I read an interesting blog post the other day by a guy named Mark Manson. He used a high octane four letter word and in the interest of not losing my message by the tone of my delivery, I took it down a notch.
Basic premise: We have only a limited amount of darns to give. We waste them on trivialities and then what is real and meaningful in our lives gets lost in the shuffle.
There’s about a 1000 ways to apply this concept. As this is a blog essentially about horses, I’m going to direct it there.
Some darns I’m done with giving:
Everybody does it this way
I’ve done it this way all my life
I’m not as good as so and so
I’m better than so and so
This is faster
People might laugh at me
The list could go on quite a ways but you get the gist. Following is a list of darns I am dedicated to giving:
- The horse comes first
- Work from where the horse is
- Ego has to go
- Mouth shut, ears open
That list could go on quite a little ways too. Feel free to make your own.
Mark makes the excellent point that not giving a “darn” does not mean you are indifferent. It means you are comfortable with being different, walking your own path, trusting the beat of your own drum.
In order to place the horse first, I have to let go of my agenda. If I can listen, the horse will tell me where he is; will tell me clearly what we need to work on at that particular moment. I need to be awake and free of mental chatter so I can recognize that attempt at a try, the smallest change. What I release to is what my horse learns from me. If I miss the tries, he’ll stop making them.
If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard someone call a horse stubborn I wouldn’t have to go back to work not one more day. What’s more likely is the horse has tried, the people miss it, keep asking, raise the pressure until the horse is angry and confused. They lock up, shut down and then the human reads that as stubborn and unwilling. When they can’t take it anymore, they explode.
People think it’s without warning and it absolutely never is.
There’s been a lot of hours I have spent in the peace and quiet of my backyard round pen, eyes closed, feeling for the try. I discovered when I worked horses at night, it was easier to feel the try. I could hear the change in their breathing, the cadence of their hoof beats. Harsh to soft, stuttered to smooth.
I’ve picked up the lead rope and asked the horse to move a certain way and at first I often got a result other than what I was looking for. I paid attention. If I do this, I get . . . this. Okay. Make adjustments.
Peter said over and over “Do less! Do what you do but do less!” I am still working on that. Bringing my good deal down in energy until it truly is a good deal for the horse. That softness, that moving in a cushion of air between me and my horse. That’s the goal.
A person might have to firm up before you get there but firming up cannot be the first card you draw to. The release has to be very quick when you have increased your energy or again, your horse becomes afraid or rebellious because they can’t understand what you want from them.
The horse gives a darn about staying alive. They want leadership, someone to save them from the ever present wolves just outside the door or hidden in the shadowy corner of the arena. They are going to do what they think is in their best interest.
Getting the horse to relax and be with you mentally will cause your horse to give a darn about you. All the treats and baby talk in the world will not get this accomplished.
Maybe the most darn I give out of the whole long list is to be the best person I can for my horse. That means I have to be the best person I can everywhere I am. You cannot be one person at the barn and someone else out in the world. Can’t be done.
In a world that seems to be focused only on what their horse can do for them, Peter gives me a different approach. “See what you can do for your horse, not what he can do for you.”
Since I have begun to make that change, you wouldn’t believe the difference in my relationship with my beloved Royal T and pretty much any horse I have the privilege to handle. I promised I would never drop him off a cliff to save myself again and so far, I’ve been able to hold true to that promise.
Make choices about where you give your limited number of darns. Mark also makes the point you have to give a darn about something more important than adversity. Anything worth doing is difficult. Change is tough. Surrendering the idea we already know all we need to know to get by, that’s tough too. Infinitely worth it.