it's been just more than four years since my wife, Heather, informed me that she was, to our surprise, pregnant. So in these last few weeks I've been contemplating how being a father to a baby boy has made me a better horseman.
Oh, and I think that being a horseman makes me a better father too.
In those first several weeks of Heather?s pregnancy, we couldn?t imagine how we were going to do this. How were we going to raise a child with the demands of our life and our business' Now we can't imagine life without Wesley, who's 3 ? years old.
I truly believe that our experience with horses and other animals has been extremely valuable in Wesley?s early years, because we're well accustomed to understanding creatures who can't talk. In fact, his preschool teacher was worried that he was slow to begin talking, until I suggested to her that perhaps it was because he didn't feel a need to talk. He was able to communicate his needs to us non-verbally, and the dogs, cats, goats and horses can't talk either.
I'd like to think that I did possess the traits I'm about to talk about before Wesley entered my life, but I think that his presence has encouraged and developed them far further.
The first thing that having a child has helped me with is patience, with myself and with my horses. Wesley has emphasized to me that children aren?t born knowing how to communicate in whatever language we speak?and that horses only ever learn a few basic words. So we have to be patient with their lack of understanding?of our directions, our rules, even our praise?and always ask ourselves how to express these things better, or differently. Mentally, a horse is a lot like a very young child.
Similarly, being a father increases your empathy for your horses. Experiencing life, every day, through a child?s eyes sort of forces you to see life as others see it. And when you see your child experiencing new things with joy or fear, it helps you realize how horses see a lot of their lives. It helps you understand why life for horses involves a lot of fear and anxiety.
Being a father has definitely made me a better competitor. Not less intense, but far less easily unraveled by mistakes or misfortunes. Whenever I'm disappointed in my or my horses? performance or result, Wesley is there when I get back to the barn or the trailer to ask, ?Daddy, will you play with me'? or just to announce, ?I need a juice or? ?some grapes.? Whether I've won or lost, I'm still his daddy. And that means quite a bit.
And that leads me to probably the most important thing being a father has done for me?it's reminded of what's really important in life. I'm devoted to the development and welfare of the horses we own and the horses we're paid to train, but being a father has reminded me that my son is still more important than any of that.? Having a child makes you less anxious about the rest of your life, because nothing else is as important.
For those reasons and more, I think being a horseman makes me a better father too. Horses have made me patient, understanding, and given me a sense of how to teach and support Wesley.
I just hope that horses will do for him some of the things they've done for me over the course of my life.