I’m one of those women who would have been horse-crazy as a girl if my parents had allowed it. So I tentatively began learning about horses after I grew up. One of the places I started at was called Last Chance Ranch (doesn’t that sound like a great title for a romance novel?). There, Lori rescued horses from the slaughter auctions, and rehabilitated them. She taught a course in natural horsemanship, which, being a natural kind of person, appealed to me greatly.
I will never forget my first “join-up” when, after chasing a horse around a round pen until he showed signs of “readiness,” I then stopped, turned around, and waited, as he willingly, on his own, walked right up to me. His name was Epic. And his voluntary association with me made my heart melt.
Since then, I’ve been to dude ranches (and will never forget riding through the Wyoming forests with Garrett, head wrangler at Lost Creek Ranch), taken all sorts of lessons, and even been thrown from a horse for the first time (no injuries—his name was Peter Tosh, and we were on a Caribbean beach—later, we made up and went swimming!), and I now have a horse-crazy daughter of my own. I don’t yet own any horses.
I was looking up some info to send to a friend on Pat Parelli, a master of natural horsemanship, and I came across this description of his work:
“The Parelli method allows horse lovers at all levels and disciplines to achieve: success without force, partnership without dominance, teamwork without fear, willingness without intimidation, and harmony without coercion.”
This week, I start my new job as CEO of Rodale Inc. I’ve managed people for a long time, and always kept in mind what I’ve learned from natural horsemanship, but when I read that description, I realized just how appropriate it is for any leader or any person. No one wants to be forced to do anything or dominated or made fearful or intimidated or coerced. No one. Not a horse, not a person.
I might not get much riding in these days (in fact, I went the whole summer without getting on a horse, which totally annoys me!), but what I’ve learned from horses, I hope, will make me a better leader. I know it has made me a better rider.