My horse relationships have taught me lots of life skills. I have barrel horses, as well as dogs and cats. If you have animals, you probably spend time with them. Taking care of them. Teaching them what you want them to do. Learning their ideosyncracies. Hopefully getting to know them and what they need.
I try to spend time with all of my animals. As much as I love each of my animals, my relationship with my horses is different.
How is my relationship with a barrel horse different?
Anyone who owns a horse should know this basic fact. A horse outweighs a human by at least several hundred pounds. If an average human is 150-200 pounds and an average horse is 800-1200 pounds, you do the math. A horse is big enough to cause damage if they so choose.
No dog or cat has the amount of power that a horse has. They can definitely cause harm if they want or need to. But not as much or as quickly as a horse can.
When we decide to get on their backs, there is a certain level of trust required. If we are going to allow this powerful animal to carry us around, we have to give up our ability to easily get away. And for the most part, we do trust them, despite their ability to hurt us. Barrel horses do all of this at speed.
Why do horses work with us?
Most horses are remarkably willing to do as we ask, simply because we ask it. If it was up to them, they’d be grazing in a field somewhere, hanging out with their herd. But instead they walk down a trail, run around an arena or chase a cow. Just because we ask.
They are amazingly generous to us. Even when we accidentally cause them pain. The saddle might not fit correctly. Or we might bounce in the saddle and cause them some back pain. They might have pulled a muscle. But they work through it anyway.
What do they get out of it? We feed them. We keep them healthy. Hopefully, we pet them and show them our appreciation for the work they do. That’s it. Fortunately for us, that’s enough.
Horse relationships with a barrel horse
I’ve had a few pretty good barrel horses. Many other horses that weren’t especially fond of barrel racing or that weren’t suited to it. But the horses that were the most fun to ride were the ones that seemed to really love it.
Why would a horse LOVE to run around 3 barrels in a cloverleaf pattern? A normal horse would not go into an arena without a rider and run the pattern. But really great barrel horses know what to do and have been known to complete a pattern even if the rider falls off. Even if the horse is terribly injured. They have a passion for it.
What I’ve learned from my barrel horse
My barrel horses have taught me what it’s like to have a passion. One without reason or logic. But simply for the joy of it all. I feel that passion when I’m running a good barrel horse, right along with them.
In order for us to run, I have had to learn to trust. I’ve learned that this big animal will do its best to keep me safe. Even though it doesn’t have to. And it could hurt me whenever it felt the need. I’ve learned to be trustworthy in return.
It is my responsibility to keep my horse feeling the best I can. If there is a little problem, I need to help fix it before it becomes bigger. I need to be sure to provide the best food, water and shelter I can. Our equipment needs to be as comfortable as possible. If health care is needed, it’s my responsibility to get it. My horse can’t do these things so I need to.
My horse gives up its life of ease to allow me to work with it. It works through the pain, heat and stress. I have learned that my sacrifice is also necessary when my horse isn’t up to par. My horse might work through pain when it would be healthier not to. I have to say “No”, even when I would rather not. I can’t run my horse in a barrel race if it’s not in their best interest.
I have to slow down and communicate on their level in order for us to work well as a team. A horse doesn’t speak human. They may understand some of it, but they can’t “tell” me in my language. I have to be patient and do my part for us to close this communication gap.
My horse relationships have helped me be a better person
Because of my time with my barrel horses, I have grown into a better person. One who has learned to put the needs of my animals above my own when necessary. A person who focuses on being in the now so I can pay attention to what my horse is telling me.
Although I don’t like to go out in a blizzard to take care of them, I do that because I owe it to them for taking care of me. I take pride in being the kind of person my horse deserves, as much as I can. Even though I don’t always live up to it, they always seem to forgive me. Guess I have more to learn.
Read some of my other horse posts here: