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It amazes me that life’s classroom is so eclectic a teacher. No matter where you look, there’s a lesson and the help to learn it. Take natural horsemanship, for instance.

Anybody who loves horses and has the blessing of being able to either own or ride one regularly has experienced the two sides to being with a horse. One side is the sheer joy of being able to touch it, to ride it, to be around it. The other side is the disappointment when the horse doesn’t do what you want it to do.

Traditional horsemanship teaches us to power over the horse when it balks at our orders. If it lifts its head when you’re trying to ride and get it to relax, put on a martingale and tie that head down. If you’re lunging it and it breaks into a gallop when you want a relaxed trot, yank on the rope to stop it and yell at it. If when you’re leading it by hand, it doesn’t follow, yank on the rope and yell at it to move its ass.

This is the predator’s way of getting a prey animal to behave. Yes, we’re the predators and the horse is the prey animal. It’s not bad, it’s just the way it is. Natural horsemanship teaches us how to overcome that predator-prey barrier to become partners. In the process, we become better human beings. While the horse is learning willingly to do what you ask, you are learning a different way of co-existing with others in a loving manner instead of an isolated one.

I got into Parelli Natural Horsemanship (PNH) to build a partnership with my horse. To teach her how to be a better partner. To get her to be calm and relaxed and listen to me. I ended up changing myself more than her, I think. I am by nature a Type A – control freak – driven-to-get-it-done person. You can’t behave that way with a horse! Mine weighs 1200 pounds and has a very strong will of her own. If she doesn’t want to do something I ask of her, it’s not going to happen. I had to learn ways of motivating her to do things she didn’t initially want to do. To make her think we’re playing a game, that doing a few circles around me is fun, not hard work.

Along the way, I couldn’t help but put my new partnership skills to work in the human world. I became a much more forgiving, understanding person. Let’s face it: non-Type-A people (free spirits and calm people) do not respond to pushy broads like me. Their natural instincts are to push back, even when I have the right answer and they don’t. Now instead of going straight at problems, I stand back for a moment and assess the best way to get the results I want. Do I suggest instead of tell? Do I say nothing and let it be? Do I talk about something else and come around to the subject at hand later? These are all options I simply did not know to use prior to PNH.

PNH was my new classroom teacher. When I was looking for help with my horsemanship skills, instead I found Life Skills. Skills that included advanced forgiveness, advanced understanding, advanced tolerance, and advanced calmness of mind.

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