That Inner Voice

That Inner Voice


The “Huge” Tack Sale


A few years ago, forgetting that I’m not a shopper, I drove for 40 minutes to get to a “huge” tack shop sale in a wealthy suburb of Chicago.


I tend to get overwhelmed by large amounts of stuff, and so I avoid department stores, big box stores, and huge sales. But I convinced myself that being surrounded by horsey stuff would be different.


It wasn’t.


And because this was a “huge” sale, the store, which was ordinarily pretty upscale (which is why I wanted to take advantage of the sale), had shipped in tables and racks and more tables full of cheap t-shirts and baseball caps and socks—all with some kind of horsey image, of course—stuff they didn’t ordinarily stock.


I quickly made the rounds, realized that, even with the sale, I still couldn’t afford most of what was in the store and that I didn’t really need anything anyway, picked out a t-shirt that I kind of liked—so that I wouldn’t have driven nearly an hour and a half with nothing to show for it—and got into the humongous, slow-moving line.


While I was musing about whether I should just chalk up the wasted time to a lesson learned and not waste any more, the woman ahead of me mumbled something about the line, and we struck up a conversation. About horses, of course.


If you’re a horse person, you know that horse lovers who are complete strangers can talk for hours about horses, can talk as though they’ve been friends for years even when they don’t know each other’s names. Dog people and cat people can strike up conversations about their four-legged companions, too, of course.


But with horse people, it’s different. We tend to get down to the nitty-gritty of care and training pretty quickly, almost as though we have to convince each other that our way is best. Maybe this is because we all have a dark suspicion that we have no idea what we are doing.


I’m a firm believer in listening to your inner voice, trusting your instincts. Education is very important, too, of course. Lots of fabulous folks over the centuries have worked with horses; there is no need to reinvent the wheel. But sometimes the advice of the experts isn’t always right.


At the Barn


That fact came to mind today when my horses’ hoof trimmer came to take care of their feet. Fuersti, my gelding, and Tara, his half sister, live outside with a shelter. I only bring them into the barn and put them in stalls to feed them and so they can wait for their hoof trimmer. (Whether or not horses should be caged in barns is one of the issues horse people argue about. My inner voice says that horses, who we love for the beauty of their movement and who need to move to stay healthy and sane, should not be confined any more than they are already confined with fences.)


I walked into Fuersti’s stall and asked him to lower his head so that I could put the rope halter on, attached to a lead rope. Ordinarily, this is a non-event. He lowers his head, I put the halter on, and we walk out of the stall.


But today, for reasons only Fuersti knows, he wanted to dance around, bob his head up and down, and just generally act like a clown. I asked again, he danced and bobbed more. I backed him up a few steps and was going to ask again, when I changed my mind and said, “OK, then forget it, Fuersti.”


To his total surprise, I walked out of the stall, closed the door, and went to get his sister out of her stall. Fuersti’s eyes got wide. He stood completely still. But it was too late. I was gone. He called after me. Too bad, buddy.


I said to my trimmer, You know, I’ve heard so many trainers say that you can’t train horses this way, that they aren’t like dogs. (Which is true, of course; they are nothing like dogs.) When a horse acts up, many will say that you need to reestablish your leadership role. But with Fuersti, if you ignore him, he immediately gets the message and straightens up his act.


Fuersti stood quietly in his stall while his sister was trimmed. When it was his turn, he lowered his head, allowed me to put on his halter, and quietly walked out of the stall.


He had to clown around a little bit while he was being trimmed—because he is, at heart, a clown and because he adores his trimmer and simply has to flirt and show off—but for the most part, he behaved well.


My horses don’t wear shoes. Their feet are trimmed by a highly trained barefoot trimmer, who understands how the equine foot is put together and how it works. Whether or not horses should have metal nailed to their hooves is, unbelievably, another issue that horse people argue about (although not as much in recent years, as more and more horse people are learning about hoof mechanics). This brings us back to woman in line at the huge tack sale, which you probably thought I’d forgotten about.


Back at the Sale


So I’m chatting about horses with the woman in front of me in line, and somehow we get on the topic of feet; I don’t remember why or how. But here’s the amazing part: I told her that my horses go barefoot, and she said she knew that was best, had no doubt about it at all, but that her vet still thought that horses needed shoes. She said she wished her vet would come to understand that barefoot was best so that she could take her horse barefoot!


The rest of the wait in line was no problem for me because, stupefied, I had fallen down, cracked my head, knocked myself out, and not come to until it was my turn at the register.


No, not really.


What really happened is that I asked the woman why her vet had to say it was OK to do something that she knew was best for her horse. She looked at me in utter disbelief.



My Question


So my question to you—horse people and dog people and cat people, all people—is this: Do you do your own research? Do you weigh alternatives? Do you listen to your inner voice? Or do you follow the crowd, make snap judgments based on emotion, follow the advice of the “experts” even when you know they’re wrong?


This is a sincere question. Really.



I hope you will be moved to share your thoughts.

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11 Replies to “That Inner Voice”

  1. Pam, you made me chuckle with this post, because I’ve been in very similar situations. I totally get the astounded, mouth hanging open, unable to respond reaction to what people say. I think you probably know me well enough by now, but I just had to comment and say that if someone ever tells me that I have to do something a specific way, it usually means that what I should be doing is the opposite. Whenever I’m told I “should….”, or “so-and-so expert says …..” or “everybody does ….”, I immediately start asking questions, listening to my own judgment, and begin researching. Invariably, I end up making a very different decision then what I was advised to. Vet’s are not God’s, Trainers are not God’s, Farrier’s are not God’s, nobody is infallible. Research, read, ask questions, then go within and ask yourself it makes sense not for your own convenience, but for the highest good.

    1. Beautifully stated. Thank you, Michelle.

      I think this habit of questioning, researching and exploring, weighing options, and listening to our inner voices is a critical process not only in the care of our animals but in the care of ourselves, our children, our environment (starting with our own backyards), our governments (starting with our local councils)–in every aspect of our lives.

      1. Thanks for this thought provoking article Pam. As you know I am a horse husband so I can relate to horse issues from a fairly close perspective. This approach that you are talking about can and should apply to all decision making. Following the horde is not how great innovations occur in any arena. We all need to listen to our inner voice and be good students.

        Thanks Pam!

        1. Thank you for reading, Paul, and for your kind words.

          I love your last two lines:

          “Following the horde is not how great innovations occur in any arena. We all need to listen to our inner voice and be good students.”

          And when the decisions involve animals, they just about always know the right answer. If we’d just listen to them, we’d save ourselves–and them–a whole lot of grief.

  2. Hi Pam,

    I ask questions and I do my own research because it’s what I’m driven to do by nature and by training. I question the vet, I question my doctor (and if she’s really unlucky she gets 10-16 pages of research to read for her edification), and I don’t necessarily accept what I read at face value, either. I listen to my inner voice–and I also have to discern whether it’s my authentic inner wisdom speaking or whether it’s fear posing as my inner voice.

    One of my friends wrote a great book on inner knowing–it’s full of tips and tools for developing our inner knowing and learning how to listen to that voice. When we learn to tune into that inner wisdom I think we make our lives a lot easier and it makes us more intuitive and able to pick up on other beings’ innate wisdom.

    1. Thank you, Sue.

      You have made a crucial point:

      “I listen to my inner voice–and I also have to discern whether it’s my authentic inner wisdom speaking or whether it’s fear posing as my inner voice.”

      I think I may need to do a post just on this point.

      Can you share the title of your friend’s book?

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