When I think back to my earliest days horseback, the sensation of anxiety washes over me. As a child, it was pretty typical that this feeling would accompany old Tails and I on our ventures across Armstrong County. Whether we were moving pairs to the next pasture, checking on the calves, or helping the neighbor’s work their cattle, I worked hard to hide the nerves buried in my belly.
I was probably mounted on the most kid-broke gelding in the entire county. He’d seen a lot of country in his life, carrying my grandpa through numerous team-roping seasons and packing each of my older cousins around the ranch before me. Aside from being my first best friend, he was a veteran of all, and his expertise helped get us through any doubt of “oh-no-what-will-I-do-now” that popped into my mind. Man, oh man, how I’d love just one more ride on that gentle, friendly beast.
There are pictures of me horseback before I could walk on my own; by the age of six I had spent the better portion of my life sitting on a tipped over lick tub listening to dad as he worked with horses. Timing, patience, pressure, and release was the mantra of every lesson I sat through in that old, blue barn.
I was fortunate in my upbringing: my dad left the mug-em-tie-em-sack-em-ride-em way of horse-breaking behind before I came along, and ventured down his journey of becoming a better horseman after a good neighbor, and great friend of ours showed him that there was a better way around these beautiful animals.
You see, all that a horse desires is to be comfortable. If a horse is content, he needs not. And often, they learn to be less than content, and still need of nothing. They adapt to the environment around them, regardless of the situation. Horses have figured it out. Humans, well, we’re still getting there.
I don’t really recall my first ride without the feeling of a bottomless gut; in fact, it was just recently I realized I no longer carried this emotion into the saddle with me. Boy, I bet I’d feel a ton better to Tails now.
At some point in my growth of horsemanship, however, I realized that the fear I experienced was not caused by my lack of know-how, but my lack in control of the outside world’s chaos. Somewhere among a couple hundred miles horseback, from being ponied all the way up to putting the first ride on a two year old, the need to control chaos disappeared.
A more believable explanation is that I actually became aware such control was not possible. It was at that point in my horsemanship journey that I truly began to make progress. We are not able to manipulate every aspect in life, and horses can help us to learn that. All that we can do is prepare for the best, encourage great outcomes and adapt to the chaos when it arises.
I’ve come to learn that this is essential in not only horses, but in life. In fact, I’m not at all surprised that the loss of my useless anxiety passed by so unnoticed in my journey. I guarantee it was at that point in my life which my success with horses, work, and life in general, began to flourish.