I don’t know if it is just me or if it is just human nature to constantly, persistently and unmercifully compare yourself to your peers. Our journey through this wonderful thing called life is as personal and unique as our finger prints. We are all learning at our own individual pace and perfecting our own unique skill set in our own way. Judging ourselves by anything other than our own individual scale is unfair and potentially damaging. Both myself and my husband are on our own different yet parallel horsemanship journeys. We make the pilgrimage to Wolf Creek Ranch annually to further our understanding of principles of advanced horsemanship and almost always end up learning more about ourselves and life along the way. Each year the growth is unique and different and typically not at all what was anticipated. This year, this was my journey.
Let me start off by saying that I am not a horse trainer. I am a horse lover. I am a competitor. I am a veterinarian. I am a fierce student aspiring to greatness. But, I am not a horse trainer, at least not a professional one. Instead, I attend to their health on a more than full time basis in the wilds of rural North Idaho. In my “free time”, I chase this dream of Cowboy Dressage for myself and for all of you out there just like me that are trying your best to be everything you can be for your horses.
Because I am not a horse trainer I look to many of my fellow CDWPA members and friends with great awe and I will admit, deep envy. In a different life I may have pursued a career in training, showing and teaching. It is certainly near and dear to my heart. To be able to spend all day long every day in the saddle? That sounds like “purt near” heaven to me. I can’t help but think how much more advanced myself and my horses would be if I only had the time to ride and train consistently. So, I often tell myself that if only I was a horse trainer my horses would be magnificent. Instead it’s just little ol’ me carving out the saddle time between fielding emergency calls and traveling in support of CDW. But, since I am not a horse trainer I also have the ability to work completely by my own faulty inconsistent schedule without financial consequences. I am beholden to no one in my training but myself. There is freedom in that that allows me to explore, fail, and try again without losing my way of life.
Each horse in our lives teaches us different lessons. We learn and grow by exploring our feel and timing and understanding of horses and the horses are our greatest teachers. If we have the commitment and the time and the passion we can learn from each horse we meet. In my current herd of Morgans I have one gelding that is much more challenging than the rest. He has met me at every step in our training with a new problem, new challenge and forced me to find a new way to attempt to communicate. He is willful, opinionated, strong and engagingly disobedient in the best of times. At his worst he can be a bit frightening and even dangerous. He is different than any horse I have worked with in my short repertoire of horses in my lifetime. He also has rare moments of shear greatness that keeps me inspired to keep trying.
|On Kit during one of our only nice days in the arena|
This is the horse that went with me to Wolf Creek Ranch this year. We traveled with fellow CDW of Idaho Professionals at MM Training and Consulting as well as a brave new comer to Cowboy Dressage, our friend, Janet. It was a bit intimidating to be traveling with my most difficult horse to take a course with competitors, friends and professional trainers and coaches that I have so much respect for. Marcia is currently our top showman two years running. To say she knows her stuff is an understatement. Davalee has been training colts for years and is also working her way up the CDW professional level. But, once you get in the round pen with Eitan all of that disappears. For that hour it is just you, your horse and Eitan riding your horse to the best of his ability from the sidelines. Eitan has a unique teaching style in that he attempts to be you on the horse. That means the instruction comes fast and furious at times and the feel and timing can be a challenge because ideally you would be doing what he is saying right when he is saying it. Instead you are always just a touch behind. What I find is so valuable about riding with Eitan is that if you let him ride through you, you can discover the feel you have been looking for. You quit thinking and attempt to quit anticipating and just ride. It’s not easy but it sure is rewarding. Anyway, our instruction time was invaluable. Due to the inclement weather we were in the round pen almost the entire week with intense one on one sessions. It was exactly what we needed and gave me a few of the necessary tools I had been missing to help me with my horse.
As I look back on the lessons learned this year and attempt to process the growth that took place during our yearly pilgrimage I think back not only to my time in the round pen but also to the times of discussion that happened after school. Sharing our views and ideas and exchanging perspectives was as valuable as any of the in the saddle instruction. We spent one morning just in classroom discussion with Eitan, listening to his wisdom and take on where each of us where in our own journeys was golden.
Eitan said one thing that has resonated with me over and over since we have returned home. I think about it several times a day as it applies to every aspect of my career, my relationships and my time with my horses.
“It’s not about being perfect, it’s about being decent.”
He isn’t talking about being decent at something, he was talking about being decent human beings. Good people. Being perfect doesn’t matter one iota if you are a nasty person when you do it. Eitan was also talking about the competitive world out there and how in the pursuit of winning you can lose site of being decent.
The drive for perfection is deep in me. My busy lifestyle means I am unable to dedicate the time to the pursuit of this passion like I would like. I look with envy on my friends that have more time to perfect these skills than I ever will. But, this is my journey. It is unique to me. I may never be able to be a Top Hand Rider or have a horse that is perfectly trained and able to execute all the advanced maneuvers. I can work on being decent though. That’s something I can do both in and out of the saddle. It’s something I can remember each time I am working late or another weekend. I can be decent. In my life of unpredictability, that is the one thing that I absolutely have control over.
It is not how far we go in our journey towards whatever definition of perfection we strive to achieve that matters in this life. It is not the accolades, awards and buckles. In the end, it is how we went along that path, being decent, kind and true. True to our own strengths, true to our own abilities and true to our own ideals.
Soaking up the wisdom as 8 coaches another rider
Photos courtesy of Marcia Moore-Harrison