Friday, September 23, 2022

Applying Philosophy To Natural Horsemanship

“Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: Some things are within our control, and some things are not.” ~ (Epictetus). 

 We are about to begin the training and retraining of nearly a dozen horses and donkeys. It is a very exciting time for our program. It has been several years since I have introduced so many program participants to their first experience of training a horse from being completely unrideable to being a safe trail horse.

 This time we are truly going to begin at the beginning. Before ever stepping into the round pen program participants will be urged to deeply understand Epictetus' principal contribution to the understanding of human endeavors. We will learn to divide the challenges that we face with each horse into those things that are in our control and those things that are not in our control. Things in which we have no control over (e.g. whether a horse has a naturally calm temperament or is super reactive) are things that we will waste absolutely no mental energy over. Things that we have control over (e.g. how we can best calm and train a super reactive horse) will be the entire focus of our work.

 And here is the part that is hard for many people to understand. We will take responsibility for correctly doing the things over which we have control. We will not allow fear to get in the way of doing our job. We will not seek out excuses for dangerous behavior on the part of young horses. We will not seek to find some past event to blame for the horse' difficulty. Such blame leads to an excuse to not train the horse.

 We will learn to not apologize for giving the horse direction and correction. We will learn that whether we choose to be the leader that our horse needs us to be is entirely in our control. We will not pretend that allowing a horse to kick, bite, or run over us, is somehow a virtue. We will not pretend that we are unable to teach a horse that which it must learn because the horse has experienced some imagined abuse in the past.

  We will not allow cowardice to masquerade as compassion. 

We will learn that it is always in our control whether we express anger or frustration. We will learn that we control our actions. We will not seek to find ways to justify ineffective, abusive behavior. 

 We will learn philosophy as we learn natural horsemanship. We will learn the incredibly hard lesson that when it comes to building solid relationships with horses what we can learn from Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, and Epictetus, is just as important as what we can learn from Brannaman, Anderson, and Dorrence.

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