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Live Each Day With Courage

One of my favorite books I’ve read is “Feel The Fear And Do It Anyways”. It has a great message, which basically says we spend too much time avoiding things that worry us, make us nervous, or that scares us.

When it comes to horses they are hoping to get a leader to follow that is courageous. Horses are much more apt to be brave if their human is brave. We obviously cannot be perfectly courageous in every aspect of what we do but we can always work at it. Some people are very courageous in almost every area with a horse so that leaves them time to work on other aspects of what your horse would like in a human.
If we expect our horse to be courageous it is all the more reason we need to be. It would not be fair to ask or expect our horses to be or do things we are not or would not do.

We can keep things true and honest between ourselves, and our horses if we have a rule that says I won’t ask the horses to do anything I won’t do with them.

Often because of our fear some will avoid important things that need to be done with their horses and ask their horses to do other things that are not important. An example of this might be all horses and riders should canter for safety reasons. Many people would say they don’t canter because they feel it is unsafe. That could be very true for the moment, but what are you doing about it to get safe? If you only ride at a walk or a trot and never at a canter each ride is risky. You need to know what the outcome of a canter will be with you in the saddle. It’s risky because any horse at anytime could have a moment where they spook or want to run with the other horses or just want to run. We are not always able to change their minds and it can happen they canter or gallop whether we want to or not. It is far safer to canter in a controlled environment when you make the decision. A horse and rider both need to get used to the feel of each other at all the gaits regularly so if something unexpected happens and they canter or gallop off, you are very comfortable with it and don’t make matters worse by being tight and bouncing. Generally if they get excited and I’m really referring to a colt that’s been rode a couple times if your comfortable cantering they will only get a stride or two in before you have them back calm and relaxed. I’m thinking more about young horses but I have seen plenty of horses that are in their teens and still out of control. Now they shouldn’t be cantering or galloping off without being asked ever, but if you’ve rode enough of them it happens. It rarely happens if you have been asking the horse to canter regularly. They become comfortable with a rider at all the gaits. If they are feeling full of energy you can help them expend some in a positive way. Not checking out all the gaits is kind of like driving to town but never checking out your brakes until you’ve got the old dodge up to 70 mile an hour. Hopefully you have some.

Another common occurrence is asking a horse to do things that we won’t do. That is not being courageous or fair and we are not holding ourselves to the same set of rules. For example if we ask our horses to jump on line or at liberty then it should be because when they are doing well without a rider then we are going to jump with them. It keeps people more humble and real about what they ask of their horses. I see people ask their horses to jump all different heights and objects but never jump half of what they make the horse do.

Prepare your horse then prepare yourself. If your not ready or have not learned yet the preparation necessary find professional help. Look for someone that has done lots of it and get their support. Handle your horse and yourself with courage each day. Always looking at ways and opportunities to build on what you already have and the things you have done. Nobody likes a spooky horse and horses don’t like a spooky rider. We never know what might occur on any given day or situation so prepare for the unknown.

We cannot set up or show a horse everything they ever might see but we can train them and ourselves to accept new things, sights, noises and challenges with courage. How they are handled and how we act when we spend time with our horses can prepare them for things that they have never seen before and that we could never duplicate.

For example, this past summer I was asked to ride my stallion through the Calgary Stampede grounds in the middle of the day for promotional purposes where the Stampede committee handed out pamphlets, took photos. People came running up to see the horse. The committee asked me to ride all threw the hotdog stands, guys jumping motorbikes, babies in strollers being pushed at him under his neck behind him, people shoving their babies at me wanting me to hold them for a picture on the horse while people stood all around him in their shorts and flip flops slapping and rubbing every corner of him. The sling shot ride, the Ferris wheel and roller coaster all going in full swing. People screaming, whistling, music blaring, and not one person in flip flops had any thought about their toes sticking out right next to that stallions foot. One small step from him and there would be toe juice squirting everywhere. I could not possibly create that kind of noise, chaos and confusion back home on the ranch nor would I want to. What I can do is ride and handle him and myself each day working towards courage for those unexpected days. Nobody lost any toes and he stood there amongst all the craziness of the midway and people, like the amazing horse he is.

Courage and confidence is something we can always get more of if we build towards it. It’s always nice to ride a courageous horse. You never know what you might be asked to do and it’s always nice to be able to say yes.

Glenn Stewart