Sometimes, if I feel a little uncertain about a situation or I’m not sure how to proceed with something, I get the advice, “Fake it ‘til ya make it.”
I both ignore and dislike this advice.
In theory, I understand the reasoning behind it. “Convince yourself you are this and you will become it.” It’s a confidence thing, right? And sometimes, it offers a little “smoke and mirrors” to buy you time until you become the real thing.
I’m just not the sort of person who can put this into practice. Take golfing – I know nothing about golfing. I’ve never played or even watched someone play. Sure, I could buy the right clothes. I could borrow clubs that were the right kind, with the acceptable amount of wear on them. I would hope to fit in, but as soon as I used the terminology, or picked up a club and took a swing (is that the right term?), I would tell on myself. In the meantime, I would be a nervous wreck, knowing I was trying to pretend to be something I wasn’t.
Our horses feel the same way. They are only going to learn what we teach them, and they are going to show the world the results of that. They don’t care how badly we want something to go well, or to be accepted, to look cool or, for some of us, just to stay in the saddle. They only know what we (or someone else) has instilled in them.
A horse with the time, care, experience and education put into him will prove to be broke and seasoned in ways that are impressive to even the most knowledgeable eyes. On the flip side, you can spend a whole lot of money to purchase a horse who is already well seasoned and trained, but you still have to commit the time and support to keep that horse in shape – the old “use it or lose it” mentality. Sure, we can go out and buy a very trained, very cowy Metallic Cat gelding to show everyone how well we can work the flag. If it’s the right horse, with the right amount of time, he may stay that way for years. Or he might deteriorate within one work without the proper support. I’ve learned if you don’t know how to create and maintain the training program, you will have a hard time keeping your horse at that level.
The great news is that a lot of horses will fill in for us. They pack riders down the trail, ropers in and out of the box, and reiners around their patterns time and again with patience and safety. They do their best to maintain what they’ve learned and do their jobs despite our shortcomings.
When things don’t go the way we want, we can blame the situation, or the horse, or the traffic on the way to the event. Usually, though, the truth is our horse’s training reflects what they have and haven’t been through up to that point. If they are well trained, traveled, relaxed and prepared, they usually come across as such. If there are places that we have placed too much pressure on them, or not enough, or they are green, that usually shows through, too. Horses can’t fake it. Their performance is a direct reflection of their preparation.
I’ve been there. Even if you try to mask what you can’t do or don’t know, it will be apparent to those who have the knowledge to be helpful. Even if it works for a while, they’ll eventually see the shape of your hat, or your tiedown adjusted incorrectly, or your spur on upside down, or your horse threatening to rear up when you ask him to slide.
Instead, realize the people you hope to impress have all experienced similar struggles and understand the lifetime marathon that is horsemanship. Know that your horse accepts you for exactly what you are and where you’re at, and he’s always receptive to learn when you have the right tools to teach him. Those of us who can live with our horseback insecurities and meet our hardships with questions, enthusiasm and humility will find the right sort of help in peers and horsemen to assist our journey.
Just hope the help you seek is good-hearted enough to stifle their chuckle when they finally turn your spur around the proper way.