Lesson from a Cowboy…
Let’s face it, 2020 has been a challenge. Individually, locally, and globally we’re facing situations that we have no experience in handling. Like Cowboy in the Mist there are times when we can’t see beyond our next step; but, like the cowboy in the photo, we need to keep moving forward. Here are a few ideas to help you navigate any uncertainties that show up in your life.
When faced with loss of a loved one, loss of income, and loss of our normal life, we need an anchor – a belief system that will help support us in our most challenging times. Whether you practice a particular faith or have your own spiritual beliefs, it can be incredibly helpful to have a calm place to shelter.
For our cowboy, his faith is in the sensibility and intelligence of his horse, and his own wisdom and experience. He’s taken a herd through snow, blazing sun, pouring rain, and fog so thick he couldn’t see his horse’s ears. He doesn’t know what’s coming his way in the next 24 hours, or even 24 minutes, and that’s OK. His faith allows him to stay focused on the next step, and he learns to trust his beliefs.
Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said, “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”
Another great lesson from a cowboy. Trust goes a step beyond faith. Trust is faith in action. Trust is taking that first step. Putting one foot in front of the other is all we have somedays.
Trust is a critical element in any horse-human relationship, and it must go both ways. We trust animals who weigh 1,000 pounds and have a strong flight instinct not to trample over us when they feel threatened. They trust humans, who are predators, and allow us to climb onto their backs. These are the ultimate acts of trust.
Learning to trust your horse begins with learning to trust yourself. Wisdom you’ve gained from various experiences in your life are stored inside you, and can help you build your sense of self-trust.
“Trust your hunches. They’re usually based on facts filed away just below the conscious level.”
Dr. Joyce Brothers
Trust is so powerful, but we all have our limits. The key is to recognize and respect them.
Don’t overface yourself
When you’re working with a horse, you don’t want to overface him by asking him too many things at once. How would he respond if you asked him to canter and to rein-back and to leg-yield at the same time? Would he be able to perform any of those actions well? More importantly, how would that make him feel? Probably anxious and confused. He wants to do what you’re asking, but you’re asking so much, he doesn’t know where to begin.
The same is true for yourself. Having faith you can take the next step and trusting enough to take it is very different than expecting to take that step while juggling a dozen other things. That’s setting yourself up for failure. You need to have a clear picture of what the next important step is, and take that step. Your path opens up in its own time.
We need to learn to be patient with ourselves when dealing with uncertainty, which can be extremely challenging. We’re wired to do it all, do it perfectly, and have it done by yesterday. Trying to keep up with these demands often leads to exhaustion, overwhelm, and less-than-loving behavior with our families. There has to be another way. Doesn’t there?
This may not be what you want to hear, but the best way to determine your next step is to take some quiet time and listen to your intuition. In the same way our cowboy doesn’t try to get through the mist by galloping the herd as fast as they can go in an attempt to out ride it, hurtling headlong into our challenge without thinking can be the polar opposite of what we really want – a deliberate and calm way to move forward.
Take a few minutes to think about what our cowboy could teach us during the upcoming weeks and months. Challenges will arise, and, like the mist, they will shrink our world until the only thing visible is that next step. Have faith, trust your instincts, don’t overface yourself, and be still to hear that quiet voice in us that knows what the next step should be.
We can’t make the challenges go away, but we can learn to negotiate them, one step at a time.
Jody Miller is a professional photographer specializing in Horse Photography, Equine Photography, and Equestrian photography. Her work can be viewed online here in her gallery section, and she is also featured at these Arizona Galleries: Van Gogh’s Ear Gallery on Whiskey Row in Prescott, AZ and Coops Coffee House at Talking Rock Ranch. Gift Shop at The Phippen Western Art Museum
Thanks to author and contributor, Penny Hawes, The Horse Writer