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Van Hargis Series
Learn All About Horses Newsletter

Article 1: Starting On The Trail To Success


As a horseman and a clinician I have come to realize that my career has developed into much more than merely a blessed cowboy that gets to help horses with people and people with horses.  I know from experience that my job is to educate, motivate, inspire and entertain people.  The arena and the round pen have become classrooms about not only horsemanship but also about life. The horse has been and continues to be a great teacher if one only opens ones mind to the fact that through interacting with the horse we are able to learn valuable lessons about ourselves, about others and about life. 

In the weeks/months to come I will be addressing horsemanship from a perspective that hopefully will parallel horse training with people training.  It will be my intention to get readers to apply many of the common sense tools used in everyday life to their approach to horse training and developing a better working relationship with their equine partner.  I have worked with highly successful professionals that could lead a team of co-workers to accomplish tasks of great magnitude fall completely apart when presented with a relatively simple equine related problem.  The tools were there to be successful but they needed confidence to apply those tools to a new area of their life.  From my perspective it is extremely rewarding to see these people succeed in areas outside their comfort zone.  On the other hand I have had the awesome pleasure of working with others that were not quite so accomplished.  Helping these people realize their strengths, develop their confidence and exercise their new balanced assertiveness is highly rewarding.  Without a doubt though, the most gratifying of experiences is when someone has experienced abuse or neglect and by identifying with the horse they are empowered to overcome and obtain goals they before thought were unobtainable.  Our horses are great teachers.  They allow us to develop the skills we have, discover skills we didnt know we had and see ourselves mirrored in their behavior and development. 

For most of my adult life I have been a fan of motivational speakers, writers and lecturers.  I have realized that the approaches they teach us to be successful in the professional world are applicable to our world of horses.  Many of these approaches I will share in the articles that follow in this series called The Trail To Success. You will learn how to apply goal setting, positive attitude, dealing with adversity, over-coming obstacles, and realizing success.  Let me be the first to admit that one must still have a general knowledge about horses and how they think in order to be successful with them.  For that reason I will emphasize the three As; Attitude, Aptitude, and Action. 

Before we even start with our horses we first need to be sure we are ready, willing and on go ourselves.  This is where we have to check our attitude.  We need to make sure we are positive, focused and fixed on success.  Know that part of succeeding is failing.  If we know that there are going to be bumps in the road before we ever get started then we will not be surprised when we get to them.  We simply have to view the bumps as a means to better prepare us for other obstacles down the road.  I remember when I was playing football in college we went over game plans repeatedly.  We rehearsed plays over and over again.  Even in the film and locker room we went over the Xs and Os.  Each play if executed to perfection would result in a touchdown.  The reality was that we knew before we stepped foot on the field that we would not score every time we touched the football.  We knew that we would fail on some plays but we also knew in our hearts that we would win the game.  What we learned from our failed plays was vital to the outcome of the game.  Our attitude must be positive yet realistic.  Our attitude determines our ability to process information from our environment. 

Our Aptitude is affected by our attitude.  Part of the attitude is determined by our aptitude.  We need to ask ourselves what we know about what we are about to attempt.  No matter what the task we have to ask if we are knowledgeable enough to attempt it.  In other words, we have to know a little about what we want to do and how to do it.  I got tickled at a fellow that had a great attitude toward flying a plane.  When asked if he could fly he simply said he didnt know because he had never tried.  I loved his attitude but I would never hand over the controls of the plane.  This man needed aptitude.  There is no better teacher about horses than horses.  Watch them, observe them and learn from them.  Try to view them from the perspective of a horse.  Because we are not horses this is hard to do sometimes.  The challenge is to remain objective.  Try not to allow human emotions or motives interfere with what you are really seeing when you observe them.  Watch horses when they eat, sleep, play, and most importantly interact with other horses.  Watching and objectively observing horses without interfering is extremely insightful in developing our aptitude about horses and how to relate to them.  Today we have what seems like an endless supply of learning material about horses.  There are books from every discipline on every breed written in almost every language.  The same is true for videos.  Without much effort at all I can think of ten different magazines that focus primarily on horses and the horse industry.  One can attend clinics and/or seminars on almost any given weekend.  The opportunity to learn about horses today is all around those who are passionate about learning about them.  Because of the vast availability of information about horses I question ones passion when they tell me they want to learn more about horses but cant find any information.  The information is out there if one has the desire to find it.  Processing and understanding the information is another issue.  Thats where I come in.  I desire to help people understand information and teach them to determine for themselves which information is good and which is not so good.  I caution folks to consider the source when gathering information.  For example, I would not send my 10-year old daughter to another 10-year old to learn algebra.  Someone has to know more than the other in order to be a teacher. 

The third A is Action.  It doesnt matter if we have the best attitude in the world and we have studied until we are an authority on the subject.  One can read every book, watch every video and attend every seminar but sooner or later you must put the attitude and aptitude into action.  The best thing about action is that it starts the process all over again.  Once we put a plan into action we get to see if it works.  If it does, we are in high cotton and can go on to something more challenging for both our horses and ourselves.  If the action didnt work then we can adjust our attitude, get more aptitude, and take action again.  Action is fun, challenging, and rewarding.  Action also needs to be considered from various angles.  The most important thing about taking action is to enjoy what you are doing.  In order to enjoy it you must have confidence in that what you are about to do is safe.  Putting your attitude and aptitude to action cant be fun if you are hurt or constantly worried about getting injured.  Insure that your actions are safe for you, your horse and for those around you.  Again, the best part is that action starts an incredible journey.  The more you do with your horses the more you want to do.  The more you learn the more you want to learn.  The satisfaction of the experience feeds your outlook on your horsemanship, relationships and life.

It is with great enthusiasm as I look forward to future articles.  My goal in the coming weeks/months is to educate, motivate, inspire and entertain readers as I share my experiences as a horseman and clinician.  Hopefully you will not only enjoy the material but will be inspired to participate by contacting us with your thoughts and questions. 


Van Hargis, The Horseman With A Message

Lone Star Horsemanship


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