Don't get me wrong! I'm made dozens of fantastic friends throughout my career, serving the horse industry. Many are lifetime friends. But it wasn't easy finding them! Why?
One. Many horse people get into horses for themselves. Not for the social experience. My wife, for instance rides for her and her alone. That doesn't mean she doesn't enjoy company. She does. But she rides for reasons that go beyond the social aspect. She rides for the feeling you can't get anywhere else in the world. Have you ever galloped a horse across a meadow? Have you ever experienced flying lead changes at the command of a small body cue? Have you ever seen your horse come running to you from a distance, at a speed that tells you, he knows you care, and can't wait to see you? If you have, then you know why so many people crave horses beyond reasoning.
Like my wife Rachel, many people ride each day, as if on a quest toward some form of enlightenment. Not unlike martial arts students who are constantly seeking mastery. Or a meditation practice that seeks the state of zen. There is peace and fulfillment that comes from striving to be better, each time you ride.
Because so many horse people are like my wife, they seek out horse interactions for their own purposes. Many of these people are hard to meet inside the horse world. You might meet them on a plane, or in a restaurant and become instant friends, but you won't find them on a horse. Why? Because, when their on their horse, it's no time for friendship. Their goals require focus, and ambition. They don't prefer riding with other people as much as they like riding for themselves. The friendship you develop with these type of people will extend beyond riding, because they prefer uninterrupted riding experiences. - By the way... when I say "riding" I also mean interactions on the ground. I don't mean to say that you have to be a rider.
The other reason it's hard to find real friends in the horse industry is a bit more complex. It has to do with a part of the human brain that hasn't yet evolved very far. With a bit of tongue and cheek, I call this part of the brain, the "ignorant jerk" part of the brain.
I'm sure people in all industries, all over the world behave like ignorant jerks too. Because I'm connected so closely to the horse industry, I see it more often than anywhere else. People can often be judgmental and rude about their opinions of others in the horse industry because bias toward your own style is so prevalent. Horse people are often stuck in a world where they know everything there is to know... and everyone else is lost.
I know, because I am part of that "horse people." I have often been judgmental toward other riders, and their "ignorant" ways. I've often pointed out their flaws and built a fortress around my perfections. It's ridiculous! Because of this, I have often aliened wonderful people simply because they aren't like me. I hate this part of my brain. I'm trying to fix it. I know that ultimately I can only make a small dent in my DNA but I hope it's a big enough dent to invite other people into my life.
Don't get me wrong. I don't want to socialize with abusive horse trainers, or careless riders either. I don't want to ride with someone who would leave me behind on a young colt while they gallop up the next hill. I truly do want to socialize with people who are like me. Don't you? But the trick is, nobody is like you or me. We are unique and so are they.
What I'm really saying is this. The only way to connect with horse people is to stop judging them. As a general practice, at my clinics, I always invite people to bring whatever horse gear they have to the clinic. Even though I'm a "natural horseman" so to speak, who does not like severe bits or spurs, I know that I must include others into my circle. You never know, we could become best friends, and even learn something from each other. It doesn't mean I have to conform to their ways of riding. It simply means that their way of riding is the way they know best. If their open, they'll invite better techniques and tools into their horse experiences. If I'm open, we can become friends.
What so many people in the horse industry are looking for is "horsey friends." Sometimes, you find them, and horses become the very thing that binds you together. But you'll find, over time, that your opinions will differ. The question is, will it break your friendship, or enrich it?
You see, real friendships can start anywhere. What makes them last is an openness to differences. If horse people could get over themselves for two seconds, they could find in their heart, that there are other ways. That people with different techniques and styles are still people. There are other wonderful people out there. There is a beautiful world available to us, just by saying, "what others do, is OK." When you say that, you can open a door for friendship. It doesn't mean the friendship will last. It just opens doors.
To make friends, you must continue to open doors. Then every once in a while you meet someone who becomes your best friend. When you do, you'll realize, it doesn't matter if they do what you do or not. It doesn't matter if they ride western and you ride english. It doesn't matter if they use Parelli and you use Clinton Anderson. It doesn't matter if they use spurs and you use carrots. You'll both learn from each other. You'll both become more brilliant.
In summary, let my intent be clear. I want you to open up to the differences people have. Learn to be friends with different people. Be willing to go to horse shows or other events. Stop judging and start opening your heart to have some fun.
In the event you see things taking place that you don't approve of. For instance, you see horse abuse happening in front of your eyes, check to see if the abuse is out of frustration or ignorance. If it's frustration based, you might be looking at someone who is easily frustrated and may not be friendly to be around. If it's ignorance based, that means there is room for new strategies and maybe, that person would be open to your friendship. Don't be too quick to judge.
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