What we could stand to learn from horses
Over the last ten years I've f*** up my horse's training in a myriad of ways. She has always given me the chance, many chances even, to fix it, never ever soured to being ridden, rarely acts out under saddle or on the ground, follows me around the barn, does things for me I know she HATES like stands for the dentist without sedation and walks into trailers. There have been so many times I have done dumb things like bumped her mouth going over a jump, given her completely confusing cues, tried to make her do Second Level dressage before we were ready, hit her with a dressage whip when she didn't deserve it and whatever other mistakes I can't think of right now but have surely committed. She even forgave me for shoving her in a series of boxes, including a flying one, for ten days and moving her halfway across the world.
When you're riding out of balance and pulling on her face and giving confusing cues, you don't get light and airy dressage with collection and impulsion. She'll be heavy and on the forehand and behind the leg. She is honest, but patient. When you sort yourself out, in the next twenty minutes, the next week, the next year, she comes through on the bit and gives you everything she has. You can ride her at that three foot vertical ten times, making an a**se of it for nine of them, and she'll still (through some miracle of heart and athleticism) throw herself over it. She doesn't hold it against you that you hit her in the mouth and landed on her neck the first four times you attempted the fence. But when you get it together, it's a beautiful, balanced jump.
Even more miraculous is that I taught her to jump. She'd never gone over a single fence before I bought her. Even though I am rubbish at jumping, she somehow became one of those "packers" who will make sure you and she get from one side of the jump to the other at more or less the same time in the same place, no matter how much you suck. In spite of my inability to maintain a decent position over fences, we somehow were able to communicate this.
I've had to be patient with her as well, accepting and forgiving of her flaws. Yes, I have been bucked off (it's been many years) and I got back on. Yes, she's taken off with me but we learned how to stop. Yes, there have been many times when she has freaked out about something, had a total meltdown, rearing, bucking, trying to bolt, and I admit, it's bloody terrifying. But you deal with it and even learn how to do so calmly, even if you do think you are going to die. I accepted that neither one of us had the passion and motivation or natural ability for upper level dressage. I accepted that she would have made a fantastic lower level eventer with someone who is less chickensh*t about cross country than I am. She is socially awkward with other horses so she usually needs to be out by herself. But at the same time she gets lonely and clingy so needs to be within over-the-fence contact with horses or have people around her for most of the day. For no apparent reason, she takes a disliking to certain barns and refuses to settle in or decides she hates one particular field and runs like a maniac until someone brings her in. This is a PAIN given how much we move around. But I've worked with this for ten years. It's just the way she is and I deal.
I'm not the perfect rider or trainer (thousands of lessons later, my leg position is still crap). But I guess I am good enough for the sort of horse she is and we click. She is endlessly patient with my flaws, as I am with hers. She understands what I am trying to tell her, however imperfectly and badly timed, and gets on with it, and I understand her well enough to know why she does things, or at least if not sure why I know how to deal with her when she does things. If she had thrown a bucking fit every time I deserved it, I think we'd have a very different relationship, or none at all. But she's never been like that. We've always been able to find a way to work together, sometimes haltingly, stumbling along, but always together.
If people were half as forgiving as that mare the world would be a better place. That's what people need to learn from horses. Patience, forgiveness, and honesty. I think people can really suck at these things. But as a lot of you know, when you work with horses you realize that they can be incredibly good at this and I think, if you open yourself up to them, you can find it in yourself to be a little bit more patient, forgiving, and honest. The world needs more of it.