Individuality and Creativity. Two very important parts of horsemanship that I personally think can be a struggle, especially at the beginning. These two concepts apply equally to the horse and the rider.
Our good teachers always talk about the individuality of the horses and how we have to adjust to fit each one of them and their specific needs. We need to work with each one, playing to their strengths and unique personalty and physical ability, to make them the best they can be. It's what makes true horsemanship so interesting over an entire lifetime and it's also what makes it so difficult. There is a huge gray area.....what works for one horse, may not work for the next. That means that we need to be able to take what we are taught and be creative with how we apply it to each horse. It means that there are no rules set in stone, there are always exceptions.
It works basically the same way for the human. I've been contemplating it a lot lately, especially after riding with Buck Brannaman a few weeks ago. I've been riding with Buck for 20 years so its safe to say that most all of my theories, principles, mechanics, traditions and overall way of working with horses comes from what I have learned from him. One of the things that has always captured my attention when riding with him is how his horses look and feel, and how every other horse around him feels in his presence. They are all drawn to his confidence, leadership, kindness and compassion for the horse. It is an intangible thing, and certainly not something he can teach you exactly how to become. For some unknown reason this year after the clinic is just struck me in a new way.....I will never be Buck (duh). Even if someday my skill level reaches the same level as his, I will still never be him. Just like the horses, he is an individual and so am I. I will never be a master roper because I simply don't have access to cattle, but I can still make my own amazing bridle horses and maybe I can add my own special qualities to those horses in place of the time someone else would be spending working cattle and roping. I realize that I have to take all that he and others like him have taught me over the years and be creative with that knowledge and make my own path. Use my individual strengths, ability and interests to bring horses along in my own special way- always keeping in my mind the standards and theories of my teachers. If I want the horses to respond to me the same way they respond to him, then it has to come from deep down inside of me, from that special place of my individual truth. I can't do it by trying to be someone else, or by trying to be what I think somebody else is because it is simply not possible, and it's simply not authentic.
This sounds like common sense as I write this, and in general it is, but it takes a certain amount of self confidence to think that I might have something unique to offer the horses and their riders. I also believe that you have to try to emulate your teachers for quite some time, you have to learn the skills and be guided in the right direction. For me it has been really important to not stray from the direct path given to me until I was able to get a lot of experience under my belt working with many horses and students. I'm far from perfect or being Buck, but I feel like I'm at the right place in my riding to really start concentrating on the creative side of horsemanship. To develop my own style and way of doing things and that I can feel confident about it. Just like the horses, its our individuality that makes us beautiful and special. We have to all take the knowledge that we have received from the generosity of our mentors and apply it in our own way, applying our own individual strengths, personality and creativity to be the best that we can be.