Cornbread Thinks: Control

“Everything will be perfectly fine if this horse would do what I want.” Do you ever have that thought? Do you get frustrated when you can’t get your horse to do what you want? Does your frustration get telegraphed to your horse? Is it really about not being able to control everything your horse does? What does control mean to you? Think about that a minute, please.

Control is a good thing in cars, airplanes and chainsaws. Control in horses is like some relationships… “It’s complicated.” For safety, maintenance and general care, it is a must. To get the best and all of a horse’s ability, control can restrict him or even flat out ruin him. It is important he thinks for himself. There is no time to spare for extra thinking and certainly none for no thinking at all.

A horse who has been a little over-controlled will have a little hesitation, some doubts. One who has been controlled to the point of abuse will not think at all. He’ll always be at the edge of quitting, because he just can’t make a decision. When a horse reaches that point, no matter how much control you always maintained over this horse, you now have none. You never really did, you just thought you did.

Horses will do things for you because they want to do things for you. A horse that does things because of you is a lesser horse. That horse did not want to get in that trailer. Good control means that horse got in because he trusted you and you wanted him to load. You did it with firmness; you didn’t let him say, “No.” You did it with patience. You let him think a little – you might have even bribed him a little – but he finally loaded and it was a good experience. Or perhaps you made him load. You got mad and made him scared. The trailer didn’t do anything to scare him. You sent a signal that you were ready to make this happen, at any effort. That horse figured, “This can’t be good if my person is nervous or mad, or both.” In both cases the main purpose happened – you got the horse loaded.

The first horse went on to learn good trailer manners, was always easy to load, stood tied to the trailer for saddling and the trailer experience never carried over to the show pen. The other horse became a quirky loader – most times, he just loads. Make the slightest miscue, though, and he ain’t loading. Something as simple as a glance at his eye as you approach the trailer and you have turned into a 400-pound saber-toothed tiger. Or he “charges” the trailer thinking, “Nothing good is going to happen to me as long as I am not in that trailer.” It’s a good way of getting run over or jerked down.

Now go back and change horses to people. Just like horses, nothing good will come from trying to control everything in the people around you. I’m pretty sure you don’t like being controlled, being ordered around, getting demands instead of requests. An employee has to do what the boss says, but a request puts more “want to” in them than a demand. Good people do better when they can think, when they have the comfort to try something different. If they don’t have this freedom, then they won’t waste their time thinking of better ways. You don’t want to come home from the horse show to find your home burnt up because you always told them to call the fire department if the barn caught fire, but you neglected to tell them the same thing about the house.

Insisting on everything revolving around you and making yourself the center of your universe will have the same effect as a real universe – a black hole whose gravitational pull is so great the weight of all it controls collapses it. Trying to obtain something that is not obtainable is such a waste of time. Accepting that you really don’t have any control and working on adapting to what happens is freeing. It creates time in your life. Getting people and horses to want what you want will create the rewards of your dreams.

If you think you have any control at all, imagine answering the phone and hearing your child say, “I found a lump, surgery at 4. Can you come to the hospital?”

Cornbread Thinks: Control is an illusion.