|September 30, 2014||Posted by Melinda under Uncategorized|
I want you to pick your current favorite horse and tell me about them. 60 seconds or less, tell me a story. No cheating, close your eyes and go through that story in your head.
Ready, Set, Go!
What story did you just tell me?
- Did you tell me about what the horse has accomplished? Tevis, 100 mile completions, mileage achievements?
- Did you tell me about your day-to-day interactions with them? How they pack your grandchildren around or have a bit of piss and vinegar still at age 25?
- Did you tell me how you got them? Did you spend 5 seconds or 45 seconds on this?
Likely you touched on the origin of your horse – whether it was a simple “I’ve owned her for 7 years” and then moved on to one of the other points, or recounted the day a foal was born into your arms, or a more elaborate story of how you made ownership happen through unlikely or horrifying circumstances.
Origin stories are powerful and tremendously important to families, businesses, and how we share our pets with others.
It’s one reason why mothers feel the need to recount birth stories.
It’s why businesses such as Google, Apple, and Ebay have not only have popularized their origin stories, but tweaked them to send a certain message, and in some cases are doing something to deliberately during the start-up in order to create a certain narrative (like renting a garage for a certain time point just to say they did).
Why is the origin story you choose to tell about your horse so important?
What you say in that 60 second “elevator pitch” tells other people what to expect from you and your horse. It provides an inside scoop to how you relate to your horse, what you expect of your horse, and what that horse means to you. In summary – it tells a story that will color how people view you and your horse for a long time, and it’s a story that other people will likely tell on your behalf to other people.
What is the point of your origin story?
There’s a particular origin story that I think is overused and potentially detrimental.
There are useful rescue origin stories – usually they are trying to prove a point, or highlight a particular issue. In a world of often sad and unfair things, we need those success stories.
Unfortunately, more often, the rescue origin story is told to offer excuses.
- Of why the horse isn’t a good citizen
- Of why it won’t stay sound
- Of why it’s skinny right now, 5 years later
- Of why you haven’t accomplished a certain milestone or goal.
- To make the acquisition of the horse more meaningful because “I liked the horse and it was a good deal” seems selfish.
Is it possible to change an origin story?
Absolutely. The past is *always* some shade of rose-colored glasses. It’s why I’m so adamant that this blog is a real-time look at my journey through endurance. It’s nigh impossible to go back and write the story later and completely remove the bias of hind-sight.
Because an origin story is always in the past and it is a story you are choosing to tell means it can always be slanted.
More important than how other people view you and your horse through the origin story you chose to tell is that the words that come out of your mouth will impact your thoughts and will translate into actions and responses.
I recently learned a powerful lesson that using words to describe my running in terms of “former”, “failure”, “fraud” even jokingly was feeding a very deep-set impostor syndrome. Once I banned those words from my mouth, they disappeared from my brain.
Most of the animals I have owned over the years could have a “rescue” story if I chose to slant it that way.
- Mickie, the cat they were going to shoot because she refused to be a barn cat and kept coming up by the house.
- Tess, the Brittany that was born the wrong color and wasn’t breed standard
- Farley, the arab with an unknown past that was dumped at a horse trader’s place full or barbed wire and stallions with a nasty hoof injury of “unknown origin”.
- Minx, the beautiful yet troubled Standardbred that came to me unable to bridled, scared of everything.
Yet, if I was to tell you about them, that isn’t the story you would hear. Instead, you would hear about:
- Mickie, the cat who adopted me and I begged my mother to take her while I finished up college.
- Tess, the smartest most talented dog I’ve ever had the privilege of meeting who is my constant companion and challenge.
- Farley, who might be that once in a life time “war mare” who has carried us through multiple 100’s on her talent not mine.
- Minx, my first “owned” horse who was tough as nails and taught me the best lessons in endurance.
I don’t think of any of them as rescues even though all of these animals (exception: Tess) probably went from a less ideal home to a more pampered existence when I acquired them – but all were looking for a home, which I provided.
Some of them were free, some of them I paid a little money – but all of them were bought/acquired for far less than their “market value”.
The bottom line: I don’t feel like I need to coach their achievements or behavior against a backdrop of a “less than ideal background”. No excuses need to be made.
The next time you tell that 60 second story of your horse, think about what origin story you are going to tell *this* time. Sometimes I do tell the story of picking Farley up for $1800 based on a one sentence, text-only BAEN ad – but only after considering which origin story will be the most useful for specific circumstance.
I freely admit that I might be suffering from “rescue” fatigue. The majority of the animals (at least in the semi-rural area I live in) have a “rescue” story. However, not every owner chooses to make it always part of the elevator pitch, and I must admit I’m extremely grateful when I don’t have to look at someone’s delightfully healthy, happy animal and make sympathetic noises about how awful things used to be instead of living in the present and planning for their future.
Does anyone want to share their horse’s origin story here or on their own blog? Do you agree with my post or disagree?
In the meantime, I’ll be writing up a version of my horse’s origin stories here. Minx’s has been done for a while, but Farley and ML deserve something beyond “coming soon”.
P.S. My sister redgirl and I used to talk about perception/realities of owners + rescue animals and she wrote a rather amusing post about it a while ago…..find it here.
Story (who really was slaughter-bound, as were the three horses I did *not* take home that day)’s origin story is this: A friend who knew what she was doing went to the track with me to see what was available. She picked out Story, and said, “That one will never leave you broken and bleeding on a mountain.” Truer words. That mare saved me, body and soul.
Fiddle (who had been adopted from a second-career agency, and then needed another new home because her adopter had a very nasty brain cancer)’s story is this: The agency called less than a week after Story was put down. “You were brave,” they said. “You did the right thing,” they said. Then they said, “We can’t help noticing you’ve got an empty stall.”
It’s funny because when I think back on your horses and the stories that you tell about Story and Fiddle, the first thing that comes to mind isn’t that they were necessarily rescues, but that Story was an incredible horse that took care of you (and looked great in pictures…..) (and of course Fiddle is the Dragon :). Also – LOL at the agency’s move for you to take Fiddle. I believe sometimes that we really do end up with the animals we are suppose to.
Absolutely. I never would’ve chosen Fiddle: too tall, for starters! Also, she was really a b*tch, with deep, long-lasting hostility that required careful, patient unwinding. Not the horse anyone (except God) would have chosen for me. She was, and is, the best horse, and was exactly the right challenge I needed to get me out of some stupid barn politics at a former place.
I agree with you on the “rescue fatigue” — after a while, it starts getting old. It’s great that an animal gets rescued — I don’t like to see any animal in bad circumstances. But just “being a rescue” doesn’t make them any more special, or the owner a better person, than me and my pedigreed dog and pony that I paid top $ for. When I was looking at and first got Artemis, I got flak from people for getting a pedigreed dog from a breeder when “there’s an animal shelter right down the street.”
Same here with tess except some people gave me a pass because she was a “reject”. My response to the “you should rescue” conversation was that I was choosing to support responsible breeding that was imo being done “right”. And I was buying a dog for a very specific purpose and was doing what I could to have the best chances of getting what I want. Same could be said for merrylegs.
Ash, there’s no shame in paying top dollar for exactly the dog or horse that you want. You’re planning to spend a decade or more together, after all, and you have some pretty specific plans.
Jim and I have discovered a high tolerance for all things sheltie, so when one needs a home, there’s pretty much always room at our house. But for our dogs, the expectations are very low: be nice, be funny, be pretty. Almost any sheltie can hit that mark. We do end up with dogs that have health problems, and we could probably avoid those if we’d buy pups from a good breeder. There are tradeoffs. If you’re happy with what you’ve got, I say “gold star” to ya!
Yeah, people give me flak, too, about Kenai. I point out that every other animal I own was one who needed a softer place to land. Each of those animals is also one that doesn’t necessarily go everywhere with me or meet many people or do many things. My dog goes EVERYWHERE with me, sees MANY people, does MANY things. I need to know that my companion in all activities doesn’t have some sketchy past or weird affliction against certain things. As much as I’d love to get a shelter dog, I don’t know that I ever will only because I need a dog I can rely on to be outstanding in some rather extraordinary circumstances (climbing, whitewater, hikes off leash through rugged terrain, ski patrol, endurance rides, etc.).
I didn’t tell an origin story for my horse Mel: rather the tale of him packing my 72 year old father down the trail, a bit worried because Dad wouldn’t let go of his face, ears on me, trying REALLY hard to do the right thing…
All of my horses came home because they were bargains and the right horse at the right time, and I’m happy to admit that. Prycie is the only who comes close to being a “rescue” and even he was being well cared for, albeit not being ridden.Both my dogs and both my cats however were rescues. Dogs and cats don’t have a job around here, horses do.
I SO hear you on the “rescue as excuse” thing though. As a vet, if I had dollar for every time someone has said to me “Oh he’s a rescue he doesn’t like men/women/leads/vets/farriers/being ridden” I would be a wealthy women. Our JOB if we rescue an animal is to get them past that.
A “rescue” might come with issues, but a good “rescuer” will help move past the issues rather than just making excuses!
Aarene – I left out the whole after 2 years it’s YOUR problem thing that we have talked about so much since I figure everyone is sick of me saying it by now. But IMO that’s part of the “moving past” thing – you either fix it or own it!
That’s a good point about a “job”. that’s probably why I was motivated to “buy” a dog instead of rescue one – I had a job in mind for Tess.
Dunno if I can claim to have a favorite horse..so many great characters through the years that have taught me a ton. Sheza and Blaze are pretty high up there on the list..because they have hold of my entire heart and they know it and want me to love them back, or as close to that as horses come. It’s just something deeper than my relationship with horses like Desire (and maybe Scrappy? we’ll see) where she could honestly give a shit if I were a robot that fed her or a person who loves her every breath and step like I do.
I’m all about to each their own, in their own way. Yeah I’ve done the rescue thing, and hey I’ve got my CL cheapie wonder Blaze–on the other hand when I got real endurance goals I went out and spent some money, and I’m glad I did. I’ve had a few random bitter comments regarding my pricier saddles and horses over the last few years but I figure just as soon as they start earning my money for me then they can have a single opinion on how I spend it. 😉
The story that came to mind for Lily is this one: she was an unwanted horse. Despite being offered to me for $1, I almost didn’t take her because she wasn’t really what I wanted either: not a mare, not a TB mix. I almost sold her twice because of her issues. But I didn’t, and she has turned out to be EVERYTHING I ever wanted in a horse.
So yeah: she wasn’t really a rescue. There was some known trauma in her recent past at the time but I didn’t personally save her from that. She was simply the horse that was available at the time and while she wasn’t initially what I thought I wanted, I gave her a chance because she seemed nice enough. And it seemed like a good idea at the time, to quote Funder. Sometimes those ideas are the best ones. 🙂
Agreed! Heck. If we live long enough we all have baggage! And horses and no exception. What’s going to be interesting is that so far in my horse ownership I’ve attributed negative behaviors (unwillingness to be bridled, pulling back etc.) to a trauma. Now knowing most/all of ML’s history, and trauma or lack there of, I’m wondering whether something pops up independent of trauma….I’m sure it will be quite humbling.
My horse was used on a TV show (“Luck” on HBO) so I love including that when sharing his origin story, even though he was only used for a few episodes. That and the fact that he never won a race, but he won my heart and found the right new job for him! My horse has a neat, exciting past which is why I like sharing it.
For your sister’s blog, check out
http://blog2print.sharedbook.com/ – downloads blog posts into a keepsake book.
Yeah, Griffin was a “rescue” but more so, he was a PROJECT horse for me. I wanted a horse. I wanted to learn. He’s taught me a TON and I’ve returned to him the favor. He’s my partner and my future – though that future isn’t always clear. I love him to death and he’s shown me more love than any horse I’ve ever been around. He has an insatiable need to please even through his greenie shenanigans. He makes me so excited to try so many future things.
Q? Q was fun and unanticipated; riding her was more effortless than any horse I’d ever been on and while I really wanted a horse to compete and ride at the time, I did not want a mare or a short horse! She was a risk and a leap of faith who also needed a guaranteed soft place to land with a job she’d excel in and like. She’s my challenge horse that despite all of her best efforts to make me feel otherwise, I love to death. She’s a million little contradictions all wrapped into a beautiful little mare who has made me work more on myself than any critter ever has. Because of her I’m a better human to other humans in addition to being a better human to all the critters.
I had not thought of it, but Agee wholeheartedly on the rescue stories.
If your animal is badly behaved or dangerous then it is your fault. You have not put the appropriate time & effort into fixing it. If you can’t fix it then you should not have rescued the animal.