For many years, I have marveled at the great horse and horseman combinations throughout the world, and indeed any individual who has attained ultimate success in their chosen career. I have noticed one glowing similarity – in that special moment caught in time for all to see, they are giving “Their Very Best”.
This may seem like an obvious statement, and yet I believe it goes a lot deeper than those three little words. Throughout my life and professional career with horses, I have been labeled many things (“gifted”, “naturally talented”, “born to ride”). And although these statements sound nice, I have never believed them to be true, because on many occasions, I have struggled to understand the equine mind, I have fought to improve my knowledge and physical attributes to better my riding, and I have spent many sleepless nights trying to figure out how I could be the True horseman I had always dreamed of becoming.
It is quite amusing to me now, that wherever I go across America, I am labeled as an “overnight success”. All I can think is: “It has been a very long night.” Looking back at the years of toil and joy, happiness and tears, that my life with horses has brought me, I now realize I do have a gift, and that gift is the burning desire to continually improve as a horseman, to glean more knowledge, gain more compassion, show more patience and grow more imagination.
These tools of horsemanship, coupled with my silent creed “To give my Very Best” have enabled me to accomplish all I have. As I work with any horse, young or old, uneducated or truly finished, I make a solemn promise to give him my very best at all times, and all I ask in return is that he gives me his.
PUSH YOUR LIMITS
I know in my heart that this is why, as a little boy with very little knowledge or few life skills, I could get more from a horse than an adult could. It wasn’t that I was stronger or braver or more convicted, but more because I was doing all I could to understand horses and give them a genuine reason to believe in me. Looking back now, I can see so many things I would now consider fundamentally wrong, yet those wonderful horses said to me in every movement of their bodies and minds: “You believe in me and so I believe in you.” In saying that, if I were to ride now as I did back then, it wouldn’t be enough, for my level best has risen. And a horse knows when you are giving your all or not, and will act accordingly.
To give “Your Very Best” as a horseman is to push the limits of what you know and are able to do, and what you are prepared to give in return. This includes sweating, struggling and striving in order to succeed. Giving your best will not be easy – it will take concentration and willpower and true conviction, and speaking from experience I can honestly say the rewards are truly worth it.
We have all seen on many occasions when the great horseman falls from grace. It is not because they have lost their skill or physical and mental awareness, or they have suddenly become un-great. It’s more that they have lost the desire to give it their very best. This one important ingredient was the only thing separating them between being the best, and being just another competitor chasing the lead.
The great thing about a horse is that if asked properly, he will give his all on any occasion. Once he has learned how to perform at the highest level, he will do his level best to return to it at a moment’s notice. In the early days of a young horse’s training, his very best will seem small; but with every day, he will strengthen in body, mind and spirit until his best sees him giving everything he has in a common cause to join with you to ensure his safety and comfort. The humble horse is not born with the natural desire to attain perfection as we humans are, and yet he will willingly give moments of perfection and pure quality for his simple and yet justified needs.
YOUR HORSE IS YOUR MIRROR
I believe that the horse is the world’s truest mirror, and as such will only reflect the level of commitment and quality work that is presented to him on a daily basis. Just as you cannot frown into a mirror and expect a smile in return, it is also true that only when a horseman gives his very best can he expect the horse to return the favor. However, to give your best can be quite tricky, as there are so many variables involved, such as your health on a particular day or many other outside pressures. But as long as you know you are giving your all in that moment, your best will be enough for your horse.
On several occasions throughout my performance career, I have been less than 100% either emotionally or physically. I have found that although my best on those days was less powerful than normal, my wonderful team of horses more than filled in and ensured a successful performance. I have always been mystified at the humble horse’s ability to read the intentions of man; to have my horses perform at their physical peak for me and then instantly soften in body and mind to protect my precious daughter or someone else less capable has always endeared me to these incredible creatures.
In a world of ever increasing access to knowledge through books, DVDs or the ever popular internet, it is interesting to note that even though someone can follow a trainer’s method from start to finish, they never end up with exactly the same results as the horseman who developed it. I believe the reason for this is not the way they swing the rope or how hard they pull or kick, but how much they believe in the method and how important the right response is to the individual trainer. I have always judged myself as a human being by the way my horses see me in their lives, and because of this it is of optimal importance to me that I do my very best in order to earn my horses’ respect and trust, body, heart and mind.
COMMIT TO THE MOMENT
Because we all lead such busy lives, it can be hard to give your all when your horse needs it most. Yet whenever I ride or ground work a horse, I seem to go into this silent world where only the horse and I reside – I will quite often not hear people talk to me as I commit to the moment and give my horse my very best. I can explain this as being akin to having a deep conversation with someone in which your eyes never leave theirs, and you’re concentrating on every word in an effort to understand and communicate the thoughts and feelings between the two of you. The commitment I give to the moment is like some sort of trance in which I commit my body and mind to connecting with my equine student, and shut out all outside influences until it feels as though only the two of us remain.
It is this mindset that allows my wonderful horses to perform in front of fireworks, monster trucks and rock music. Whenever I ride, I expect my horses to ignore everything except for me – “believe in me and I will keep you safe.” It is only when we become true leaders that the horse will choose to follow us through fire and mayhem and commit their bodies and minds to all our requests.
So with this, I leave you to be the best horseman you can be, to raise the bar of your expectations, and to give your all in order to capture your wildest dreams. And just remember “Your Very Best” will always be enough for your horse.
Guy McLean is a self-taught Australian Horseman who has entertained, inspired, and educated millions of audience members from all walks of life. After achieving top honors in his field at home, Guy decided it was time to take on the international stage. In June of 2010, Guy arrived in the US with four of his Australian bred horses to commence his first American tour.
Guy and his team have had the honor of performing at the 2010 World Equestrian Games, 2011 Breyerfest, Dressage At Devon, The Royal Winter Fair and the National Rodeo Finals, and competing (and winning) the 2012 and 2013 Road to the Horse colt starting competition. GuyMcleanusatour.com