Finding Happiness

Does your horse have to behave a certain way for you to be happy? Some people get offended by this question. My guess is because either they want you to think they have undying love for their horse and they would never depend on the horse for happiness or they want to cover up the fact that they have a habit of trying to control/change others behavior so they can be happy. Now if the trying to change others behavior is you, bless you and lets work on changing it, because this is also a behavior that leads to anxiety, fear, anger and abuse.

First lets define how this behavior looks. How many times a day or week do you find yourself thinking or talking about a fault that you see in someone else? How often do you think to yourself if I could just get __________ to change the way they behave I would be happy. Or you actually make a plan to do something to change someone else’s behavior and of course the plan never works because you can’t change someone else’s behavior. Only they can change their behavior and guess what maybe they like their behavior, maybe it serves them well.

I know I’ve been guilty of this, I learned it as a child. When the adults around me didn’t like my behavior they would punish me or use other persuasive tactics to get me to stop the behavior. And if it scared me enough I would stop the behavior in front of them, but I would still do it behind their backs. You see some behaviors I just didn’t want to change.

What I thought I learned from this was that I could make other people change their behavior so that I could be happy with them. I tried really hard in my first marriage to make this theory work. But what I found was after 10 long unhappy, struggling years of trying to change someones behavior was it just didn’t work, he didn’t want to change and it caused anger, fighting and hatred between us. I finally realized that I was the only one that I could really change. So I did, I took control of myself and changed my behavior. I stopped being a victim of his behavior and decided that what I wanted wasn’t standing in front of me. What I wanted, he could never be so I let that marriage go and I found new happiness in doing other things that I didn’t think where even possible for me.

My views about horse training totally changed when I released that you really shouldn’t depend on the behavior of the horse to make you happy. Yes, I know that we all have had that really happy place where the horse for some unknown reason gives you that control or change you wanted for a day and you danced on cloud nine for the day.  Hint; that can happen with people too, but it isn’t sustainable. The reality check is a healthy relationship shouldn’t depend on the other being (person or horse) having to change to make you happy.

I really believe that is where abuse is built, both for yourself and for the other being (horse or person). When we depend on a horse to change its behavior in order for us to feel safe or happy we will also then be willing to use lots of punishing methods to make that change happen. It can become so patterned that we sometimes don’t even know we are doing it. So again I’ll ask you does your horse have to behave a certain way for you to be happy? Do you run and get a bigger bit or apply more pressure with the whip or chain when your horse isn’t responding to you in the correct manner? Do you often walk away from your ride unhappy and setting an intent to make that _________ horse do it correct the next time?

Yup… I would dare to say we have all approached riding and training in that immature manner at some point in our lives. It doesn’t feel good and we usually have some regret about it later. I’d even say it’s not good for our soul or self-esteem. And maybe even worse than that it makes an enemy out of the horse or person we are trying to control. It tears down relationships rather than building them up. Below are some ideas about how to change your behavior and find happiness in yourself .

  • Step 1 identify what you want to control. Example; I’m afraid of a horse bucking. Step 2 identify the why.  Because I don’t know how to ride a horse that is bucking. Step 3 Take the time to learn how to deal with and ride a horse that is bucking. Example; The best advice I got was to go with my horse, keep an eye on his head and use one rein to pull the head up (I’m not giving this out as advice for you, this is just what I use as an example, find a professional to help you). Just the knowledge or skill of knowing you can handle a situation will allow you to relax and have a better ride with your horse (confidence comes from knowing how to go with the flow).  Or if you have no intention of learning how to ride a bucking horse go buy one that doesn’t buck.
  • Maybe you want to put your horse in a shank bit. Again you have to identify why first. A good reason would be because I have to show one-handed in a shank this summer. A bad reason would be because I want my horse to stop pulling on my hands. If your horse is pulling on your hands a shank won’t help because you have bad hands and you need to make the change, you need to learn how to ride softer with your hands or have a balanced seat so that your hands can be softer. In this case you have to be willing to make the change in yourself or your horse will just become reactive to the shank bit not responsive to the shank bit. Your happiness isn’t really going to come from you abusing your horse’s mouth with a shank bit it’s going to come from the proud moment you have when you actually learn a new feel.

What or who are you abusing to try to get your way? What could you do instead? It only takes a little refocus to make the world a better place for everyone including animals and ourselves.