Lessons learned through horses #2: Opening doors


Several years back I was given a piece of advice that I’ll never forget. I can’t recall exact wording but it went something like, “you have to do the things you really don’t want to do, to get to where you want to go, and sometimes you have to do it for free.” This does not mean doing illegal things or busting your ass for someone else for free just because. This advice for me has opened a lot of doors both mentally and professionally.

Mentally, this advice impacted me greatly because it changed how I view certain work to be done. Some of that work to be done was uncomfortable, mainly because it pushed my boundaries of what was comfortable for me. Whether it was working with a tough horse, putting myself in the spotlight, or taking a risk and expanding my business. No one wants to feel uncomfortable, but those who strive for it, know that there is reward on the other side if you just keep going. Being uncomfortable doesn’t last forever.

I have a fear of getting hurt, duh, not too many people can say they don’t… I have a fear of mainly getting hurt horseback, when it is “out of the blue”. Out of the blue accidents are happening less and less it seems but now and then I learn a new sign that occurs before the “out of the blue” things happens. Humbling moments so to speak, lol. Make sense? I am always dreading the first rides on a new horse, whether a green colt, older horse, or problem case. Especially when I have to ride a horse that I’ve never seen anyone else ride. I have been bucked off enough times to know how much it freaks me out and how it really hurts when you land. Its that innate fear that still pops up every time. But…. and I say but…. because “I need to learn to trust my training” as my good friend Warwick Schiller reminds me quite often. The preparation is the key to success. Having a methodical process you go through to prepare both you and the horse for they journey.

Most people I tend to interact with when it comes to training, lessons and clinics, are people with fear/insecurity when working with their horse. Their fear comes from that same fear I experience, the fear of the unknown or the fear of the known doom awaiting them. I am not trained to help people with fear, but I am trained in helping horses through their fears. So… I teach people how to help their horses through fear. The magic happens during that process more with the people than the horse. Its not about the horse, its about the person sticking to the process, expanding comfort zones and reaching their lifelong goals. You can take a hold of your fears by having creating a step by step safety check list for preparing your horse for the thing you want to do. The person benefits because they get to learn the patterns of their horse. And the horse benefits because he learns the patterns of the person. Patterns are predictable. Predictable behavior creates trust.

Now from a business stand point, you also have to open your own doors, do the work you don’t want to do and sometimes take it as a loss. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done a job for free or even lost money because I know it opens the next door. To most people that would seem crazy, I’ve had people tell me to charge more, don’t give things away, blah blah blah. And yes, I get that, but at the same time, you have to give to get. Taking the extra time with someone and not charging extra means the world to that person and they’ll keep coming back. Spending the extra time on a horse in need helps that horse when he goes on to the next chapter.

A couple events have really sparked the opening of doors. Ive taken a ton of opportunities, these two have created the most impact. The first was the Extreme Mustang Makeover Competition back in 2009. Looking back, that was the biggest job I’ve ever done. I had 100 days to take a wild horse, gentle it, train it, then show it in front of thousands of people. I worked with that horses every day, several hours a day. As a result, I won the event, and I won about $2500, a great pay day right?. Now you stretch that $2500 out between time, feed, fuel, hotels, etc. I made about $2/hr. to train the horse. That’s crazy from a business stand point! But the doors that opened were huge!

My most recent big door opening was working with Bundy. Warwick is crazy busy with his clinic schedule and he needed someone to help him out while he was gone. He felt confident in my ability and trusts me enough to let me work with his funny little horse. But Warwick didn’t have time to bring him to me. Most of the time when someone doesn’t have time to bring me their horse, I figure they won’t have time to follow up with the work I do, so I just leave it be. To me when someone wants something bad enough, they make it work. But with this case, I knew that wasn’t the case. I got up at 3am to drive 5 hours down to the Pamona Horse Expo to pick up Bundy on the last day of the Expo, hang out all day, then drive another 5 hours home making it almost a 24 hour day. That was the best decision I’ve made! That day, we met Mary Kitzmiller, a clicker training genius. That day, so many doors opened and that day is the day the world also changed for me. The clicker work with Bundy was so much fun, but it also catapulted my knowledge and understanding with different training principles. I learned a much deeper understanding of how to break down complex tasks. Had I not gotten up at 3am, driven 10 hours, I’d still be where I was 2 years ago!

So when it comes to achieving goals and dreams, you have to do what you don’t want to do, you have to do what is uncomfortable, and you have to be willing to invest your heart and soul. Those who are out there living the dream, they are successful and HAPPY, do all these things. Don’t let discomfort stop you, don’t let the ticking clock stop you, you will get there and it’ll be better than you ever thought. Keep opening the doors!!! 

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