|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?
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.