Leadership in Horsemanship — Part I Honesty
By Dr. Mike Guerini (www.dunmovinranch.com)
In this four part series, I will be exploring my Leadership in Horsemanship philosophy. The four components to my leadership philosophy include: 1) Honesty, 2) Wholeness, 3) Creativity and 4) Safety.
Part I is a discussion about the Honesty component. Honesty as part of our Leadership in Horsemanship can be thought of from two perspectives. First — are we honest with our own self and secondly — are we honest with our horse.
Honesty with self—
Being honest with ourselves is important in setting and achieving goals. Honesty is part of our moral character and refers to positive, virtuous attributes including integrity, truthfulness, and straightforwardness.
As we work to be the leader for our horse(s), we need to look at ourselves and perform an assessment of our physical, emotional and mental capabilities. We also need to assess our financial and time constraints. Finally, we need to honestly assess our abilities as riders and trainers.
We need to honestly determine how much our body can physically handle of the care and maintenance of our horses. This is very difficult because as we age, get ill, or have an injury we are forced to re-evaluate how much we can accomplish. We never want to admit physical weaknesses but in reality, our physical limitations can hurt our horses and that is why we need to be Honest about our physical abilities.
We need to honestly evaluate our emotional and mental abilities. Do we have the ability to give our horses the sense of confidence that comes from inside of us? Are we emotionally and mentally able to take care of the animal?
Now wait a minute you are saying — there are many stories where horses help people gain confidence and I immediately agree with you. Horses can be great inspiration for gaining confidence — if we have the right horse. Nevertheless, the important part is to understand what our role is in that process and the type of horse that can help us achieve greater confidence. We need to honestly assess if the good-natured horse can help us achieve that goal as opposed to the six month old that might run us over.
The financial and time constraints are actually the easiest to assess. Do we have the money (with a 3 to 6 month reserve) to take care of our horses now and in an emergency and do we have the time to feed and care for them each day (or pay a boarding facility to do that part) and do we have the time to spend with them.
True Horsemen and Horsewomen constantly assess their abilities as riders and trainers. These people can tell you what they can and cannot do. By knowing and acknowledging what you can and cannot do at this moment in time, it will better help you develop your goals — something that is part of Wholeness. Therefore, for each person, this self-assessment is so important because it helps us with Part II — Wholeness. However, before we get to part II, we need to think about our honesty with horses.
Honesty with the horse—
Honesty with horses comes down to the concept of “straightforwardness.” Are we direct and truthful with our horses?
Let me share with you two examples of working with horses and then choose the one that exhibits honesty.
Example #1 — John goes out to the barn. He has his earphones in, talking on his phone. His horse walks into the stall and John ignores the horse as he gets his saddle out and collects his spurs all the while talking on the phone. The horse walks out of the stall. John gets the halter, walks out to the pen and calls the horse to him. The horse walks over to John and the halter is put on. John is still talking on his cell phone and walks to the stall. John ties the horse up and then pushes his butt over with a shove. The horse is saddled; John gets on and rides, while still talking on his cell phone. The horse is twitching his ears trying to understand what John wants (John is to busy talking to be reading any of the horse’s body language). John tells his phone companion that the horse is pissy and that he is going to hang up now since this horse needs to lope some circles to get respect.
Example #2 — Judy goes out to the barn. She has her earphones in, talking on the phone. As she gets to the barn, she hangs up from the call and puts her cell phone away. Her horse walks into the stall and Judy says hi and then gets his saddle out and collects her spurs. Judy gets the halter and the horse easily puts his head into the halter and Judy finishes the haltering and ties the horse up. Judy gives the horse a pre-signal and aide to move his butt over and the horse immediately complies. The horse is saddled; Judy walks him out a few steps and asks the horse to give to pressure. Judy mounts and goes out for a good ride.
Both stories end in a ride on the horse — but example #2 is a person who is honest with the horse. Judy gives clear direction and is straightforward with her intent. She has come to the barn and is engaged and active about riding her horse. Example #1 is full of misdirection, confusion and lies because John is trying to ride and talk on the phone and not giving pre-signals or clear guidance to the horse.
Which of the two riders would you want to accept as your leader?
Conclusion of Part I —
Be honest with yourself and what you can actually do and treat your horse with directness (straightforwardness) and you will find that your horse is more willing to accept you as his/her leader.
Share your thoughts and ideas. Next up, Part II — Wholeness in leadership.
Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician and you can learn more about Dr. Mike and his 6 C’s of Horsemanship at http://www.dunmovinranch.com. Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (www.hydrot.com).