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Practice Gratitude

Gratitude, an appropriate, albeit perhaps cliche topic to discuss as we head into the week of Thanksgiving. My intention however, might come from an unexpected place. I don’t wish to tell you how grateful I am for all the amazing things in my life. Gratitude for; sunshine & rainbows, puppies & kitties, hugs & kisses, proves to be easy, expected even. I want to tell you how deliberate, consistent and practiced gratitude can influence your mind, riding and maybe even your life.

Wallace D. Wattles wrote in his book, The Science Of Getting Rich (1910),

“The grateful mind is constantly fixed upon the best; therefore it tends to become the best; it takes form or character of the best & will receive the best.”

This is a powerful idea. What Wattles suggests, is that if you look around and only see your hardships, your hangups and your shortcomings you will unconsciously create and attract more of the same. Even those living in poverty or sickness have something to be grateful for. Negativity breeds negativity, constantly looking at the down side is going to accomplish nothing, except keep you there.

Keen & husband working together to start a young horse under saddle

There are two statements that make me shudder when they slip out of the lips of a riding student. They never come from a place of gratitude. One is “I can’t…” The other is anything that starts with, “this horse (insert misbehavior of choice here)…” Those statements are the beginning of mentally giving up. One of the stand out qualities of any successful rider, in any discipline on any breed of horse, is mental toughness. Those statements are admissions of defeat, the end, the excuse, you are passing the blame.

“I can’t…” inadvertently says, “I don’t have the faith, the work ethic or the trust in my trainer &/or my horse that they are here to help me improve in my riding and maybe in my life.” The phrase, “This horse…” takes the blame and responsibility and puts it on someone else. Imagine how those same statements would change with deliberate gratitude, “I can’t…” becomes; “This is really difficult, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to try.” Or perhaps; “I’m grateful to be farther than many, and moving forward one step at a time through these challenges.”

The statement “This horse…” with gratitude becomes; “I may not get along with this horse but I’m grateful to be in a situation to try to better myself and learn to understand the needs of my horse.”

The well known phrase “They see the world through rose colored glasses,” has long been held with a negative connotation. I believe on the other hand that is exactly what we need to do. We should nurture our feelings of gratitude for all things and in all parts of life. If we try to be grateful for our source of pain, discomfort or pressure we may start to see the world in a way we never imagined, with a rose colored hue.

Keen, making the best of a snowstorm while instructing a rider during a holiday event

Another favorite quote of mine from Wallace Wattles book is,

“…Faith is born of gratitude. The grateful mind continually expects good things & expectation becomes faith.” 

Once upon a time, if you are a rider, you may not have believed you could rise and fall, posting to the motion of a trotting horse. You were however instructed on what to do, or observed how others do it. You were most importantly, grateful for the opportunity to try. Perhaps, if you were lucky, you were grateful for a good teacher and a safe horse with whom you put much faith in. You fumbled and bounced and slowly found your rhythm. Your faith in yourself, your horse and your teacher thus improved and hopefully so did your gratitude. 

There will always be hard times and hard rides, lost classes and unexpected events. Those times make the good times even sweeter. Without friction, without pressure we can’t move forward. We would just be content to stay where we are. Pressure is the same force that makes worthless carbon atoms into sparkling diamonds. We have to learn to have gratitude for the discomfort which moves us forward. This is how we can create, positivity from difficult situations and rise with our focus forward on regaining traction towards our ultimate goals, whatever they may be.

Keen taking a moment to share a ride with daughter

So when your lesson horse has thrown her head for the whole ride and drug you around the arena the whole time you were in the saddle, as you dismount, be thankful anyway. Give your horse a rub down and the best of care. Treat her as you would the most expensive and impressive of show horses. Be grateful, for she is spending her life teaching you, not just about riding but about life. One of my past teachers and a huge mentor of mine would say, “The only thing in life without ups and downs, is mediocrity.” Practice gratitude, in the good and in the bad and you will begin to reap what you sow. Soon you’ll be seeing the world through rose colored glasses.

Published by Keenbehringer

Keen is a professional horse trainer and riding instructor seeking to motivate and inspire people to be the best version of themselves through their interactions with horses and equestrian sports.

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