Neu Perspectives

Use Me, Would You?

Have you ever hit the end of a day when you feel muscle-sore, mentally fatigued and ultra-productive? (And, if you are a little sick and twisted like me, isn’t that just the best?) 

I do believe that we are best when we feel like we can be used. Utilizing our abilities, training and knowledge to be productive is just one of the wonderful things about being on this planet. It’s good to be used. Useful. Usable. It gives us a reason and creates drive to practice and get better at certain skills. 

So, why don’t we apply this more with our horses? We ride them around in circles, arcing and counter-arcing. Pushing, pulling, driving, softening. We pick their papers, work on maneuvers, work the flag, we brush their manes and we constantly want to “make them better.” But sometimes, we go a whole lifetime practicing all of this stuff, trying to make it important, when really, it never gets used. 

And even worse, when we do get the, “Can you help sort?” phone call from the neighbor, or our payroll actually does depend on being useful in the saddle, our horses totally tell on us. We’ve spent all this time trying to fine-tune all that collection and foot placement, and they may come unglued. There’s nothing more exposing about our “horsemanship holes” than getting hollered at in a crucial moment, “Kel! Run out there and turn that heifer back… NOW! GO!” only for your horse to just mush out or fall apart in your hands. 

All that pushing, all that pulling, all those good bloodlines, all that collection and drive… You stop thinking about it for 30 seconds and try to be useful, and the gelding’s head wallers upside down and the heifer gets out the gate. 

(Not to mention, the guy with no hat on the unregistered pinto just makes it happen cleanly and efficiently in his faded nylon reins, fluffy saddle pad and $10 grazing bit.) Talk about humbling!

The bad news is that when this happens, it’s a little embarrassing. But the good news is that it creates a reason for us to get our horses better. We crave life in their feet, brokeness in our hands and a good mind between their ears, so that we can perform tasks well. We can make better horses by giving them jobs. Go check fences. Take them to help friends brand and gather. Rope the dummy on them. Rope live cattle on them.

Having a real thing to go do helps us to avoid nitpicking and gives our horses a chance to either shine or expose more of what we need to work on. And if you’re in a permanent set-up where there is just no real job to be had, make some fun out of the situation you’re in. Set up a pattern with barrels, work on riding one handed while you pack a flag around, or play tag horseback with a friend. Stop thinking so much about all the perfection and put your horse and yourself into a “just have to get this done” sort of state of mind. 

Horses will get more broke. They mentally and physically mature and learn how to appreciate a rest like they never would solely performing maneuvers and loping circles. Don’t sacrifice your timing, feel, knowledge or technique but do realize the value in having a horse with the right buttons to do a usin’ horse job well. 

Because when they can, they do and they will — well, isn’t that just the best?!

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