I pulled into my driveway, forgot to put the standard-shift car in gear and it rolled away. As I chased after the car, I was angry that my car doesn’t have a sensor to remind me of all that I forget. Most modern cars do have sensors to remind us to put the car in park, turn off the headlights, get the oil changed and even beep when we are about to back into something. What did we do before the modern car? Oh right – the horse.
“For most of human history, vehicles had automatic collision avoidance and could even take you home when you were sleeping or drunk. Then we got rid of the horse.”
The interesting thing is that true horsemen don’t need any sensors around the barn. A true horseman just doesn’t forget the essentials of horsemanship – EVER. We never forget to put the butt-bar up first in the trailer before we pull up the ramp. We never forget to tighten the girth after we get on. We never forget to close a gate or a stall door.
Some say that ‘too many lawyers and too many laws have stifled common sense in humanity and restricted the natural tendency for Darwinism’. However, in the world of horses, common sense is required and Darwinism still applies. In order to survive as an equestrian, you need to have exceptional common sense, be organized and operate well under pressure. (BTW these are all good qualities for success in life)
For example, dog people think nothing of wrapping a leash around their hand. That can be a fatal mistake for horse people. Our common sense tells us that it’s never a good idea to wrap the lead of a 1200 pound animal around your hand. We know it’s never a good idea to be wrapped to anything bigger and stronger – that includes ornery ponies and miniature donkeys. Those little buggers can drag you all over the barnyard despite their miniaturized size. They have an unprecedented will and determination. There is no greater Napoleon complex that a stout Shetland pony with an attitude.
I am more organized in the barn than in my home. In the barn, my tack is clean, my stalls are mucked, there is one place for everything and everything is in its place. In my home, well not-so-much. Recently, my son woke up sick in the middle of the night. Embarrassingly, I found myself driving around at midnight looking for an all-night pharmacy to buy a thermometer. Yet, if my horse picks at his bucket of grain, there are two clean thermometers stored neatly in the emergency kit in the barn. I have two, just in case one does not work.
My brain works differently in the barn. At home can lose my cellphone, my car keys, or my eyeglasses in seconds. I spend most the time at home wandering around looking for something that I just had in my hand a minute ago. My house has three flights of stairs so my forgetful memory is actually great exercise. Hair elastics are the bane of my existence. I buy the 100 pack from CVS and within a month, there is not one elastic left in the house. I climb all three flights of stairs to inspect each floor looking for one SINGLE elastic only to come up empty handed. BUT if I were in the barn, there is a container of black elastics stored neatly on the shelf in the tack room. The same container of elastics I bought last year. It blows my mind that dust actually accumulates on the cover of the container of horse elastics, while CVS hair elastics just vanish overnight!
Emergencies: A seemingly quiet moment in the horse world can turn into an escalating emergency in seconds. For example, the first time you clip your young horse on the crossties. The horse is standing quietly. You turn on the clippers. He shoots backwards, flailing hysterically. Common sense would tell you to grab the halter, pull forward or use the quick release, but since you operate well under pressure you know – to shut off the clippers first and that sometimes a flailing horse on the crossties is not something you want to approach from the front-end. Having someone carefully behind the horse to encourage forward movement may thwart the crisis. You can assume that the other seasoned horse professional on the back-end is also good under pressure and therefore knows to be careful not to stand in the firing range of a panicking horse’s hind end – usually far less of an issue as the hind legs are fully engaged to effectively rear up so high that they flip over landing on the hard concrete. Common Sense and operating well under pressured then prevails, so that no one approaches the horses while his legs scramble in all directions to get back onto all four feet. Once upright and rational again, you know it’s time to approach and use your critical thinking skills to come up with a new way to introduce the clippers – because your horse WILL be clipped despite his shenanigans.
Amazingly, true horse people have a way of outsmarting the beast and SOMEHOW within days, that same horse will be standing quietly (perhaps sleeping) while the whiskers around their nose are carefully trimmed.