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Practicing Good Horsemanship - What We Think We See

In life, we can all observe exactly the same event.
Yet, as behavioral studies have shown, what each of us actually sees will differ.
Why is this the case? Since what we see is influenced by our own background and past experiences, we see what is familiar.
What is not familiar is difficult for us to see.
As a result, we tend to distort unfamiliar situations to make them familiar.
And this leads to inaccurate conclusions.
A Distorted View To illustrate how unwittingly this can occur in our horsemanship, I'll share an incident that took place at a horsemanship clinic I attended one summer.
It involves a fellow student whom I will call Stan.
With halters in hand, Stan and I stood visiting outside the common corral where our horses were kept as a herd.
Seeing me, my horse Vinnie left the herd and joined us.
He stood with his head over the fence, content to be near.
But when I stepped inside the corral to catch him, my horse promptly turned and walked away.
"Well there's a dishonest, no-good horse for you," scoffed Stan.
"When you go to catch him, he leaves!"
Silently, I bristled.
Stan's label had been unfairly attached.
I moved to an out-of-the-way spot and waited for things to unfold.
Stan, on the other hand, caught his own horse and left.
He never even glanced to see what actually took place between me and my horse.
In the meantime, Vinnie had crossed the corral to a well-favored spot, stretched out, and urinated.
He then walked directly over to where I was waiting.
He stopped and lowered his head to be haltered.
Stan's past experiences caused him to view any horse that leaves when a person approaches with a halter as being dishonest and trying to get out of something.
In contrast, my experience has been that--given the opportunity--a horse I have established a relationship with will often walk away to relieve itself before coming up to be haltered.
Therefore, I saw Vinnie as a responsible horse who prepares himself to give me his best.
So how can we know if what we think we are seeing is actually correct? Becoming a Better Observer One way is to withhold judgment and do some more observing.
I put this concept to the test one morning shortly after I returned home from that horsemanship clinic.
Here is what took place.
I needed to haul three horses to town.
I parked the truck and trailer on the lane, which passes through the horses' field.
As I opened the back of the trailer, the herd gathered around.
But when I stepped toward the group, Vinnie quickly turned and hurriedly walked away.
We had just completed a 2,000 mile journey to attend the horsemanship clinic.
Naturally, the first thought to flash into my mind was that he left to avoid another long trailer ride.
But remembering the incident with Stan, I decided I best do some more observing.
Since I always load Vinnie last anyway, this additional observing was easy enough to do.
As I caught and loaded the other two horses, I kept an eye on Vinnie.
I wanted to see if I could figure out what was actually on his mind.
The Benefit of Observing I discovered that my horse was actually on a mission.
After walking over to the "equine rest area," he urinated.
He then stepped forward, lifted his tail and made a deposit.
Next, while I was busy catching the second horse, I noticed Vinnie over at the watering hole taking a long drink.
Finally, just after I finished loading the second horse, Vinnie marched up to the back of the trailer and promptly loaded himself inside.
My additional observing allowed me to see the situation unfold from my horse's point of view.
It seems the 2,000 mile trip we had just completed had made Vinnie more aware of what was involved in traveling.
He had not walked away from me out of disrespect or to avoid another long trailer ride.
He had left to go prepare himself for another road trip!


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