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  • crissimcdonald

Quality Vs. Quantity

Where there was once green grass, there’s now snow and the leftovers of what was a lush pasture. It’s March, which means it’s also time for our horses to come home. As Mark and I walked out, the halters jingling at our sides, we saw six sets of furry ears pointed in our direction. Each horse began walking toward us, the sun glinting off the icicles that they were wearing in their manes.

We haltered each horse, led them through the gate and up to the stock trailer. As we asked them to load one at a time, they stepped into the trailer with slow and quiet hooves, their heads dropping before we tied them.

Some of our horses only get hauled twice a year – to pasture and back – yet they load as well as our two clinic horses who get in and out of our trailer multiple times, rain or shine, night or day, whether we are pulling into a quiet overnight stop, or getting them out at a truck stop so they can move and have some water before we continue down the road.

We’ve treated trailer loading like much of everything else we ask of our horses; slow, steady, and not adding a lot of extra pressure. While we always do our best to listen, we also want to hold the intention of none of this (this being whatever task we’re approaching) is that big a deal.

Subsequently, whether it is Top and Banjo getting into a trailer for the fiftieth time that year, or Rocky, Rusty, Tuff, or Ally stepping inside for the second, all the horses load as though it isn’t a big deal.

The big lesson I keep learning thanks to horses is that it isn’t quantity – it isn’t working them five days a week for however many hours a day. It isn’t doing rote repetition of the same thing over and over. It is about ensuring that the time together that we do have feels good to them. That we’ve listened to what they are saying and do our best to respond in a way that promotes a softer way of going.

Being with horses is simple if our goal is to promote a calm state of mind when we are together, and through all the tasks we ask of them. If we can habitually help a horse reach a calm and quiet state of mind, that state carries over to other tasks.

Mark often talks about being the calm in the eye of the storm. We all know that horses being horses, they will sometimes worry. They will get scared, they may not understand what we are asking. But if we keep quiet and help and explain, we can be the clarity in a confusing mass of information. We can take advantage of how the horse is built to connect with all of life, and connect to our calm state of mind so that it can become their calm too.