Friday, April 6, 2012

Gentling is Better Than Breaking. Dogs, Horses, Kids.

Horses, dogs, and teenagers are the creatures I spend most of my time with.
They have a lot in common.
There are three important questions you need to be able to answer when you are the one handling any creature or group of creatures.
1. Who is in charge?
2. What are we doing?
3. When do we eat?
These questions are entirely reasonable. If you can't answer them, things are going to get bad really fast.
Here are the answers:
1."I am in charge."
Please note that "being in charge" doesn't mean you get to yell, break stuff, bully,intimidate,or use force. It means that you know how to set reasonable guidelines for pleasant coexistence and help others to follow them.
2."We are doing (fill in the blank)." You need to know what you are doing in a very concrete way. You can't just say, "We'll see" or "Let's see how things develop" or "I don't know."
3. "We eat when it is time to eat. I promise that I will let you know. You will eat. There will always be enough food." And you had better make sure all of those statements are true.
Failure to answer any of these questions correctly will lead to getting bucked off a horse or have a dog pee on the rug forever or endless classroom battles.
I know these things from personal experience.
I'm a "learn by doing" sort of person.
This is not to discount spontaneity. I am all for being spontaneous. But you have to know your audience and your timing.
One of my dogs got broken.
He is a rescue.
He got thrown from a car when he was a puppy and was on Death Row when a wonderful organization rescued and repaired him.
Physically, anyway.
His name is Wilson, and he is, like all dogs, All About Love.
He gets nervous, though, and he will go after men in baseball hats and sunglasses and he throws up when I pack my suitcase.
I don't know if he will ever be whole, but I believe that love goes a long way. And he knows how I would answer those three questions.
I had a horse who was not broken. He was the horse of The War God's Horse Song, the horse of Alexander the Great, the horse of earth and fire and wind. His Wild was one of the best things about him, a spirit that was strong and true and merry.
Sometimes I was in such awe of him that I forgot to be in charge. My goodness, he was fast and sassy and letting him have his way, and sharing in the Wild, was some of the purest joy I ever expect to have.
Training is not the same as breaking.
And teenagers. It is easy to be vexed by kids.
If you are vexed, it is better to remember that, in any interaction, you are in charge. One person always has to be the adult, and it had better be you.
Be kind.
Remember what it was like to be young.
Let your eyes go soft and your shoulders down and speak with love.
And all creatures will thrive.


  1. Hi, what a delightful post! I enjoyed it tremendously and you are "spot on". Thank you for the great read. I am a little old great grandma, and appreciate good sense. Wrote my post early this morning and now I am hopping about trying to read everyone's blog by the end of April. Best regards to you. Keep up the good work. Ruby

  2. Your post is very wise. I think consistency is the key. With my stepkids, I try to find a balance between being the adult and not being too harsh. It's not easy!

  3. I had a horse just like yours. The horse from The Black Stallion, King of the Wind, and The Look of Eagles. He passed at 27 over ten years ago and I miss him still.

  4. Oh my goodness... your blog is fabulous! I love this post. All so true, although I am sad about the dog. I hope he will be whole. I'm sure he is lucky to have you. All great points here tho. I love your blog. I'll be back for more! :)