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  • crissimcdonald

The Words We Use


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The author with Caleb, 1994. 


“My horse is such a jerk,” I sputtered, the dirt flying out of my mouth as I brushed off my white shirt. I could still hear Caleb’s rapid staccato hoofbeats as he galloped away. He was thirteen years old, a flashy chestnut appendix Quarter Horse with three white socks. He’d had another surprise bucking fit and this time I had come off. Spectacularly. At a dressage schooling show, in the warm-up pen.

He was a skilled bucker too. He would plunge his head between his knees as all four feet left the ground. This time, I had sat the first four jumps, but just as I thought he was done, he added a twist to the left and off I went over his right shoulder.

After I recovered and remounted, we performed the best test we’d had all day. The judge made numerous comments about Caleb’s “nice impulsion at all gaits.” The irony wasn’t lost on me.

Often when I would talk with friends I would tell them what a jerk Caleb could be. How his bucking fits sucked, and how he was either lazy or airborne. The litany of things that I didn’t like about him became longer than what I appreciated.

About that time I started going to various horsemanship clinics and listened to what the pros had to say. It was an eye opening experience to sit for three days and not hear any badmouthing of the horses from these trainers. Up until that time, the only culture I had been exposed to was (I realized) based on a lot of fighting and negativity.

I began to search for the cause of Caleb’s bucking. I learned about saddle fit and equine chiropractic and bodywork, which at that time was just beginning to gain traction. I had both my horses worked on and I also worked on how I was talking and thinking about them. I practiced keeping my mouth shut when my old circle of friends started bashing their horses. Because of Caleb, I also learned about equine acupuncture, became an herbalist for horses, and learned how to keep him sound despite his numerous physical challenges. 

That was over twenty years ago. Since that time, I can say that because of this change in perspective, because of many years of learning, and because of Caleb, I prefer to search for the good in a horse, instead of focusing on what is perceived to be wrong.

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The author with Caleb, before the unscheduled dismount. 


I had a flashback of this time with Caleb when I recently heard a rider talking about her horse with words that sounded like she was beyond frustrated.

“My horse is willful, stubborn, opinionated and lazy. He has ADD; he can’t pay attention to anything, especially not me.”

As we teach across the country, my husband and I hear these descriptives consistently. There is some form of name calling going on, a litany of all the ways the horse isn’t satisfying the owner. Most riders are actually eager to change their perspective, but I am also convinced that it is their horse who is waiting for the moment when their rider discovers that everything they wanted was within reach, all they had to do was drop the story. One of the many amazing things about horses is, after all, that when we change, they do too. 

Name calling a horse, or anyone for that matter, may be borne of frustration or anger but I can guarantee you that the only result will be to perpetuate an adversarial relationship. Name calling is a lack of imagination, it shuts down our innate curiosity and it smothers learning. Wanting to have a partnership with your horse, and name calling are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Since when does seeing your horse as an enemy to be vanquished yield a harmonious and pleasing relationship?

I get the frustration, and anxiety, and ignorance. I’ve felt those things too (sometimes all at once) and will feel them again, I’m sure. If you have a horse, you have signed up for constant lessons in humility. As we go along through this horsemanship journey though, I think it’s important to remember that whenever we feel like calling our horse (or ourselves, or others) names, it’s also time to find another way to handle the situation.

Personally, I like curiosity. I also like the idea of pausing and breathing. Whatever your favorite strategy for dismantling frustration is, do it. You may walk away with nothing but positive things to say about your horse. And your horse will thank you for it. 

Comments


Comments (111)

Khách
18 thg 8, 2023

Thank you! I found this with my little mare. As I can´t ride anymore and she isn´t a horse happy to just stand around, she is ridden by others. Now I hear she is good in avoiding to work. When I say, no, she isn´t, probably they just didn´t give the right cues, all I get is blank stare, Seems that the idea, that a horse is always following the cues of the rider is not widley known....

Ursula,

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Cynthia McCormack
Cynthia McCormack
14 thg 7, 2023

So very beautifully said!! 💜

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Khách
10 thg 7, 2023

So true!

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sandy
09 thg 7, 2023

I am reading Untethered Soul by Michael Singer for the second time. ( I considered it to be “ my bible” ten years ago after making a major life change). your beautiful poem is like having dessert after I just finished the last chapter! Crissi you are so beautiful from the inside out. 🙏💖

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Khách
06 thg 7, 2023

I love this! I would also love to know more about Top. We have a 16 year old QH, whose previous job was a ranch horse, dragging calves, etc. We tease that his first answer is always a definitive "NO". He's coming closer to yes being his answer of choice for most things, but it's taken a long dang time.

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Khách
03 thg 7, 2023

Such beautiful and thoughtful words. I shared with friends and they were equally taken with your poetry.

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Khách
03 thg 7, 2023

Love Love Love this..... Thank you!

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Khách
01 thg 7, 2023

So beautiful, so true . A perfect poem and a,great way of thinking about things. Thank you so much for sharing Crissi.

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crissimcdonald
Admin
02 thg 7, 2023
Phản hồi lại

Thank you very much!

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Khách
01 thg 7, 2023

Sweet and poignant. Thank you, Crissi.

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crissimcdonald
Admin
02 thg 7, 2023
Phản hồi lại

You're welcome. Thanks for taking the time to watch it. :)

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Khách
01 thg 7, 2023

Well said! Thank you for sharing in the moment.

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crissimcdonald
Admin
02 thg 7, 2023
Phản hồi lại

Thank you!

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