Five things I Learned About Life From Horses
Were you a horse-mad girl? Did you beg your parents for riding lessons, collect model horses, put pictures on your walls? I did all of that, and I rode from age 5 all the way through college. I even became a veterinarian so I could spend more time with them.
There’s nothing quite like a horse. Studies1 have examined the magical, mysterious relationship between adolescent girls, and horses. Spending time with horses can teach responsibility and coping skills, and improve self-confidence and self-esteem. According to PATH International (the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship), working with horses can teach trust, respect, honesty and communication.
I don’t know if that’s true, but I know that I loved spending time with horses. And now I realize that those wonderful creatures taught me important lessons about life and work.
- Stuff happens, over and over again: Horses make manure. Every day. And every day you have to clean it up. Whether you hate the job or not, it’s important and must be done. Cleaning the barn, I learned not to be frustrated by a boring task. Instead, do it efficiently and move on.
- Do things that feel good: Have you ever watched a horse roll in the dirt? They have a wonderful time! A good roll scratches all the itchy places, and it’s so much fun! Sure, they get a little dirty, but a good shake takes care of the worst of it. So, when you can, do something that feels good!
- Many scary monsters aren’t scary up close: I once rode a horse that spooked at everything: puddles of water, blankets on the fence, parked cars…he once spooked at himself in the mirror of the indoor barn! I had to be ready for anything, and ready to let him stop, look at the monster, snort and dance around. Sometimes we had to try 3 or 4 times before he believed that it wasn’t going to eat him. He taught me to anticipate problems, and to be patient and creative in dealing with them.
- Fall off? Get up and try again! How many times did I fall off a horse? Who knows? I fell into mud, dirt and water, because my horse spooked, or because I wasn’t ready for the jump. I had lots of bruises and sore muscles, even a mild concussion or two. None of it stopped me from riding. I got back on the horse and jumped that fence, or rode past the scary flag. I learned not to give up; keep trying and you can overcome most challenges.
- Help each other: The horse-crazy girls I knew worked together at the barn to help pay for our lessons, and competed against each other at shows. When I groomed for Karen, I did my best to make her and her horse look perfect for their classes. When Karen groomed for me, she did the same. And when we competed against each other, we were proud of each other’s successes. I learned to compete fairly, to honestly congratulate others for their success, and to be inspired to try harder the next time.
- Working hard feels good: After a long day of riding at a show, barn work, and putting the horses to bed before going home, I was bone tired. I fell asleep over dinner, or skipped it in favor of a shower and bed. Despite the fatigue, it felt great. I learned to like the feeling that came from giving my all, regardless of how it turned out. And I learned not to beat myself up for mistakes.
These are lessons I use at work every day. Parts of my job are boring. I make mistakes, or have scary projects. I need other people’s help to do my work well. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t; and sometimes I just need a fun break.
I don’t ride as much as I used to anymore; it’s not easy where I live. The last time I rode, I fell – as I was dismounting! (The horse was REALLY tall…). So I laughed, and I stood up, and I’ll ride again as soon as I can. There are too many life lessons at the barn, and too much fun, for me to stop!
1 Toukonen, M. C. (2011). The relationship between adolescent girls and horses: Implications for equine-assisted therapies (Doctoral dissertation, Kent State University).
Images via pixabay.