protection. :)

  11. My horses have changed me A LOT! I gave up eating meat for a long time, nearly a year. Now, just occasionally. I eat better. I actually sing to them! It helps calm Gigondas. I dress differently now...mostly jeans. I hardly ever buy clothes any more. I just do with whatever I big deal anymore. Most of my friends are now horse people! I mean, WHAT would I talk to someone about if it wasn't "horse talk"?

  12. Cheryl Ann--You reminded me--JEANS--yes!! That's a big change here, too. How did horses motivate you to live healthier? For me, it's kind of my riding jeans and the whole comfort on a horse--every Spring I hit the treadmill--I've started again this week! What a motivator.

  13. I can give you a long list. One to infinity - Patience and tolerance. I have been riding since I was a young kid - 6 I think when I got my first horse. It has been an evolution of sorts through the years. Mustangs have taught me the most - patience and tolerance. I have also learned to control fear, in them and me too. It is a wonderful question. Gives me something to tghink about.

  14. Lea--you'll think I'm full of it, I'm sure, but the first time I saw you at a Mustang event, wearing a red vest--white hair--you just looked like a strong horsewoman. I had INSTANT respect for you which has only grown since knowing you better. You're a role model for me. Whatever horses did for you, they need to bottle and sell it!! (Or just go out and adopt a Mustang.)

  15. excellent post! i am right with you on most of your list. i could stay days on my farm and not leave but i force myself to get out there since it is healthier to do so! it is funny to hear visitors exclaim over the 'horse dirt' or watch them tip toe around...i don't care since my horses will roll in the mud right after a bath! being in tune with nature is so key for me...i have heard my deer talk to eachother, etc. because i am in the present moment and not lost in thought about whatever...and you are so right about the very right!!!

  16. Kritter Keeper--It sounds like you live in an idyllic natural setting. I think we're on the same page with the "horse dirt"! I was at a show about five years ago where a guy body clipped a yearling--it was February here in the Northwest!! As I get older, I become more and more "au naturale" with the horses. I don't even like to shave off their whiskers since I read they help them to distinguish between different plant types as they eat--weed vs. edible, etc. I go out and groom them every 2-3 days, but more because I don't want their hair to become matted--which keeps it from doing its work keeping them warm--practical necessity. Thanks for the comment!


Please feel welcome to join our discussion by telling us about your own thoughts and experiences.