not your ten

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.

bucking ee721-download_20140428_192928Our arena fencing is five feet

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.

horze1Not everyone can look this magnificent jumping a 2′ obstacle, ok?

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.

19 thoughts on “not your ten”

  1. YASSSS. YES. I love love LOVE this! Humility is so vital in our interactions with other people, and it’s so easy to just be a jerk sometimes, even if it’s not intentional. “Not Your Ten” is such a great way to remember to stay humble and compassionate. Love it!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. great post!! it drives me CRAZY when people do this to me – one example actually made me quit working with a brand new trainer: 2 yrs off from riding and she’s got me posting without stirrups for ages and ages, then condescends to say, ‘oh yea, i get sore if i don’t ride for a week too… you’ll be fine’… yea…. that’s not at all the same thing lady (other things were wrong too, but that attitude really sealed the deal).

    but… the flip side is that i also definitely catch myself doing this to other people too and it’s definitely not very nice or productive or anything. it’s so important to keep perspective and patience about everyone’s varying levels of experiences and goals etc

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Weirdly enough, an idea along these lines came up during a pre-martial counseling session! When we were talking about resolving conflicts, our counselor encouraged us to make sure we were acknowledging the other person’s feelings even if our feelings are different or if that person’s feelings don’t seem rational or legitimate. They’re feeling those feelings, which makes them legitimate.

    I definitely didn’t see how it related to riding until I read this, but it totally does!


    1. This is what I’m constantly trying to convince my boyfriend!! He is like “that is illogical, thus your feelings are invalid” and I’m like “Look, just because I’m not a VULCAN doesn’t mean my feelings are invalid!!!”


  4. I’m totally guilty of feeling like my horse is ZOMG BEING CRAAAZZZIIIEEE when really… he’s not. But I also fully disclose that I am a HUGE weenie, so maybe people have learned to take it with a grain of salt?

    On the other hand, just because Miles’ antics aren’t as big or tough as Murray’s sound, doesn’t mean they don’t legit scare the shit out of me, lol


  5. Great post! I’m one of those who you would probably want to roll your eyes at if I complain about a ride, because I have a saintly generally non-spooking creature. That still doesn’t mean my ride doesn’t feel just as shitty as yours does, even though your bucks may be bigger 🙂


  6. This is so well put. I totally agree that it is a way of putting people down. Not to mention it’s annoying as hell. This one girl that gallops racehorses, and obviously thinks I suck because I don’t do it more often, told me that I should sell Indy the other day. She thinks I’m scared of Indy because I’m not out there galloping on the trails or showing. Just because I’m trying to keep my horse sane doesn’t mean I’m terrified or can’t handle her. Just because the girl wouldn’t hesitate to do all of these things, or fry my horses brain in the process, doesn’t mean that I have to be willing to. Yet, because I won’t do the things that this girl is willing to, I’m too scared of my horse to keep her? I would be just as scared to put this girl on Indy and let her go tearing ass on the trails as would be to do it myself. I’m not scared of Indy hurting me, but I’m terrified of her ending up being useless because her brain is fried. As much as I would love to have the type of horse that just gets over stuff as long as I’m brave enough to keep riding through it until she does, I don’t (trust me I’ve tried and it doesn’t work). Anyway, there is such a huge difference between being brave and being reckless and that line varies from person to person (AND horse to horse), just like you said.


  7. I like this post! As you can imagine, I’ve gone through some crazy antics with Ginger. I really get my back up when you can almost see the eye rolling as I describe some issue I had. I’m guilty of letting a couple of those people get on her or handle her, resulting in bigger 10’s for all. It’s a public service, really 🙂 She’s wonderfully adept at doing her best to look after the innocent, yet firmly putting anyone assertive and less than competent safely in their place. You are completely right though, even if I WAS wildly over dramatic about it in the context they expect- those are my feelings and my 10.


  8. Absolutely valid and so well written!

    Ironically, I often get the opposite of this. I tell someone Estella pulled her bronco shit tonight and they are like OMG how do you deal with that?!?!? But really I just exaggerate and her “bronco” shenanigans really consist of more head shaking and evil looks than anything LOL! So funny how things can be interpreted…


  9. Love all the things about this post! IMy trainer and I always joke that mine is “wild” when she’s spooky or overly dramatic, but realistically she’s only being ‘wild’ compared to her usual lopey-hunter self. It makes it that much harder to convince people when she actually is being bad!


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