Neu Perspectives

It’s How You Make ’Em Feel

One of the phrases I’ve held close to my heart is something most folks have heard before: “They’ll forget what you do. They’ll forget what you say. But they’ll never forget the way you made them feel.”

This little saying seems commonplace but truly has turned into something of extraordinary impact in my life. I’ve found it to ring true in both my experiences and encounters with people and my personal impact on others. Sometimes it works positively, and sometimes it produces negativity (often unintentionally). I try to approach my interactions knowing that there is someone alive on the other end with feelings, thoughts and perspectives. It’s how we create relationships and friendships and connect with others personally.

“They’ll forget what you do. They’ll forget what you say. But they’ll never forget the way you made them feel.”

I got to thinking about this very phrase the other day, and I realized that it carries over into my horsemanship. My horses don’t care at all what I say. I can tell them they are good, bad or homely, and it affects them not. They don’t care if I change their names, and they don’t take notice of my singing. On another note, they don’t care much about what I do. I can ride in circles, work a cow, take a trot outside, jump cavalletis, go on vacation for two weeks (yeah, right!) or change my hairstyle and paint my house, and their day-to-day life remains fairly unaffected. My schedule, actions and life in general are low priority to my animals.

But with my horses — be it foals, broodmares, colts to start or older trained equines, how I make them feel has made all the difference in who they are and what they expect. How do I explain this without sounding like a crazy person? Well, let me take a crack at it. My horses generate responses to my actions and how I apply and release pressure. They can dread seeing me come at them with a halter (because I am coarse and demand only work), or they can see me walking up and know that a nibble of grain and a scratch on the tummy is to be expected. They can get grouchy and pin their ears because I let them push over me, or they can be bright-eyed and respectful because I’ve set boundaries on how I will allow them to behave.

When I feed them a strong, balanced diet, and it’s combined with exercise, healthy practices and good experiences, they often thrive. I have absolutely no illusions that they prefer me over others, but I have seen patterns over and over again of horses that I care about (and make them feel safe and cared for!) who respond positively and flourish physically.

A horse is extremely forgiving. We make mistakes with them in practice often. We can be cruel (with or without intention), and they are usually willing to give it another try for us. We confuse the heck out of them, and they forge through the muddy waters and attempt to retain what we are asking. Sometimes, they even get better, despite what we mess up! But a horse that feels neglect, stress or pressure with no release cannot improve when that’s all they experience. A horse that is pushy and rude without correction is also unhappy.

I love seeing a horse that’s happy to see me, just as much as they love that nibble of grain. And I suppose, when it comes down to it, the lesson I’m trying to share with you all is just the same as why we have these big animals in our lives in the first place.

Truly, it’s not what they say. It’s not what they do. It’s how they make us feel.

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