Cornbread Thinks: Tack & Tact

“Tack” is all our leather goods for horses, mostly bridles and saddles. Stuff you keep in a “tack room.” That half pint of whiskey hidden on a rafter is not tack, though. “Tact” is the skill of saying what needs to be said, when it needs to be, by the person who should, to the person who needs to hear it – without malice and hurt. You can never have too much of either.

Tack is what you put on a horse. Tact is getting a horse or a person to do what you want by getting them to want the same thing. We should study how much tact some people have with horses and none – not any – with people. If the genius of horse tact could be applied to Congress, it would be a love fest in no time. Maybe we should send them a load of correction bits.

We are a particular bunch about our tack, too. There is nothing like the way a good set of reins feels or a saddle shop smells. I am sure there is a language saddlemakers and leathersmiths use to describe the nuances to each other. I can only touch it to know if it’s what I want. The way those reins “fit” your hand. The balance in your hand. The perfect weight between hand and bit that keeps them just lying there. No pull, no push. The way they hang down by the horse’s shoulder. Goldilocks. Tact is the same, it feels right, it fits the moment, it doesn’t pull or push a person. It just hangs there. Ready. Calm.

We maintain our tack. Saddle soap, leather conditioner and, my favorite, olive oil. Buy it by the gallon, the discount house’s cheapest. There is almost no way to bring leather back to the way it was if you let it get too far gone. Dry and brittle it becomes. Good leather is a living thing. Neglect makes it dead. Tact is a lot like that, too. If you rarely use it, without any maintenance, it gets dry and brittle. Not the same feel. It loses its comfortable, and no amount of oil will make it like it was either.

The reins you like are the ones that you succeed with, how you communicate best with your pony. They are like telegraph lines. Horses are hypersensitive and perceptive, at least until a heavy hand numbs and confuses them. Signals sent through reins too hard, too late and in conflict with your seat baffle them. They quit thinking on their own because they are being told they are wrong, even when they are right. It is very hard to put thinking back in a horse.

Your tact works the same way with people. They need a history with you – to have seen what you say is what you do. You want them to do things for the same reason you do, not because you say so. Teach thinking.

A lack of anger is key to the most successful way to use both tack and tact. It isn’t “controlling” a temper. Controlling means it is still there, pacing around its cage, in the control room from which actions and words are sent forth. It’s like keeping plastic jugs of gasoline next to the welder…it’s just a matter of time.

A bad temper is a handicap. It can and must be fixed. You have to look deep inside yourself. Like cutting, it is an emotionally brutal process. Telling even just yourself what really makes you angry is painful. It isn’t on the surface either, it is several layers deep. When someone does something that infuriates you but in reality has no effect on your life, you badly need to understand why.

When a horse plays “keep away,” do you get angry? Why? Because deep down you feel like she is making you look incompetent? Are you too mentally tired to figure out how to outsmart this horse this day? You absolutely must know why things make you angry. Solve that, and you eliminate anger instead of expending energy trying to control it at all times.

We are powerless over anger itself. It has to be not there. It is a learned behavior that has probably worked for you, sometimes. Maybe not so much for the horse or the other person.

Cornbread Thinks: Oil your tack and turn frustration into a welcome challenge.