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Training a Horse

My father lives in the suburbs of Salt Lake City, Utah, and has for the last 12 years or so. He has always been a handy man and enjoys building.

In the last eight or nine years he has slowly picked up a hobby that now almost engulfs him. He raises horses. First he started with a property, then more property, then a barn and a horse. Then two horses, and now he gives lessons to the neighborhood. He loves it.
With that life experience, I was reading through Seth Godin’s blog, and read his article The open road. He talks about some time he spend in India. He was being driven on a trip more than eight hours long. He noted what I saw on my way to work today….people love to pass. In his situation it was, as he put it, “death-defying horror…” so it was much more intense than my five minute commute to school, but the principle was the same. His driver sped up to pass as long as there was someone in front of him. The driver needed that competition to speed up. When on the road by himself, the driver actually slowed down.
How often do we see that? I was a Driver License Examiner for nine years and taught the Defensive driving course. In our course materials it said that 70% of drivers feel that they are better than half of the drivers on the road. He who passes us is a jerk and he who slows us down is an idiot. If everyone is better than half of us, then we have a serious ego problem. It’s mathmatically impossible.
Back to the Horses. My father’s second horse is a decendant of Seattle Slew, the only undefeated triple crown winner. He read up all about horse racing. What to feed them, how hard to work them, how much rest they need.
Most of what my father told me was lost to memory, but there was one major point that he made that hit home to me. He said that when horses run, they chase. A horse runs faster for longer if it is staring down the horse in front of it. If you want to truly train a horse to go fast, my father said, you have to give it a target to beat, in his case another horse.
Anyway I am going on and on here, but the point is the same as what Seth Godin was pointing out today. It is human nature, indeed it is the nature of life, to see a challenge and beat it. Pass the car, beat the horse, race your brother home from school, see who can get to sleep first. Adversity is everything. Without it we are not race horses, we are placed out to pasture!
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