Amateur. What does that word conjure up for you? Feeling silly? Not knowing what you're doing? A bit embarrassing. Sometimes frustrating that I'm not 'getting it' as quickly as others. #AmateurHour Thats what comes to mind for me at least when I think of being an amateur. But do you know what the actual technical definition of amateur is? amateur [ am-uh-choor, -cher, -ter, am-uh-tur ]
1. a person who engages in a study, sport, or other activity for pleasure rather than for financial benefit or professional reasons. 2. an athlete who has never competed for payment or for a monetary prize. 3. a person inexperienced or unskilled in a particular activity:Hunting lions is not for amateurs. 4. a person who admires something; devotee; fan:an amateur of the cinema. (Dictionary.com)
Of the 4 definitions describing this word, only one mentions being unskilled. The rest all mention doing something for FUN. For the joy of the activity. Doing something without expectation of payment. That kind of blew my mind. I was working with my horses last week, and they showed me something about fun. They're kept in whats called a 'dry lot' over the winter. I have a very small acreage when it comes to horse keeping so I need to be very careful with my pasture to make sure it provides enough grass during the warmer months for my horses. They live in a small (but of course adequate) size paddock with free choice hay over the winter and when the grass comes in we slowly introduce them to eating the rich green blades with slow increases in time on the grass each day till their bodies adjust. If we did this too quickly, allowed them to go from hay to fresh grass right away, we risk some serious health issues. So these last couple weeks have been our transition time. I walked through the herd greeting each horse and opened the gate for their allowed pasture time for the day. All 6 ears in my small herd of horses instantly pricked towards the new space they had access to and they all started at a dead run through that gate. Horses live in the moment and these guys fully embraced the beautiful spring day and the lovely green grass. They made it 2 steps out of the dry lot and into the pasture before sliding to a stop and dropping their heads to munch the delicious new shoots. After their allotted pasture time for the day, I went back out to collect them back into the dry lot for the night. Tom, our beautiful teacher with the glossy black coat, saw me and took off at a run. He knew I had a halter and he thought a game of chase sounded like fun. He kicked up his heels, spun in circles and snorted at me with a playful "come catch me!" The other two horses saw him running and took off with him.
I admit that some horses truly don't want to be haltered in a field. They have whatever issues where they don't want to be with humans. But this horse, our Tom, just wanted to play. Often we think of animals, especially animals that fit in the 'livestock' category, as just living to survive. They eat, they sleep, they mask pain to avoid attention from predators and face each day with stoic-ness till their time on Earth is over. I do not think that is truth. I have seen horses slide down snowy hills on their haunches. I have seen them roll and pounce on a large exercise ball. I've seen a horse literally play tag with a Golden Retriever puppy (yes, it was just as adorable as it sounds and I so regret not filming it on my phone.) Tom started a game of chase and the other horses join in for the fun of it. They invited me to play too. Tom wanted me to do something for the fun of it. Did he need to go back in the dry lot? Yes. We had things that needed to be accomplished that day. Do I know how to play tag with a 1,700 pound animal with 4 super heavy hard feet? Not really, and when he's at a dead run kicking up those hard feet in the air it's a bit scary.
I am an amateur at playing catch me with a horse. I joined in his game not because it was going to accomplish my goal of getting him back in the dry lot (because it wasn't), not because I was going to train him to do anything (in fact most traditional horse trainers would say I was training him to be 'difficult to catch'), not because anyone was paying me to this (they were for sure not) and for sure not because I was going to win the game (I don't think my horses have winners and losers in their games) but because it was FUN. Someone watching me run around that field with Tom may have laughed at me. Like I said a few trainers may even shake their heads and say I was doing everything wrong. But when a teacher like a horses asks me to play, I'm going to say yes. When you are asked to play, to do something "unproductive", when you are asked to do something you may feel a bit uncomfortable with, but it honestly sounds a little fun - what are you going to do? And for the record, my horse trainer friends and peers, he was and has been perfectly fine to catch ever since then when I need to halter and lead him somewhere. He does enjoy his chase game but then he will stand politely and put his own face in the halter for me. It makes me smile everytime.