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No pain, no gain: How starting colts helped me reach my potential

Tayler Teichert for Progressive Cattleman Published on 14 March 2017
horse in corral

We as human beings put up so many guards and make tons of excuses to protect ourselves from looking like idiots. We don’t want to admit we don’t know something for fear of hurting our image. Those guards and excuses I am talking about can all be summed up with one word: pride! Pride is the enemy to potential.

Last spring, I had a handful of different job offers. A couple of them made it clear to me I would be doing more of the same ranch tasks I had been doing my whole life. I would be around different people and would have an opportunity to learn from them, but I wouldn’t be learning anything that new to me. My other job offer was to go work for a horse trainer in Nevada. The idea of working for him terrified me. I was so worried I would look bad and he would tell everyone in northern Nevada how unhandy I was. I knew my horsemanship was lacking, and when he offered me the job, I told him that, thinking it would change his mind. When the day came that I had to choose a job, this quote by Eleanor Roosevelt popped in my head: “Do one thing every day that scares you.” So I packed up my belongings and I headed to Nevada to be an assistant horse trainer.

In the first month of work, I was so giddy about all the things I was learning. I hadn’t realized it in the past, but I was in a rut and was no longer progressing until I got out of my comfort zone, put my pride on a shelf, admitted I didn’t know what I was doing and went to work.

I learned tons of things I wish I would have known years ago, like how to put on bell boots, how to tell which lead a horse is in and how to prevent a horse from getting white spots on their withers. I learned how to get a horse to spin, and how to properly work a cow so it is benefiting the horse and the cow. I learned you don’t have to choose if you are going to be a cowman or a horseman; ride your horse to better the horse, but do it in such a way it benefits the cow at the same time.

Starting colts taught me that you don’t have to be a really good bronc rider or a horse whisperer to ride colts. You need to be willing and unafraid. Having the courage to step on is half the battle. You don’t have to train on a colt every time you ride them, but you should always start out with the goal to teach them something. That can be something as simple as joy rides, and not every ride is going to be hard. As a result, they will learn to like spending time with you. Becoming friends with horses is a very important part of the whole process. You need to have trust and respect as a foundation for that friendship.

Last summer, I learned that my very best horse, Dobbin, was subpar. At first that was very discouraging, but later on it became a motivator to improve my skills so I could help my horse. There were many days I faked it till I made it. I loped horses and flexed all the muscles in my legs and abs because that’s what it looked like my boss was doing. As a result, my legs were sore all summer and I had a pretty solid four pack.

The number of days I had to ask for help and admit I didn’t know what I was doing can’t be counted. I cried; I thought about quitting; and I got frustrated! I had to forget about the image I was trying to portray and actually invest more time in learning than trying to look the part. I had to put my pride on a shelf so I could progress.

There is a saying that goes something like this: “If you are the smartest person in the room, then you are in the wrong room.” I used to have very low self-esteem if I was the least handy person on a crew; now I see it as an opportunity to learn. The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know. We can’t allow ourselves to get comfortable with what we think we know. We have to be willing to look like an idiot and admit we don’t know everything if we want to grow to our full potential.  end mark

Tayler Teichert, a 24-year-old sixth-generation rancher, was born and raised ranching across the American West. Since she left home, she has worked in the Sandhills of Nebraska, the shadows of Elk Mountain, the high desert of Idaho and the sage of northern Nevada. You can learn more about Tayler and check out her photography on her website.

PHOTO: One of the colts the author worked with this last summer. Photo by Tayler Teichert.