Thursday, October 6, 2016



By Tom Gumbrecht

Is there a secret ingredient that exists in some barns which brings out the best in riders, boarders and even horses? I think there may be... and I think it may be unity, the pulling together as a team toward a common goal.

If we want to learn to live in harmony, we need look no
further than our horses. DannyBoy and Diesel
 This year especially, there seems to be a lot of disharmony in the air; I suspect it may stem from the unusually discordant political campaigns we've been subjected to. I'm not comfortable with it, but it has triggered some self-reflection. It's easy to recognize dissension in others, but what about myself? Do my words and actions foster unity, or are they sometimes divisive?

Most of us have been at barns where, upon arrival, some outgoing and seemingly friendly soul immediately begins to give us the low-down on everyone else in the barn. It seems comforting; we've made a connection with someone who is looking out for us, but I've found that it is generally an illusion. Gossip is not about exchanging information, it's about power. "I know what you don't, and I've chosen to let you in on it. No need to form your own opinion, I will do that for you, and claim you for my team." Environments such as this can leave us feeling suspicious, guarded and confused.

If we're lucky, we've also experienced barns where there is no trace of a judgmental undertone. People are accepting, helpful, and mainly discuss concepts, ideas and events rather than people. When we find ourselves at such a barn, we are refreshed, encouraged and hopeful. These environments do not exist by accident; what is tolerated is perpetuated. The embers of gossip die out without the oxygen of an interested audience.

In my life, I've been as guilty of these sins as anyone. My dad was a good man. He and I
Gossip has no place in a harmonious environment.
Bella and Flo breaking the rules here.
were both tradesmen, and there were times in his life that we couldn't relate on a lot of levels; gossiping about the different characters on the job was where we bonded. It was comforting, it was reassuring and it filled an uneasy silence. It took a long while to let go of that false sense of security, and realize that he was doing the best he could to connect, just like I was. But I no longer want to walk that path.

To keep myself on the path I would now hope to follow, I ask myself some pointed questions:

* Am I a healing, unifying person or am I divisive? Am I judgmental of others?

* Am I a peacemaker, or do I like to "stir the pot?"

* Am I tolerant of those who rub me the wrong way, or am I abrasive?

* Do my remarks carry an air of superiority about them, or to I remember where I came from?

* Do I put down some equestrian activities as if I were a cut above for not participating in this or that aspect of riding?

* Do I share my defeats as well as my accomplishments that others may identify and grow, or do I need to appear an expert?

Unity allows us to do together that which we cannot
do for ourselves.
I'm lucky that the very first barn I landed in radiated an attitude that was supportive, tolerant and patient, and not indulgent of those with other agendas. It was the beginning of my own transformation. Now I have my own barn and I have to always be conscious of the fact that it's me who sets the tone. Just as the barn requires constant maintenance, so does the environment we have created here.  It is maintenance of a more spiritual nature, and while our horses may create the need for much of the facility maintenance, it is they who provide us with maintenance for the soul.
A harmonious workplace doesn't just happen.
Just like the barn and fences, it requires work to build and maintain.

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