Tuesday, October 11, 2011

You Can't Make Me

I've had "Fable," a dark bay Holsteiner gelding, in training for a number years. I adore him. He's a handsome fellow with more than a couple of interesting quirks.
Fable -  busy thinking

Let me be very clear that the very first time I met him he oozed attitude. It was a while ago, so I'd be lying if I said I saw something more noble under that sullen and disrespectful demeanor. However, I know myself well enough to say that I must have. I like a challenge, but I'm no fool. I want at least a flicker of hope that I'll succeed before I start a project. Otherwise, why bother? And frankly, with a horse, why put yourself at such physical risk?

Since that first meeting, Fable has taught me well.

He has taught me that cooperation requires respect from both parties.

His "you can't make me" attitude has shown me that "yes, I can" must not only be accompanied by firmness, but also a willingness to change an approach when no progress is noted, coupled with a dogged determination to focus on the clarity of the goal.

He has taught me not to let a moment of disagreement dissolve into a fight where the focus becomes the fight.

No one wins in that situation.

So, what has been the outcome? Has he abandoned his attitude, donned the mantle of submission? Transformed into a shining example of cooperation?

Well … not exactly.

He's lost the sullenness, but he's retained his opinionated personality. Sure, his first reaction is still to argue when he doesn't understand a request, but the arguments are brief (far less explosive) and simply a way of communicating that he is unclear. He knows I'm listening to him -- no need to wage a war.

And here's the really cool thing: Once he understands, he not only does what he's asked, but improves with each repetition. I call that, "generosity." I'd never have known he possessed that quality of spirit when we first met.