Saturday, January 24, 2015

Saving the Sand Horses: Part 8 The Early Clinics

"You cannot allow children to get in a pen with a wild horse--ever!" That was the advice that I was given by a person a generation older than me who had spent his life around horses.

I did not just want to teach people how to tame and train wild horses. I wanted to teach children how to tame and train wild horses.  I knew it could be done. The simple reality is that throughout history kids had been the colt starters of horses. Sending a horse off to a trainer to be trained  would make no more sense to the people from whom I descended than it would make to send an ear of corn off to be trained to grow.

Over the millennia training horses truly was child's play. Of course, horses had not changed, but over the last thirty years American children, as a result of a crisis in parenting skills, had changed. The modern parenting model defines good parenting as providing every material possession that the child might have a whim for, making sure that your child is never "forced" into doing any work or chore he does not want to do, and most of all, making sure that he stays far from any risk of physical harm.

This model has produced an epidemic of anxiety disorder, depression, and type II diabetes. When a city kid first comes to my horse lot the odds are (though not in every case) that that child is handicapped. They are not in leg braces or wheel chairs but they are trapped by their upbringing that has denied them the exposure to the kind of challenges that result in failures from which lessons are learned or successes from which pride and self esteem are earned.

The irony is that these kids of well to do families are so often what we used to call "underprivileged". They have never been given the privilege of pushing themselves to the limit. They have no idea what their limits are.  I am not surprised that young suburban mothers fall prey to this parenting model. After all, they were raised to define success as rigid adherence to the social whims dictated to them by the People Magazine society in which they were raised. The modern parenting model is expensive.

It serves Corporate America well.

But I am surprised that so many young, educated suburban mothers continue to accept the definitions of good parenting that come out in TV commercial after TV commercial. If more of them would simply stop and ask themselves a few simple questions things could change. If they asked themselves things like, "Am I happier than my grand parents were?".  "Is my husband less of a man than my grandfather was?" " Am I raising a son to be even less of a man than my husband is?"

No, I am not talking about raising little Rambo's--not at all. I am talking about raising kids who will grow up to be kind, gentle, resilient, generous and courageous. And, yes, being courageous matters because in this life it takes guts to be an ethical person. We should not be surprised that our skill in producing cowards leads inevitably towards the production of unethical adults.

Physical courage generally predates moral courage. Those who do not understand that the reason we practice natural horsemanship is not merely to produce better horses, but primarily to produce better people cannot grasp what we do.

But I knew that I could teach little kids, even modern little kids, to tame, train and ride wild horses. I knew because my first and most important partner in the horse lot was my little 9 year old brother Lido.

He was born with cerebral palsy. His right arm was of no use to him and his right leg was short and weak.

He was the first person to mount all of the early wild horses that we trained.

 And as he told so many others over the years "I can do it. you can too."

(This is Lido on Sand Creek, a mustang colt at one of our earlier clinics.)

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