Link to Grand Rapids Herald-Review

March 6, 2005 --
A little horse sense

O wad some Powír the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us
It wad frae monie a blunder free us
Aní foolish notion
What airs in dress aní gait wad leaíe us
Aní evín Devotion

          -- Robert Burns
            "To A Louse"

Bobby Burnsí famous poem about a lowly louse he saw creeping on a ladyís bonnet at church may be a bit hard to follow in the original Scottish brogue.

A more modern rendering puts it this way:

Oh, that God would give us the very smallest of gifts
To be able to see ourselves as others see us
It would save us from many mistakes
and foolish thoughts
We would change the way we look and gesture
and how and to what we apply our time and attention.

It has been said that we can never really see the back of our own head. I guess thatís one reason I like working with horses so much. They can, in an unbiased manner, show us the back of our head; allow us to see ourselves without all of the "social" baggage that accompanies any evaluation doled out by another human. To really see ourselves as others see us.

I often tell beginning riders, "a horse will tend to behave toward you like you behave toward it."

When a youngster complains, "Willy wonít do what I want him to do," I remind the kid of the previous statement. Then Iíll ask, "What does Willyís behavior tell you about your own attitude? Have you been paying good attention to what Iíve been telling you?" That usually evokes a begrudging, "no."

Riders-In-Cahoots sleigh and cutter rally The recent Riders-In-Cahoots sleigh and cutter rally at the fairgrounds had me trying to imagine what it was like in the "horse and buggy days" of Grand Rapids. Even with as much time as I spend with horses, itís still hard to envision what it would be like to hitch a team and ride to town for supplies. I tend to think about the difficulty and inconvenience, but frankly, I tend to forget the benefits. Things like being forced to slow down and enjoy the ride. ÖBeing able to tell the horse whateverís on my mind ó with no risk of backtalk. And the benefit of having the horseís behavior reveal the back of my head. Does the horse seem uptight? Maybe I am also. Does he seem to be daydreaming? Guess what Iím doing. Is he a bit surly? Oops.

It is sometimes suggested that folks in "the good old days" were more civil, considerate. "Road rage" didnít seem to exist back then.

I wonder. Are all the "horses" under the hoods of our "horseless carriages" still showing us the backs of our heads?

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