If we combine thoughts on pressure and spirit it may make some things easier to see, or as I have been discussing to “see it.”
I talked about how I like to keep the spirit in the horse while getting them to the highest level I can. A mustang may have lots of spirit when you first adopt it, but if you are not very careful you kill all the life in them. It may seem like you have a real gentle horse, but really you have killed the life and the spirit of one of the greatest animals in nature. They give up and quit trying. To me this is sad.
I feel the same way when I drive through the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. We took the life and spirit out of so many of the proud people of the Oglala Sioux Nation much like the wild horse.
It is important to make sure we match the spirit with the pressure we or the environment we create is going to put on the animal. If we don’t get things matched up this creates stress in the animal that could affect performance, cause sickness, vices, or even death. Imagine trying to run a normal dairy operation with a herd of buffalo. If you took a herd of dairy cows and dumped them in Yellowstone National Park that would be great for the wolves, but not so good for cows.
This is the challenge we have in range livestock production. You must have livestock that can survive and prosper in wilderness conditions with the lowest inputs possible, but after they have “grown out” of the range stage, they must adapt to a much more confined setting.
Life is easier. A highly nutritious and palatable diet on a regular basis and good fresh water any time they want is like a dream for an animal.
Life may be too easy. A lack of exercise seems to be one of the real problems for livestock that don’t have to graze and travel to water, or have predators to stay away from. We may need to take our dogs and our cattle for a walk.
This becomes the challenge. In the wilderness livestock want to know they can move away from danger. In a small pasture or lot they feel like this is not possible. If human interaction is done in a way that creates fear, the animal will always be hunting a way out and will actually put stress on itself even when there is no real threat. As an example, picture an animal pacing back and forth in a cage or stall.
I go back to my young horses I am riding. I want to get them productive, safe, and content with the world I have created for them and not take the life and spirit out of them in the process. The more skill I develop to do this the better it is for them and for me.
From what I see it is of the utmost importance that we learn how to acclimate range animals to the good life we can provide them in the finishing stages of animal production.
You can look at it the same way you look at working with a wild horse. Help them to understand how to take the pressure. Don’t put the kind of pressure on that takes the life and try out of the animal.
All animals take pressure differently. A stockman reads this and learns to put the pressure on in a way that controls the life but does not kill the spirit.
I thank Tom Dorrance for really getting me to want to explore the subject of spirit.
This is a word that has many meanings and interpretations. I have been riding a couple of horses lately pretty steady. I have not gotten to do this much as of late and am certainly enjoying it.
I am working hard on getting them handy, safe, and content with me and the work we will do while not taking the spirit out of them. This is the spot that does not get talked about much, but I think it may be the difference in horsemanship styles. The way you go about controlling movement can kill the spirit or keep it there.
Horses with all the horse left in them don’t work for many situations. Many riders don’t have the skills to ride a horse with lots of life and spirit. Imagine a dude ranch with a bunch of spirited horses. Beginning and novice riders need horses that are as sensitive to pressure as the jockey is at giving it.
This has had a big effect on horsemanship. In the show world we take the life out by loping circles and drilling the horse so they can be shown. In the world of horsemanship clinics we must get control of the horse physically by bending and disengaging the hind quarters of the horse, to try to keep the rider safe even though he is behind the action of the horse.
It is very important to be safe, so I am not saying it is wrong to match a horse with a rider’s skill level. But for me I get so much pleasure, pride and performance out of riding the horse for the spirit in them.
To do this you must stay ahead of the horse mentally. If he gets ahead of you, you must be able to ride good enough to get him through it and bring him back to you mentally. If you overpower him physically by bending him or disengaging the hind end you are able to get control of all the life in him. Then you start over or put the life back in. If you do this too much you can really take the life or spirit out of the horse.
This to me is important, not only for horses but for all living things.
I have mentioned the book Biology of Belief by Bruce Lipton. In this book he talks about cellular biology. All living things are made up of billions of cells. In his study of cells he claims each has three main purposes. Growth, survival, and to “live.” Cells need to live it up like the billions of cells that make up the horse that needs to run, buck and play. If every time the horse shows enthusiasm and we shut it down, we take a little life out of him and some of the spirit.
It seems the same is true in how we deal with people. Parenting, teaching, being a boss or a preacher can be done in many styles. The ones I enjoy observing the most are those that get the job done with spirit and not killing the life and enthusiasm in the person.
I hope this gives you something to think about. If we navigated our way through life trying to create spirit and improve quality of life by matching spirit with the environment the animal or person is in, there may be much less negative pressure and the stress it creates.
My subject this week is “spirit.” If you have been around my son, Rial, you know he has plenty of it. The horse I am picking up on was named Spirit by our nephew Jaxson after the cartoon horse, and a bucking horse has more spirit than most horses, so I figured this would work.