Ranching Blog: The Rut Factor

Sometimes to move forward, you need to consider a different path.

Ranch Horse Journal

Sometimes to move forward, you need to consider a different path.

As humans, I think it’s easy to put ourselves in a rut. Maybe it’s a rut of only following “one” clinician, “one” mentor, “one” teacher and then only doing things that “one” way. When you only follow that “one” person or that “one” way, you keep yourself from experimenting, from trying new things and, in turn, that keeps you from learning. You might even end up holding yourself back because you haven’t made it through the “checklist” of progress you’ve been offered.

When we make mistakes, we learn. When we do things the way Grandpa did them, which is how many in the ranching or horse world do things, we often don’t even ask ourselves, “Why?”

Why did grandpa do it this way? Was it because his dad did things this way? Was there a well-thought-out reason? Sometimes, the way we do things happens out of tradition, not because it makes the best sense. And sometimes the reasons we do things happen because we are taught that way, and aren’t secure enough in ourselves or our ability to try, or we feel a need to defend our past, to ask why or try it another way. Just because something works for one person, doesn’t mean it will work for another. When it comes to reasons we should do things, asking for the “why” is always a good idea. If there’s not a reason, and it’s more a “because,” then maybe that’s not the best reason to do something. If we don’t make mistakes or ask questions, we don’t learn.

I’ll use myself as an example. I’d been struggling to get flying lead changes (as I ask for them) on my solid ranch horse. For four years, I’d been unsuccessfully trying the way I’d been led to believe was the only way. This caused me to constantly question my comprehension, my execution and my ability in general. Then, last fall, I was fortunate to get to visit with a well-known horseman who said to me, “Why not do this instead?”

It was life changing. I’d never considered trying something different, but when I did, boom! Flying changes. Are they 100 percent perfect? Not yet, but none of us are ever 100 percent and I’m certainly not going to expect that kind of perfection from my horse, either. As those lead changes came into focus, so did so much else. I’m now trying new things (like jumping!) and thinking of new ways to help my horses understand what I’m asking of them. I’m learning that it’s OK to be different and do things differently, or you wouldn’t see me barrel racing in a snaffle bit.

Horsemanship is only one example of the ruts in which we can find ourselves ... If we are aware, we can find countless examples in ranching: grass management, calving schedules, branding schedules and haying schedules are just a few. It is important to keep our mind open, find mentors who inspire us, build our confidence and, in turn, we should pass those same gifts on to those we encounter.

No matter where we are in life – the show ring, the ranch or the rodeo arena – keeping our minds open to the possibilities will have endless benefits for our equine partners, the cattle we handle and our own personal growth.

Now, get out of your rut and make some fresh tracks, will you?

Until next time, Happy Trails!

Jenn Zeller is an aspiring horseman, photographer,freelance writer, barrel racer and collector of horses and chickens. She resides in South Dakota on the DX Ranch, a third-generation cattle ranch where the family raises Angus and Brangus cows, as well as Quarter Horses. Contact her at jennifer@thesouthdakotacowgirl.com

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