"Some will never know, how hard horse people work with horses, how they put their trust in a friend who, is unpredictable and might throw you off its back, at any time. Horse people build their life around horses, and they are completely dedicated".
Powerful traits I’ve learned from working with horses
When I look back over my life, I know without a doubt in my mind, that being around horses has helped, shape the woman I am today. I am also very fortunate to have a wonderful and supportive family and friends who have always encouraged me to pursue my dreams, which is exactly what I am doing today, with the help of an incredible team. Below is my list upon reflection of what I have learned from horses:
I had to do the barn chores. As a young girl, I would feed, turn horses out, clean stalls, and even break ice out of the water buckets, in the freezing winter months of Ontario. I learned about being accountable, reliable and responsible and I loved every minute of it.
Horses are extremely intelligent beings. They are great at pushing boundaries, to see what they can get away with and because of that, I've had to learn patience. I have been around horses who didn’t want to get on the horse trailer, stand quietly for the vet or farrier, allow me to catch them in the field, fight with me over a new training technique, not want to walk over a tiny mud puddle on trails, etc. When it comes to training horses, there is a lot of repetition and you need to have patience and set your emotions aside, to accomplish the task. This quality has carried over into my every day life when it comes to working with and dealing with people.
One of my favorite quotes, “You don’t know teamwork until your partner is a 1200lb free spirit”. This is very true. There is nothing like working together with a horse and being on the same page. You have to learn to speak their language and if they don’t understand what you want, you are most likely giving them mixed signals. The same is true for humans. We are all different and we think, learn, communicate, love, teach and feel differently. We have to learn to work together in this world despite our differences. Horses have triggers just as humans do, so having mutual respect and understanding for one another, makes for a great team.
Knowing When to Pick a Battle and When to Quit
There have been many times over the years, where I picked a fight with a horse, that I did not win. Luckily, I have never been seriously injured but I remember plenty of tears and letting frustration get the best of me. Remember, they weigh 1200lbs and are incredibly smart animals. When it comes to horses you need to learn, when to pick your battle and when to quit. Sometimes the horse is in a mood and most often, that is because of the riders mood. I learned to pick my battles when it came to horses and people. I have learned not to make a big deal out of something small. I also had to learn when to call it a day and quit. When you ride you should always “end on a good note”.
I have competed with my horse and most of the time, I competed against some of my best friends who were great riders. Horse shows can and should teach you, how to have great sportsmanship. Even if you don’t win in the pen, having a good ride is all that matters. Showing, really teaches us how to respect one another, our horses and to always have sportsmanship to fellow riders. The value of sportsmanship, carried over to the non-horse part of my life. I can truly be happy for others and celebrate with them in their successes. There will always be times in our lives, where we want to compare ourselves or life situation, to others but instead, we should celebrate others successes.
Leadership and Assertiveness
Horses are herd animals and when they are in a herd, they travel and navigate terrain according to the herd leader, which is most often a stallion. Domesticated horses are also looking for a leader, when it comes to working with humans. If they do not respect you or trust you as a leader, they will not do as you ask. Because of a horse’s size, you must be assertive, but in a respectful way. Horses do not respond to being “pushed around” or “bullied” so you have to be creative in your assertive, yet respectful tactics. Working with horses improves your creative thinking and problem solving skills.
To Overcome Fear
Everyone knows the saying, “If you fall of a horse, you have to get back on”. Even for seasoned equestrians, this can be hard, but most of us do it. I have personally fallen off and despite my fear, got back on and I have seen many others do the same. Horse back riding is a very dangerous sport. I have seen statistics that show over 100 deaths per year are related to equestrian related activities with over 25% resulting in head injuries. There will be so many times throughout our lives, that we let fear take over but the fact is, “you have to get back on that horse”. For some just walking a horse or being in the close vicinity can cause fear. The sense of accomplishment is so great, once that person works through those emotions. I believe having fear is healthy; it helps us to stay smart and make better decisions. I think being able to push ourselves through our fear is a remarkable trait.
Self-Regulation of Emotions
Horses are extremely intuitive in nature; this is one of their many God given gifts. They know when we are happy, sad, angry, anxious and scared sometimes before we even know. Horses will “mirror” or display our emotions for us, which makes them extremely powerful therapeutic animals. They teach us to control our emotions and show us how we present, to the rest of the world through their body language and actions. They literally have the power to teach us about ourselves. Sometimes I won’t even realize I’m anxious or stressed about something, until I’m working with my horse. Her body language gives me a clue, to check in with my emotions. Being able to regulate our emotions is so important and horses can help you learn how to do that.
Confidence and Self Esteem
Being able to work with horses has helped me greatly develop confidence and positive self-esteem. Horses help people build confidence in themselves naturally because of their size. Horses also help people with having a purpose and developing positive self-esteem. Being able to non-verbally communicate with horses is very powerful.
The bond between horse and human is something that cannot be explained only felt. Because they are so intuitive and you build so much trust and respect for each other, the love felt is so strong. When I owned my floral shop, I would come home from a stressful day, take off my dress and high heels and the moment I put on my jeans and cowboy boots, I felt immediate happiness. Another one of my favorite quotes is, “no matter how bad your day is, there is always someone waiting for you at the barn”. I have talked and cried to my horse and she has never shared my secrets with anyone. In moments of vulnerability, horses still make you feel loved. I can be myself even at my worst and always be accepted. That is unconditional love.
I created a place of privacy and peace and this is how my journey to health and wellness began…
My focus is on Nutrition, Physical Fitness and Mindset, as an equestrian rider, which has led me back to school, to become a Registered Holistic Nutritionist. I worked through the struggles, muscle aches and setbacks. I was determined to be fit, regardless of a medical condition, not only to satisfy myself, but also to enhance my relationship with my horse… and so that's what I did! Maintaining an optimal level of wellness is absolutely crucial, to live a higher quality life. Wellness matters.
Your passion and your Dreams are worth it. YOU are worth it. Have fun and enjoy your Journey. I want nothing more than to see you succeed and be the best partner you can be for your horse.
That's all for now!
As always Be Fit & Ride Strong!
~ Victoria Clarke
I want to thank everyone who assisted and guided me through this lengthy process, which included more than its fair share of stops, starts and detours. I cannot thank my coach, Phill Zullo enough, for his guidance and persistence. Thank-You to my photographer and videographer Nick Hutzel for all of your hard work and dedication! I couldn't have done this without you.
Thank you to my family and friends, that sincerely encouraged me to stay true to who I am and keep moving forward, on this journey. Words cannot express the gratitude I have.
Most importantly, the riders and interviewees who graciously found time, in their busy schedules to share their experiences with the Be Fit Ride Strong Community.
Thank-You To All!