Important note: THANK YOU, everyone, for your kind words, comments, and support regarding Murray’s very important test this week. I’m so, so pleased that he passed, and did so with such ease and without smashing any $85,000 machines or killing the vet. I’ll probably write a whole review of my PPE at the clinic because I was truly impressed with how my veterinarian handled the day — five of our horses, and a dying foal rushed into the middle of everything — and for people in my area, I cannot recommend Willow Oak Equine enough.
I’ve really struggled to balance my work life and blogging life lately. I’ve been insanely busy, social commitments with friends from out of town have been unmissable, the PPE was eating my nerves, and just LIFE. Man, life, can you please get yourself under control?! Anyway, as I sit here watching the Rolex Dressage drinking my coffee, I’m reminded of a concept that my now-roommate taught me when were first getting to know one another: not your ten.
With a horse as personality-full and opinionated as Murray, you can imagine that I’m used to putting up with quite a bit of shit. Silly shit, real shit, funny shit, bullshit, the kid throws it all at me. And the one compliment I will give myself here is that I feel like I really handle it well — I can let it all go and just ride in all but the most bullshit situations. Of course, it’s Murray who taught me how to handle all of that and still get the most out of my horse, so I can’t forget to credit him either, but that is not the point of this paragraph or blog. Back to the point: so when I hear someone say to me “my horse was so bad today!” or “he threw such a huge tantrum” or “she bucked so big” I used to receive it with a little… skepticism.
If you watched Tuesday’s video, you saw the fights we had (though it wasn’t me riding that day, we put The Problem Solver on to see if it was me or Murray). That ride was not atypical of any given ride where I asked Murray to canter with any level of contact. So, like every ride. Add that to the random, unexplainable, and unreasonable tantrums, weird noises, and the tacking up and, well, it took a fair bit to impress me in terms of bad pony behavior. Especially at our barn of really reasonable, wonderful horses.
So here’s the thing. Not everybody has a Murray. Not everybody wants a Murray. Not everybody has experienced a Murray. Just because someone is not used to dramatic dinosaur squeals and five-foot bucks does not mean that their experience is invalid. Sure, their “ten” isn’t my “ten”, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a ten on their richter scale.
When she was explaining it to me, my roommate likened this to children in the emergency room. Two kids come into the emergency room, and both have a broken arm. One of them has broken her arm before, and the other one hasn’t. When the nurses ask them what their pain level is, the girl who has broken her arm before says “About a six”, and the girl who has never broken it before says “IT’S A TEN!!!!” Those two girls are experiencing two very similar injuries very differently due to their past experiences. That doesn’t invalidate either of their experiences — the girl who is in 10-level pain should be treated like she’s in 10-level pain, even though she’s never broken her arm before and probably has yet to find a whole other world of pain levels in front of her. And the girl with 6-level pain shouldn’t be dismissed either, just because she’s not saying she’s in quite as much pain as the other girl.
I try really hard to stop myself when I’m doing this — dismissing others’ experiences on horseback (or in life) because I’ve had more severe ones — because it is really not a great way to go about life, or even a fair way to treat people. Sure, your horse may move faster than the quarter horse in your lesson, but that doesn’t mean his bolting to the fences wasn’t as serious as yours. When I see a green rider getting nervous because she got a few crow-hops out of her horse, I don’t respond with “oh that was NOTHING, come over here and ride MY horse!” Instead, I try to put those crow hops in the context of her experience, and commend her for riding well through them, or offer constructive criticism for how she can get her horse back on task next time.
Ultimately, to dismiss another person’s experience because you have had more/worse/bigger/better/badder/more xxxx-treeme is just another way of putting someone down. You’re leveraging your experience over theirs to dismiss their feelings, feelings which are completely valid! Just because someone is puking with nerves at their first unrated horse trial and you’re sitting chilly, it doesn’t mean they’re weak and you’re strong. It means that their ten is not your ten, but it’s still a ten. Instead, I strive to respond with compassion and context every time, and remember that my ten is probably Boyd Martin’s four — but he would still treat me like it was a ten.