8. Excuse is the Wife of Failure
I will warn you this week’s post is going to be applicably different than our previous precepts. It is not designed to help decode horse behavior or to resolve miscommunications between you and your horse. In fact, this post really isn’t about horses at all. It is about common human failings that prevent you from advancement and success in all aspects of your life.
The precept “Excuse is the Wife of Failure” can be broken down into two basic parts.
1.) If you have to justify it, it’s probably wrong.
2.) If you accept inability and disability, you have chosen it over ability and success.
This first part of our precept is particularly hard to stomach and is a human default to any less-than-perfect outcome in our lives. We do it without thinking. We are so full of excuses that we even try to justify why we are full of excuses! Whose first thought upon reading this was “well, maybe I do that sometimes, but only because of___”? (be honest!). But joking aside, consider for a moment what you tend to try and justify or excuse in your everyday life. You don’t try to make an excuse for getting a perfect score on a test, you don’t try to justify yourself for walking an old lady across the street. Why would you make an excuse for coming to work on time or holding the door open for someone? It’s a hard truth, but what it comes down to is that the correct or appropriate decision is never something we have to make excuses for, and therefore, anything we have to defend is something that we innately know is wrong or inappropriate.
This (although it is found in every aspect of our life) it is almost universally present in people with misbehaving horses. “He only acts this way because he’s scared,” or “he didn’t mean to step on me. He just really wanted the grass by my foot.”
Or one of our particular favorites:
· “He just did that because he was abused.”
· “He was probably abused in this way.” (depending on what you are trying to do with him.)
· “He was probably abused by a man…” (when someone—usually a man—cannot catch, trim, lead, shoe the horse, etc.)
I hope you see the problem with this. Deep down we know that whether the horse was abused or not, it should not give him a right to step on the feet of, or run away from, people who are not abusing him. But even though we know this deep down, we also know that it will require change to change things, and change is something that we very much do not like. It means taking responsibility for the thing that is wrong and working to do something about it. Believe it or not, the overwhelming majority of people would rather make excuses for why their dreams are not working out than actually work to make those dreams a reality. Surely not, you say. But think about it: how many people actually ever achieve their dreams with horses? Not very many.
Which brings us to our second part, if you accept inability and disability; you have chosen it over ability and success. Everyone has problems with their horse. Most likely, the problems that you have with your horse are very similar to the problems other people have with their horses. Your problems are not that unique! The difference between you owning and dealing with a previously abused horse, and someone else owning and dealing with a previously abused horse, is not in the least bit about the horse or the method, extent, severity, or duration of its abuse. You achieving success with that horse versus someone else is only dependent upon how you deal with the problems you face.
Issues, obstacles, and problems with your horse are wonderful opportunities for learning and growth. For example, say you have a horse that does not pick up a certain lead. This is an unfortunate thing, right? Most people would never buy a horse that will only canter on one lead, and if your horse suddenly stops picking up a lead, most people’s logical response is to sell it and buy a horse that automatically picks up the correct lead. The lead issue was hindering your progress, right? But that is the easy option and in the long run doesn’t end up helping YOU at all. Now take the same situation with a person who refuses to accept that their horse only picks up one lead. They will work hard (maybe for a long time) and through working hard and taking full responsibility for the horses lack of a lead, ends up learning how to cause the horse to pick up the correct lead and how to condition and balance the horse so that that lead was no longer an issue for him. If that person had just accepted the disability, they would have never been able to succeed in getting a difficult lead not just with this horse but any horse they will ride or own in the future.
I hope you can now see how making excuses only hurts yourself. It would be ridiculous to think that all the great and successful horsemen never had to ride horses that only picked up one lead, or never had to deal with horses that had been abused. The only difference between the great horsemen and you is that they saw every obstacle not as an obstacle, but as an opportunity for learning and experience. Out of the hundreds of one-sided horses they have ridden over the years, there was one somewhere that was the first. Can you imagine how their story would be different if they had taken the easy road and only cantered that first horse the direction that wasn’t difficult?
This is a great link to connect our 7th and 8th precepts, a video talking about the balance of responsibility and excuses: