Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Horses And Heroes

Many years ago, Rebecca was fairly new to the program--its been that long ago-she looked over and told me, "I bet that you are a good father for daughters."

 It stuck in my head for several reasons. I am much more comfortable with girls and young women than I am with boys and young men. Girls are easy--society has low expectations for girls--I have high expectations. Society values their hopes and beliefs little and I value few things more.

The most difficult part of running our program is teaching boys to ride with confidence and to train their horses using our formula of 51% control and 49% affection. Video games give little boys a false sense of power and control of the environment around them. These games give  boys the empty belief that every encounter is a competitive one, whose only purpose is to divide the world between winners and losers. The computer isolates boys from face to face social interaction resulting in a loss of communication skills that are necessary in dealing both with other riders and, more importantly, horses. I am afraid that the most baleful effects of the "hook up" culture of adolescents and young adults drips down even to much younger boys. Not in the sense that it leads directly to promiscuous behavior but in the more toxic sense that they see few role models in lasting relationships.

One who does not understand what a relationship is cannot build one with a horse.

They grow up in a culture that does not value resilience and persistence. When I was a child there were few things worse than being known as a "quitter." Boys with minimal athletic ability who showed up for every team practice even if they got little game time were respected by adults and other kids. In today's world of travel teams, all star teams, and year around competition in single sports we have gone from sand lot baseball to an elitist competitive model where only the "best" participate in team sports.

To teach a little boy to reject the world around him and accept the  better world that can be found in natural horsemanship does not come easily to me.  Little girls respond to genuine respect and appreciation. I have not found it easy to motivate boys or to teach them the four virtues that I find to be the most important for living an ethical life--compassion, generosity, courage, and resilience.

However, we have had some tremendous successes with boys in our program, Chris being one of the best examples. Still, I do not have a reliable game plan for  teaching boys.

 I am stuck with just having to try to teach by example, knowing that it is probably best that I never had a son.

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