Hey–Horses Aren’t Binary!

Are you efficient at your job? Do you wish dealing with your horse could be as structured and controlled as the work you do to earn a living, or the way you organize your home life?

Credit: Alana Harrison Your horse isn’t a “binary” creature. A good relationship and “staying present” with him will boost your training success.

Van Hargis urges you not to think this way. A respected lifelong horseman and trainer, Van presents basics-founded horsemanship principles at clinics and horse expos, and from his home base in Victoria, Texas. He’s also the host of an entertaining podcast, Ride Every Stride.

I interviewed Van recently for a “Confident Rider” segment for a 2017 issue of Horse&Rider. Something he said in an aside caught my ear, and I wanted to share that with you now.

“If there was a single message I could get across to riders, it would be this: Be present,” he said. “Take things one step at a time. If a ride doesn’t go as well as you’d hoped it would, know that it may well still have been the perfect ride for that moment.”

By that he means you should go with the flow a little. Celebrate the progress you do achieve, and stay away from self-destructive thoughts when your journey inevitably hits bumps in the road. It’s good advice, but Van notes it can be a tough prescription for many of the stay-on-task types he sees at his clinics.

“We deal with a lot of incredibly successful professionals,” he says. “It’s amazing what great leaders they are, in that structured environment where they work. But try to take that same structured mentality to the arena or the trail, and it just doesn’t work the same way.”

And why not?

“Horses are living, breathing animals. Working with them is much more about the relationship than it is about a checklist. Horses are not binary! With them, it’s not you do this and they’ll do that. You may be accustomed to an if/then system from your work, but with horses it’s much more about the relationship. A lot of the women in my clinics definitely understand and love the relationship part of the equation, but they also hang on to that checklist mentality from the rest of their lives, and it’s not helpful.”

So what’s the solution? Van suggests you take a page from your horse’s book.

“A horse isn’t worried about yesterday or anxious about tomorrow. He survives in the moment. He’s not comparing himself and his performance to any other animal, and he’s sure not worried about whether or not he wins a ribbon.

“Let that presence from your horse humble you–and keep you in the here and now.”

Sounds like excellent advice to me!

Find details about Van and his podcasts, videos, clinics, and more at his Web site.


Your horse as your partner.

Collaboration vs. domination.

Science in horse training.

What makes your horse miserable

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