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Thursday, 3 April 2014

Quite the Character

So its April already! Time flies when you're having fun ... waiting for spring ... in the ice ... AND the mud ... and it seems to never arrive ...

Ahhh but I've promised to stop complaining so much.  In fact I've really made a concerted effort (of which nobody around me is allowed to offer critique) to complain less.  I have to get on the "attitude offensive".  We are headed into another season of showing and competing and if I don't make a conscious effort to put on a smile, say positive things and "keep my joy" I will certainly fall. 

Where, you ask?  Well, into the downward spiral that ALL horse people know all too well (and if you don't know it then you've owned your horse in a bubble, or on another planet).  It is the pit of poor character. 

Wikipedia defines "character" (or "moral character") as "an evaluation of a particular individual's stable moral qualities. The concept of character can imply a variety of attributes including the existence, or lack of, virtues such as empathy, courage, fortitude, honesty, and loyalty, or of good behaviors or habits."   I find it hilarious and ironic that they use the word "stable" for don't we often find a serious lack of moral quality in the "stable"?

Oh and its not just horse owners.  Its dog owners at the dog park, moms at mom's group and cohorts at work.  "Did you see what she just fed her kid?".  "I cannot believe he lets that mutt off leash ... Doesn't he know we ALL get annoyed?".  "OMG Becky, look at her butt, it is so big ...".  (Yes, that was terrible 80's music reference).  Joking aside though, people can really be cruel.  Horse owners and riders are no exception.  Myself included.  This will be a post I go back and re-read to keep myself honest.

When I was a kid we often complained about being forced into child slave labour (you know, like feeding our horses,  shovelling the stalls (or the snowy driveway), carrying water buckets in the winter because the hose froze,  and a family favorite ... hauling logs!).  Really, these were terrible tasks that no child should be forced to undertake but our parents did, under the very well known premise that it would (dun dun dun .... ) BUILD CHARACTER.  We grumbled and we complained but we did it.  And in doing so, we inevitably developed some fortitude (you know, that thing that makes you stick it out even when it's hard work), honesty (didn't take long for mom and dad to realize that there were 2 days worth of poop in there, not just one!), and other "good habits" (like creativity and resourcefulness ... did you know snow melts in a heated water trough and shovels full of snow are much lighter than buckets of water!).  Either way, our parents were totally right (there Mom and Dad, I said it!) ... we built character.

Now as adults, we are called to show it.

Here's the funniest thing about my state of mind in writing this post.  I'm not envisioning my young clients reading this.  I'm not even really picturing my teenage crowd (who no doubt will get something out of it, but are quite solid kids).  I'm envisioning adults.  Grown people, at a horse show, nattering, and gossiping, criticizing and talking being backs and offering unsolicited advice and showing poor character.  Sometimes its even adults picking on or criticising the younger folk.  I'm envisioning myself standing right there with them. 

This all sounds fairly appalling and shameful, right? So why do we do it? 

I think its like an addiction.  What else would we talk about if not each other's shortcomings, right?

I truly believe that to build character, we must build new habits.  We must recognize that the habits we have are not of "solid moral quality" and we must decide to change them.  And I honestly believe that the only way we can change poor habits is to first form new ones.

So, I'm making it my mission this year (and announcing it publicly so I'm accountable) to step it up a notch and show my kids that I can ride and train horses, teach lessons and show and compete, without entering the gossip mill.  I hope to discover that we can be successful without building our success on someone else's failings.  I would love to spend a whole season building people up, telling them that they can do it, even if it seems far-fetched or unconventional.  I would love to see us all doing this.  Imagine a horse show where we all trained hard, worked hard, rode our butts off and did nothing but support each other in our mutual competitiveness.  Would we somehow lose our edge?  Would it make us less prestigious to stoop down to help a fellow competitor? I don't know.  But I think its a risk I'm willing to take.

Stable moral qualities. A noble aspiration.  I will clean my stalls with joy.  I will deal with difficult people with a smile on my face.  And when I'm tempted to gossip about someone, or show weak moral fortitude, I will simply chuckle and say "Yes, they are quite the character...".

And I will have shown mine.