When I got married, I didn’t just make a commitment to the woman I love. I also made a commitment to what she loves — horses. A Chicago native, I didn’t have a clue about raising her three animals at first. Just under three years later, I’m still not an expert on these galloping giants, but I have come to a few important realizations from being around them. Here are three lessons I’ve learned from the stable.
1. Pedigree doesn’t determine success.
You might be able to pick up a rescue horse for little-to-no money, but a highly-pedigreed horse from a championship bloodline could set you back hundreds of thousands of dollars — if not more. Outside of thoroughbred racing, a horse’s bloodline and genetics are often highly overrated. A horse with a good pedigree is like a person with a high IQ — it’s a desirable trait, but it plays only a part of how much one will succeed. Some of the most highly-accomplished people I know likely wouldn’t be admitted to Mensa.
The horses who most often win shows are the ones whose trainers have put in the most work and used the best techniques. Basically, it’s not what you were born with, but what you do with what you’ve got.
There are no short cuts to the top. Buying an expensive horse doesn’t promise results any more than attending a prestigious school promises a good paycheck.
2. Don’t be a reactionary.
One of my favorite instructional training videos was made by a trainer named Clinton Anderson, where Anderson coaches a horse owner on how to work with a seemingly-stubborn equine student. He explained that horses have two sides of their brain, a thinking side and a reactionary side, and the key is getting the horse to use the thinking side.
While I’m no authority on the brains of either people or horses, that phrase resonated with me. For most events in your life, you have two options: the instant, reactionary response and the more rational, thinking response. Nine times out of 10, the thinking response is better.
3. It’s never too late.
Sometimes, I talk myself out of doing something because I think it will be too hard when the goal is actually completely achievable with the right attitude. When I’m tested in this way, it helps to surround myself with people who inspire me. During a recent visit to the stable, I listened to the story of a 70-some-year-old woman who always dreamed of learning to ride horses when she was a girl. Geography, finances and other circumstances, however, initially worked against that dream.
She didn’t stop dreaming, though, and at the age of 67, she started riding. Today, she’s a regular and even owns her own horse. At an age when it would be all too easy to give up, this woman refused to be denied. And, if a horse doesn’t care if its rider is a 67-year-old novice, we shouldn’t let doubt stop us from pursuing our dreams.