Hope means different things to different people. To some, it’s wishful thinking and finger crossing. To others, it’s more dynamic — a powerful form of positive thinking. In mental-health terms, hope has been described as the force that bridges the gap between our current skills and what we need to get a certain job down. It’s what keeps us going until we can get on top of a situation.
Perhaps the best way to understand the power of hope is to see what happens when it is gone. When something is declared to be hopeless, all effort to change it immediately grinds to a halt. In contrast, always being full of hope colors everything you do. Last month’s editorial talked about keeping an image of how you want to look on a horse in your head as your ride and practice. That was a good example of hope at its best — driving you to keep on working to achieve a goal.
Hope can’t be lost. It’s only gone if we choose to abandon it. Hope is what keeps you practicing your riding for hours on end. It’s what makes someone patiently persevere with a difficult horse that others have given up on. It’s what drives the owner of a seriously ill or lame horse to keep looking for answers when all the usual treatments don’t work, and what makes a good veterinarian do the same.
Obviously reality has to influence where you focus your hope. A pony can’t outrun a Thoroughbred. However, there are only a few things so written in stone that they can’t be overcome. Bargain-priced horses can and do go on to do great things. Horses declared hopelessly lame can and do sometimes improve. In every case that changes, you can bet there was a devoted team who refused to give up.
A severe bacterial infection used to be a death sentence for a horse. But, due to researchers empowered by hope, we now have antibiotics and vaccines to combat it.
In addition to keeping us trying, hope keeps us learning. Hope requires humility. Anyone who thinks that their way of doing things, their favorite products, their training techniques, are absolutely the best will never aspire to try anything new or better. When they hit a wall, the situation will automatically be declared hopeless. To grow and solve problems, we often need to change. To change, we need hope to consider there may indeed be different, better ways to do things. Hoping that something will turn out to be true is the first step toward making it a reality.
-Eleanor Kellon, VMD