What I learnt from my little brother…


I’m the oldest of three and being the oldest I’ve always felt responsible for helping, teaching and taking care of my two younger brothers whenever possible. Growing up they always seemed to appreciate it and we grew very close. Mom took care of most things and then big sister took care of everything else. You know, those things they didn’t want to talk to Mom about!

I took my baby brother out for his first driving lesson and I took my middle brother out for his first pony ride. I was fortunate to be able to be there for them during many “firsts” in their lives.

When our parents weren’t around I was their protector and best friend. It might have been strange having their “sister” run over to protect them in a fight or from a bully, but they didn’t seem to mind. I am 7 years older than my middle brother and 15 years older than my baby brother. I was also a “tomboy” who had horses so I was always strong and fearless.

Plus, I’ve always been someone who would protect my family from harm in any way possible, even if that meant jumping in front of a bus to protect them. It’s not even a thought… family always comes first!

So, that’s how the three of us grew up. Then as my brothers got older, graduated from college, and had families of their own, the dynamics changed. We began to rely on each other for help.  Whichever one of us had the most knowledge in a particular area would help the other 2.

If it had anything to do with the entertainment industry, vitamins, or health we would go to my middle brother. If it had anything to do with the law, cars, or fixing household items we both went to my baby brother. It was great to see them blossom and become experts in the fields they loved.

Couldn’t save them from this monster!

Strange as it may sound, one of the things that I taught my baby brother to do was shoot a gun. It was at the time when guns were showing up in schools and mass shootings were starting to take place. I’d just left home and as I couldn’t be there to look after him I wanted him to be able to protect himself.

I wanted him to know what to do if he found a gun in school, how to handle one if he had to, and how to stay safe and keep his classmates safe.

He not only learned how to shoot but he excelled at it so it was no surprise when he went into law enforcement and became part of special forces. I’m very proud of my baby brother, he has dedicated his life to protecting and saving others.

Well, during this visit he decided that he wanted to go shooting with his big sister just like old times. He even took me back to the very same shooting range where I first taught him how to shoot.

We had a great time and it was even more special as he is disabled now and it’s extremely difficult for him to even leave home. We had to make special arrangements just to get him there and I know it caused him a lot of pain to do so but he was determined to spend time with his big sister so that we could reminisce and do something special together for the holidays.

When we got there he proudly showed me his new handgun. It was so cute him showing me how to safely shoot it seeing that I was the one who had originally taught him. But I listened patiently and appreciated what he told me.

When it came time to shoot I was dead on and hit the bullseye a number of times as you can see from this photo.

He was really surprised but then he remembered, “Oh yeah, you’re the one who taught me!”

Then he shot and of course did even better, but then he had had years of practice in law enforcement. He was so proud of his new gun and it felt like we were children again under the Christmas tree sharing our new toys.

The second time I shot though I didn’t do as well and couldn’t figure out why.

But my baby brother came to my rescue and explained that I’d been anticipating the kick of the gun and had been trying to compensate for it.

I hadn’t realized I’d been doing this, but after he explained it, I could see it happening.

So afterward he kept saying, “Be surprised”.

What he meant was, don’t go looking for the kick and trying to anticipate it, don’t overthink what you’re doing.

Suddenly a lightbulb went off in my head because I thought to myself, “Oh… this is exactly what I tell my students about their horses… don’t expect your horse to be a problem.”

Let me explain.

When a student comes to me with a “problem horse” as they call it, I ask them all about what’s been happening. Then I diagnose the issues and help them work through each one.

But the first thing I tell them is not to EXPECT problems. Look at every day as a new experience to get to know your horse and work through whatever comes up. If it works it works, if it doesn’t it doesn’t.  Either way is just fine. It will all work out in the end.

When I work with a new horse I prefer to go out knowing nothing about the horse so that we can learn about each other without any preconceived notions.

It has always worked out for me and you wouldn’t believe how many times I hear, “He doesn’t do that for me” or “He’s much nicer with you”.

Then when they go in, I see them tighten up or their body language change to become aggressive because they expect their horse to do a certain thing.

But that body language is exactly what causes their horse to do what they think. It’s not the horse doing it TO them, it’s the horse doing it BECAUSE OF them.

And interestingly enough, once I can teach them to relax and not to overthink or overcompensate for what they “think” will happen, everything works out fine on its own. The horse goes back to his normal happy self and they get along like nothing was wrong in the first place.

“Always be surprised.”

I love how my baby brother said it and it really was a good reminder for me.

Sure enough, once I relaxed and let myself be surprised again, I was back to hitting the bullseye.

I learned two things from my baby brother that day:

1) Always be surprised
2) It’s all about perspective

Because how you look at life makes a big difference in how you live your life.

I was very grateful that my baby brother made such a huge effort and went through such a painful ordeal to do something special with me for the holidays.  It made that moment between us even more special to me.

But more than that, I was so proud of him standing up to the bully that is his disability.

Instead of looking at the pain and trouble that he was going to have to endure, he chose to focus on the joy, closeness, and reward that doing this with his big sister would bring us.

Having that closeness and family bond is more important than anything else. It just leaves me feeling incredibly blessed and grateful, filled with love and inner peace that can’t be equaled, there’s nothing else like it!

I think that’s why it’s so important for me to gain that same closeness and bond with my horses and to help others do the same.

I want my horses to feel how special they are to me and how important they are in my life. I want them to know that they are family and that I will always take care of them and protect them in any way I can.

I can’t teach them to shoot and protect themselves when I’m not there like I did with my baby brother, but I can give them the trust and confidence of knowing that we are a herd together.

And instead of looking at life as a road filled with trials and tribulations that cause problems and pain, I try to look at it as a journey of exploration. Those trials and tribulations are just life lessons that bring me nearer to the person I am developing into.

I am very grateful for my baby brother, our friendship, and the life lessons he has taught me and is still teaching me. And I’m also very grateful for my horses who are also still teaching me lessons about life, love, and family.

I heard a great phrase this week: Happiness is a decision not a destination.

Think about that for a few moments…

Will you make that decision?

For yourself and for your horses?

Enjoy the moment, rejoice in the perfection of what is, and always be surprised.

I’d love to read your thoughts on today’s post so please write in the comments below. Thanks!

Please Share

  • Yes as when young, I learned to know what to look for to see how my horse felt. Whether something bothered them give them the time to eat and relax. There are many days where I would not push them and when riding I always took my time. Thank you for this week and may you have a very Merry Christmas. Thank You

  • Loved this. Loved your brother for doing what he did to be with you. And i loved your words of being in the present moment and not expecting anything. It’s so easy to have thoughts of what might happen and our bodies take that onboard!!

  • I’m always weary of one of my horses, teddy, I’ve seen him attack a person. She had come into our yard and given a treat and of course he started muzzling (a bit in her face) and she pointed in his face and went all apha-ish and he took offence and went for her. It frightened me to death, and her I think, although she said she wasn’t worried about it. Well, it’s kind of made me worried about being around him and got me to anticipating that he will do that to me if I do or say anything he doesn’t like. I’m always kind and pleased to see him and he often walks over to me to say hello, which I love, but in the forefront of my mind, I’ve realised after reading this post, is that he attacked someone 😣

    • Louise, don’t worry about something your horse may or may not do to you if he hasn’t done it in the past. If it hasn’t happened then what you are doing is correct. Now, when it comes to what he did to the stranger on your property look at why…she was trespassing on your property and being aggressive to your horse. Your horse may have just reacted to those two things and was saying, “get away”. If it hasn’t happened to anyone else than I don’t think your horse was the problem at all. Keep working on the positive thoughts and love you have for your horse.

  • Great post. I will add “Always be surprised “ to my internal dialogue. I would like to share another thought from a wonderful trainer—don’t worry about doing 100% every day—just do 1% a day and in 100 days you will have accomplished 100%. More words to live by

  • Melanie Whitten says:

    Thank you, Teddie. You are WONDERFUL.

  • Pamela Taylor says:

    Years ago I caught myself thinking, “I sure will be happy when I get this report finished.” I’m not a fan of report writing, but was doing a lot of it back then, and probably had had that same thought often. This time, it suddenly occurred to me that I was putting off being happy, and I didn’t have to do that. I could be happy whenever I wanted to be. Just that thought brought a wave of relief and relaxation. Fast forward to now, and reading your stories and watching your videos, I’ve realized that I’ve been doing it again, making my happiness contingent on certain things happening, or not happening, especially where my horses and their pasture are concerned–so much inner tension and pressure.

    I’m also realizing that I need to be more “surprised” by my horses. I know there are times when I’m expecting a problem and only surprised when it doesn’t happen! So, yeah, the rest of the time, I’m most likely inadvertently triggering it. I’m going to have to be really aware of what’s going on in my mind when I’m with them.

    Your examples of patience, humor and appreciation in your videos with Kit and Danny are a pleasure to watch and learn from. Thank you!

    • Thank you Pam for the kind words and for reading my blogs. I have to remind myself too that we make our own happiness. I hope your dreams come true.

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