Saturday, March 22, 2008
I subscribe to a magazine called the Eclectic Horseman, and I just received the latest issue. There’s an article called “Matter-of-Factness” written by Tom Moates that started a dialogue in my brain ever since I read it yesterday morning.
Moates attended some clinics with horse guru Harry Whitney in Arizona. At one point, Whitney asked him to help bring in a couple of horses from the pasture. They drove out in a ATV that Whitney calls his “mule”. Without thinking about it, Whitney hopped back in the quad holding the lead line and prepared to drive back to the barn. Moates worried about some “what if’s” like the horse spooking or slamming into the vehicle. He kept his mouth shut, however, and got back on the”mule” holding his horse on the lead line. The two horses trotted along calmly as they drove off.
It led Moates to decide this matter of fact approach, which he believes is based on unconscious confidence, is something he is going to emulate. He thinks that all those “what if’s” that go through his mind, like what if the horse goes berserk, are the opposite of this matter of factness. He suggests that a “what-if-ness” approach is just looking for trouble and indeed, even asking for it.
Now, I understand that a horse can sense a person’s uncertainty, and this can set off a series of very unnerving responses. I’ve had it happen many times myself. So, I know that there’s a core of confidence and calmness that you must carry inside you in order to communicate successfully with a horse. What I also see is that people who blithely assume the “matter-of-factness” without having the awareness that includes “what-if-ness” can get into serious trouble.
I admit that I’m a “what-if” kind of girl. A friend once told me that I’m allergic to not knowing. I tend to worry, but it’s a trait that has made me a successful TV and film producer for many years. When someone asks me what the producer does, I reply, “I’m the one who worries the most.” I can’t help wondering if at some point before that day with Tom Moates, Harry Whitney didn’t let the horses sniff the “mule” or even stand still tied next to it a few times before he started driving along with them trotting beside the moving vehicle. Each horse is going to react in its own individual way to every situation, so to just assume that things will be fine seems a little naïve. There’s a famous saying in my business: “Assumption is the mother of ----up”,
Just this morning, I experienced a positive re-enforcement of my “what-if-ness”. I gave the horses some hay and opened up the barn so they could go out in the corrals. Then, I noticed that I should do a quick muck in Siete’s stall. There’s a back door leading out to the yard, so I went in through it and cleaned up, leaving the muck bucket outside the door. As I stepped out to empty my forkful of nuggets, I thought. “What if one of the horses raced in, and the back door was open?” As a precaution, I stopped and hooked the door closed before I dumped my fork in the bucket. Instantly, Silk charged into the stall, running right up to me at the back door. She probably heard me and thought there might be some more food to be had. If my back had been turned and the door was wide open, I’d be chasing a loose horse instead of sitting here drinking my coffee and writing my blog. So, to my mind, a little “what-if-ness” can go a long way to avoiding a big drama.