As someone with less than a decade of experience with horses, I’m what you’d call an amateur in the equestrian world. And much to my dismay, there is no fast track or express route to learning everything a person can learn about equine physiology, training, riding, or how to diagnose and treat injuries no matter how much reading you might try to do on the subject.
We can try, but the only way to learn is by doing. The same is true for horses.
There’s nothing more valuable than experience and exposure to… well, everything. Experienced horses understand things that inexperienced ones can’t wrap their little heads’ around. Even things as simple as understanding that the wind blowing might toss leaves across the paddocks and this isn’t something that merits spooking over. Or the clippers aren’t going to eat us alive. Or that the tarp isn’t a giant black hole leading to the center of the Earth. I’m sure you could add a few of your own to the list.
Veteran horse professionals have the same sort of calming affect on less experienced owners. People like my fiancee Lisa, who’s basically been riding horses since before she could walk, know how to handle almost any situation. When a horse gets injured and the inexperienced mind wanders almost instantly to the worst case scenario, the veteran goes to work diagnosing and treating. The veteran sees things that the amateur can’t, but just by being around the veteran and paying attention the amateur also gains experience and learns.
Experience makes the man and the horse. Without knowing how to handle situations it’s easy to be afraid and uncertain because in the end, nothing replaces knowing what comes next.
Today was a particularly cold and windy day and I watched an interesting affect ripple through the paddocks at our farm. While my off track Thoroughbred and his young-ish Appaloosa neighbor decided to run around at full tilt every time the wind picked up, Lisa countered with a simple maneuver. Time to play the rearrange game.
With a simple swap, Lisa moved her former barrel champion mare, one of the oldest, most seasoned horses on the farm, into the front paddock near our driveway and the woods and also next door to my OTTB. Almost instantly the running stopped as the older mare walked into the paddock, all class, standing there and drinking from the water trough, ignoring the world, as the wind howled about.
It was a domino affect from the first paddock down the line as the younger horses near the old mare went from wild to tame in a matter of minutes. In the same sense, Lisa’s experience paid dividends. She knew through her years of experience that having an older, wiser horse closer to the younger ones can help show the younger ones the ropes and change the dynamic completely.
Now, instead of developing an association like every time the wind blows it’s time to run around like crazy racehorses, we can work on the idea that maybe the wind isn’t that bad. Why? Because that old mare says so.
Exposure and experience aren’t just helpful, they’re everything.