Wednesday, November 19, 2014


ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENT                                                                                               December 2014
By Tom Gumbrecht

“The longer I live, the more I realize the importance of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is
Trainer Laura Ruben of Affari Horse Farm teaches the author about the
patience needed with a young racehorse, first by watching and
then by doing.
more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than whatever other people think or say or do.

“It is more important than appearance, than giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company, a church, a home. The remarkable thing is that we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day.  We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way.  We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. 

“I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our attitudes.” – Charles R. Swindall

Powerful words… a quotation that someone my age might put in a frame and hang on the wall of
The author beginning over-fence work with Lola
in 2009. Two years earlier we were thrilled that
she could walk.
a young adult perhaps, but notable in that I was introduced to it by my twenty-something trainer a few years back.  She had adopted it into her life and is a living testimony to its accuracy.

I have had more than one teacher of this concept in my barn; one in particular left the racetrack injured and showed up for our date with destiny at the New Holland auction. Now a permanent resident of our barn, she goes by the name of Lola.  We didn’t know that Lola had an injury because an unscrupulous seller had medicated her, disguising a severe lameness. A day after we got her home she was walking on three legs and a veterinary exam was not encouraging.

Sometimes my initial reaction when faced with a situation I can’t see my way out of is to feel sorry for myself, and this was no exception. I had just gone through treating a severe, multi-year illness with my gelding, Buddy, and I felt that I couldn’t endure that terrifying roller coaster of emotions once again.  Poor me..

After a day or two of trying to figure out how to get myself out of the situation, I soon came to grips with the fact that Lola and I weren’t going to be riding off into the sunset in pursuit of eventing ribbons anytime soon. No, we now had another injured horse to try and mend.  Once focused and armed with a rehabilitation plan from the vet, we began the daily work needed to give Lola a chance. But how would I ever find the time to do this day in and day out? It was still all about me, my bad luck, my disappointment, my frustration. What I needed was a severe attitude adjustment, and Lola gave it to me.

In 2014, the bond formed by Lola's attitude and the author's
attitude adjustment was now unbreakable.
Did you ever have a dog who, after you left her for two minutes to run out to get the mail, greeted you as if you had just scored the winning touchdown in the Super Bowl on your return? I have had a few of those, but had never received such an ovation from a horse until Lola.

In the course of Lola’s rehab, we spent a lot of time together, wrapping, unwrapping, cold hosing, hand walking, laser treatments… and after each time I returned after disappearing from her view for a few moments, she would nicker furiously, loudly and continuously. Then her eyes delivered what her voice had promised.  I have seen many emotions conveyed through the eyes of a horse: contentment, annoyance, intensity, submission. I have seen eyes that were agitated, tired and pleading. Lola’s eyes showed none of that. Her eyes reached out through the stall door and connected my being with hers.  It was the look of acceptance.

This look of total connectedness and the vocal assertions of gratitude every time she laid eyes on me were exactly the attitude adjustment that I needed. It was so simple, and so obvious: I thought that the bad fortune of Lola’s condition was my cross to reluctantly bear, when in fact it was Lola whose life had been turned upside down, who had gone from an athlete to an invalid, who went from having a regimented, organized life to having everyone and everything she knew ripped from under her… and yet she seemed to be the happiest horse alive.

This horse had much to teach me, and it wasn’t about riding or competing… although she was to later educate me in those venues as well.  Lola went from being a disappointment (though it pains
The author's wife Mary with Lola at her first
show, Good Shepherd 2012. It was
a long road to get there, smoothed out
by Lola's fantastic attitude.
me to say that now) to an inspiration, because her attitude was infectious, contagious and an absolute joy to be around.  How did I find the time to do all of the things that needed to be done for Lola?  Someone once said, if you want to see what someone’s priorities are, watch what they spend their time doing.  With her attitude alone, Lola made herself my priority.

I thought I had gotten a bad deal for my $500 at the auction that day. What I got was, I got to be a better horseman, a better student, a better rider and hopefully a better person. If that were to be true, I can only guess that maybe some of Lola’s attitude rubbed off on me while in her stall.


  1. Well that $500 was clearly a bargain in tuition for a lesson that will take, and will last, a lifetime. You and Lola continue to swap the role of teacher and student between you, may it ever be so.