Thursday, February 4, 2010

Speaking their language

Not too long ago I discovered a new blogger. And I am not afraid to admit I scuttle on over to her place every day to see what new wisdom, anecdote or story she has shared.

See, she speaks Thoroughbred. More specifically, she speaks retired racehorse. And it's so nice to "hear" someone speaking Gabe's language, to listen to someone who understands what it's like to take a horse from the track and give them a new career. It's fun. It's challenging. It's heartbreaking, exciting, terrifying, addictive and fulfilling.

And we do it purely out of love, respect and admiration for these magnificent animals. Well, that and the indescribably incredible feeling of riding, directing and containing such potentially explosive power!

Two of Natalie's two most recent posts at her blog, Retired Racehorse, could have been written about Gabe and I because we've had both experiences...the Leap of Power and the up-and-over.

Fortunately, I learned very quickly from our up-and-ALMOST-over experience. And I didn't just chalk it up to Gabe being a complete butthead (which I would have done 10 years ago). Instead, I mulled it over, I walked through the entire episode in my mind over and over again, comparing what I knew about horse behavior to how he acted and how I reacted. And I knew what I'd done wrong and set out to fix MY behavior. Not his. Because in the end, he is just being a horse and doing what horses do. It is my job to think like him, to speak his language and teach him a new one by combining my knowledge with his language with as little confusion to him as possible.

Oh. It's a challenge all right, but it's a challenge that's worth every single little bobble, every misunderstanding, every miss-step, all for those fleeting moments of brilliance when we GET each other and we are "talking" in a language we both understand.

The goal is for those fleeting moments to turn into minutes, minutes stretch into longer minutes and eventually, we are communicating clearly, precisely and with understanding BOTH ways. Both ways is the key. Why should I expect him to listen to me if I continually turn a deaf ear to him? We are both learning. I can see him learning my language, I can see it in how he responds to my requests.

I can only hope he understands that I am trying to learn his language and I have a long way to go.


  1. What a neat blog - thanks for sharing!

    I was thinking yesterday about how Dixie and I didn't have a "language" in common, but we've slowly invented a way of communicating with each other. Sadly, I don't know enough dressage to teach her to "speak dressage," so it's our own weird language of cues and ear-flicks and muscles tensing or relaxing. But at least we know what we're saying to each other most of the time. You can't just "yell" at horses; you have to listen to what they're "yelling" back.

  2. Great post - and not just for the shout-out! :)

    Those fleeting moments are the reason why we get off our horses after five minutes in the saddle some day, run up the stirrup leathers, and head back to the barn for a cookie and a hug. Those fleeting moments really do turn into rides, and those rides turn into winning rounds, if that's what you're into, or long companionable hacks, if that's what you're into. . .

    And "addictive" is definitely the word I'd use to describe learning this language!

  3. Great post Jenn and I enjoyed the links to Natalie also. I have found now with mules it's another new language. They are clever and seem to 'think' things over.

  4. Natalie does indeed speak Thoroughbred indeed--as do you. You (and Gabe) have a great voice.

    I love my OTTB, and he has been an amazing teacher over the last two years. I suspect he and I still have a lot to learn and to teach one another.