The Middle Path: Lighten Up, It’s All Your Fault

Sometimes people tell me that I’m preaching to the choir with my blog. That it’s the other “really creepy horse people” who need to read my blog. But then sometimes the choir gets tired of my preaching, too.

I confess; I do preach. Twice a week for over eight years, my blog holds forth on equine topics large and small. I write like a clock ticks, to mixed reviews. I do a lot of horse reading myself, and I don’t like being bored, so I try to spice up my blog. Again, to mixed reviews.  Sometimes I write love notes to horses and people cry. Sometimes I rant, and people get put-off. We aren’t short on opinion. I’m a weird combination of art and science; an equine professional and a horse-crazy girl. Mostly, I try to advocate for horses.

Does it ever feel to you like no matter how hard you try with your horse, you never quite get it right? I feel that way. Take boarding; I’m not thrilled with my horse’s turn out. And I own the barn.

Do you ever long for the old days before we knew about biomechanics and obscure equine health concerns and all the training debates? When we never worried about fear, or if a bit was harsh or if horses had feelings?

No. We never miss the “bad” old days; when we look back we wish we had done better. Even the past isn’t innocent. We still feel guilty for bouncing the reins like a cowboy when we were five. We feel guilt for what wasn’t diagnosable. And not invented. Guilt for training in that way we were all trained to train. Guilt for all the things we innocently perpetrated when we didn’t know better. We blame ourselves and we blame each other.

Because one day we found out, from a vet or a trainer or from reading too many books, that somehow our horse is our fault.

Say you have trouble with something under saddle and someone gives you a tip that works. In hindsight, you know you were the problem, but then, the solution as well. The worst part is that it’s usually our fault and the best part is that we can change and improve.

But somewhere in the process, we get familiar with a certain angst as horse people; it’s the flip side of the joy we feel around horses. It’s knowing that if something goes wrong, it’ll be on us. We feel responsible. And at the same time, life-long horse people learn something new every day. In other words, every day is a brand-new opportunity to get it wrong.

Yet here we are. We don’t always succeed but we aren’t quitters.

It’s true that my readers are the church choir. No one beats horses here; we’d be more likely to kill horses with kindness, and then feel guilty about that. We try too hard, spend too much, never give up, and then, if it all goes well and we end up with a thirty-year-old horse, we feel a failure that they got old.

Maybe a better question is what is it about horses that hook us so deeply? I’m not being rhetorical; since the beginning of time, when horses first started trying to domesticate us, we’ve painted them on cave walls, burst into tears watching them run, and for some of us, took the blame when we fell short.

At times like this, Edgar Rice Burro usually has a few words. Being a donkey, he’s blessed with a clarity that often escapes me. And no, he doesn’t dictate into an app or steal my computer to type, while Arthur, the goat, does the spell check. That would be silly. (Edgar Rice Burro uses mind control over my hands, sometimes for typing and sometimes for scratching his backside. I become robotic under his influence. But it’s probably still my fault.)

Edgar Rice Burro says:

Oh, my. Leave it to a human to use their brain against themselves rather than looking for ways to open the gate into the spring pasture. That “self-aware” part of your mind gets you in way more trouble than a good sense of smell and a prehensile nose ever will. You’re too hard on yourself. It’s like Maya Angelou says, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” 

Sure, there are bad humans; when they’re around, we pull ourselves deep inside. We volunteer for you soft ones. We know humans think too much; we worry about your worry. And we like your confident smiles as much as you like our ears. (Well, those of us who have ears worthy of praise.) Sometimes, it’s hard to breathe when humans are sad. We’re pragmatic; we think you should get over it. Your time is better spent scratching our backsides. 

If you don’t believe me, see yourself through your dog’s eyes. What they lack in long-ear wisdom, they make up for with spit and wag. Rest assured; we’re smart, we read your intentions. Every time you march out before breakfast to throw our hay, we know you. You’re perfect.”

The trick is to feel compassion without an over-abundance of sentimentality. For horses and for ourselves, it’s about balance; trading guilt for forgiveness and positive confidence, despite our imperfections. The other word for that is humility. And did that donkey just quote Maya Angelou?

A call out to my fellow equine professionals. We’re livin’ the dream. We chose a career stomping around in people’s passion for horses. It’s dangerous ground but there we are, telling people it’s all their fault while trying to be as charming and positive as possible when delivering the news. All this, and a retirement plan that involves horse manure. With some donkey mixed in, if we’re lucky.

Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Clinician, Equine Pro

71 comments

  1. “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

    Brilliant! Gotta love Maya Angelou! No guilt over past ignorance…just learn better and do better…

    Thanks for another great post, Anna!

  2. As a professional horse trainer of 30 years who caters to adult amateurs & kids, and who is also the mother of a 14-year-old teenage girl, this was absolutely awesome! Exactly what I needed this morning. The choir appreciates your sermons and uplifting encouragements. Thanks AGAIN.

      • Thank you Anna! Yes, I am even so insanely stupid as to be her sole riding instructor as well. Everyone tells me I should pay someone else to teach her but I’m too stubborn as I do believe we share some of our best and worst times together with the horses. So I juggle guilt over how I’ve raised my 2&4 legged kids. I’m just trying to hang on through these hormones and enjoy the horses as best we can! Meanwhile I’ll think of that quote from Maya Angelou often and go scratch a foal’s bottom or snuggle with a pony to try and remember the magic of this world.

  3. I may be part of the choir, but I’m also a relatively new to horses and have so much to learn. Hearing you say something the second and third time, are greatly appreciated as a reminder to get something set in my head. I look forward every Friday to your blog post and whether I’m learning something, commiserating with you about something or just feeling some emotion about what you write, I’m thankful for your words.

    Have a great week!

  4. Do you think they know we haven’t had our own breakfast yet when we feed? That would be great. My husband teased me, “You feed the cat, you feed the donkey, you feed the horse, then you ask what I want for breakfast.”: ) (But he does all the heavy stuff around here so I should be quicker with his breakfast.)

    Choirs love their preachers, else they stop choiring.

    ~lytha in Germany

  5. Before I ever heard of Maya Angelou, I was a young mom, gazing at this mysterious young creature in my arms, wondering how on earth I was going to do this parenting thing “right”. I finally decided that no matter what I did, it was probably not going to be “right”, so I’d just do the best I could, and learn earnestly. And I recognized that feeling from all my relationships with other precious creatures – horses, dogs, cats, hamsters, siblings, etc., who seem to have endless patience for my ineptitude. Now with snow on the mountain I’m blessed with seven ancient equines who continue to teach me what tolerance is all about. Just like ERB.

  6. Love “feel compassion without an over abundance of sentimentality.” So much more to loving horses than the romance of it! I’m living my childhood fantasy at 50 of horses, and training, and learning and am grateful to find professionals to follow who advocate for the horse and how to understand their signs. Thank you❤️

  7. Hi Anna;

    Wow, 8 years twice per week. Focus and dedication. And…the words that you find and share that “speak” for the rest of us so eloquently, people and horses. Thank you for expressing our angst and our hearts with so much clarity. I deeply appreciate it all.

    Warm regards, Carol

    “Awakening Hearts & Inspiring Potential Through The Wisdom Of The Horse” Carol Marriott Ravenheart Farms Equine Assisted Learning Centre & Retreat Raven Horse Wisdom Life Coaching & Consulting http://www.ravenheartfarms.com

  8. Thanks, Anna…Once again you clearly put into words those scrambled thoughts running through my mind…Please don’t stop!

  9. Thanks for this “middle path;” sometimes I need relief from the love notes and sermons, much as they make me think or cry or nod my head. 😉

  10. Thank you, Anna. Your blog lifts my heart because this is always what I want, but can’t express or didn’t yet have defined it is what I needed. I appreciate Edgar Rice Burro’s words of wisdom also.

  11. Every day is a new opportunity to get it wrong.

    Brilliant.

    The guilt is a tough thing, but at the same time definitely gives us the opportunity to do better for the next one, and the one after that, and the one after that. It’s all about learning to wallow in their happiness while doing the best we can to make them as comfortable as possible.

    Thank you, Anna, for putting it so beautifully.

  12. Please keep ranting, preaching, being an advocate for horses. You are planting seeds and many of them are germinating. Mine for one and it’s changed everything for me, for the better.

  13. Oh Please keep preaching to the choir! Your message is one that is reinforcing and helps me hold fast to my core beliefs when it comes to horses, as well as other creatures, including sometimes humans in a world that sometimes feels as if it is doing its best to make me something else. To weaken my resolve. I read your posts and gaze at the beautiful pictures, often poignant in their simplicity. I am compelled to self evaluate my own beliefs and actions. Keeping a searching and moral inventory on my own shortcomings and striving to look for opportunities for room for improvement, ever growing, ever glowing with positive changes.

    Donna Scarpa & The Tiny Trotters

    >

  14. I have nothing to do with horses and have no idea how I found you. I like your writings because they remind me how to live.

  15. “Every day is a brand-new opportunity to get it wrong.” Spoken like a true optimist where wrong means ya learned something!

    That, and Dodger might want to quote (and credit) Edgar Rice Burro quoting wise people if he’s going to connect so many cool dots for peeps!

  16. Edgar deserves a special treat for sharing his wisdom and so do you for listening to him. I was lucky, Rudd was a man before his time with his attitude toward horses – and humans. He never let us forget the horses were to be respected, honored and loved and we were to do the same for ourselves.

  17. “We know humans think too much; we worry about your worry. And we like your confident smiles as much as you like our ears. (Well, those of us who have ears worthy of praise.) Sometimes, it’s hard to breathe when humans are sad. We’re pragmatic; we think you should get over it. Your time is better spent scratching our backsides. ”
    just loved reading this……..thats what my sweet steed says to me – ‘Get over it’ though sometimes when I come to him with my woes he says “ahem, did I ask?’ that always straightens me out.
    thank you so much for all your ‘preaching’

  18. It’s kinda like a friend of mine, who grew up in Catholic schools having his hands whacked by nuns with rulers, used to say, “Jesus Christ died for your sins. Now just try and have a nice day…” LOL.

    >

  19. Please keep preaching to the choir! I am sure you reach many people and I love this blog. You are a gifted writer and your thoughts and common sense are written so well. You have so much knowledge to share AND I love Edgar, wish I owned one with those ears! Everything I read from you is inspiring to better myself as a human and animal/horse owner. May we all enjoy each day to its fullest without regrets or guilt, have an open mind and to learn new ideas and to be compassionate humans. ❤

  20. First of all, the real choir could not EVER get tired of your “preaching” simply because, in your words we have found validation, assurance, comfort in the fact that no, we’re not crazy. We’re not . I cannot imagine how the blogs keep coming…with new ideas and new observations and comparisons and such a deep understanding and love for the horses (and the donkeys) and the mortals just trying to do their best. Thank you

  21. Oh the blinding hosnety here!! now the trick to accept out faults and embrace parfect imperfection. ps also dreaming of a retirement filled with manure …horse-yes, pig -maybe, donkey -I wish!!!

  22. Once again, not as a horse person (yes, I Love horses just haven’t been around them much), I love this post!. And this is one of those: everyone “should” read this! We humans are so hard on ourselves. We think too much. We need to roll around in the hay more (enough with rolling around in the muck), lighten up and smile. Lately I’ve enjoyed laughing at myself and how I make myself crazy sometimes. Thanks for the reminder, Anna. Love your posts!

  23. Guilt! OMG!! Probably one of my biggest issues! Why didn’t I know this already!! And thinking too much isn’t helping either! Thank you so much for the preaching that keeps reminding me to ‘get over it’ and deal with my horse and burro people. Yes, butt scratches are wonderful – especially when we are just now shedding that awful, scrungy winter burro coat… She would stand still all day if I would just spend the time to scrape that stuff off!
    Love your posts!

  24. I always want to reply but instead I just swallow. You have helped me on so many levels .. I know , duh!

  25. Ohh I love your donkey wisdom Edgar Rice Burrow (and Maya Angelou). And your ears. Thank you. Today lol..not my fault. =-)

  26. I am definitely a member of the choir and your words always come when I need them most. Been under the weather lately and feeling guilty about not being with my horses enough, and they live with me!! Edgar Rice Burro help set me straight when he said, “Every time you march out before breakfast to throw our hay, we know you. You’re perfect.” Yep, that is exactly what I needed to hear.

  27. I was so sad to have missed you when you were recently in Washington state. I love, love, love this and am going to remind myself to have compassion for myself on a regular basis.

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