Life Coach: The Goat Version

It was a beautiful end-of-summer afternoon, just about feeding time. Cupid had been with us for almost a year by then. He was an elder foster horse having a great summer in that precious way that makes you quiet inside. Cupid never expected much or asked for special treatment. He’d been used hard and not by a little girl, so it took him a while to figure out where he was. He was a good eater, though, even if his body was failing, and he made a friend. Arthur, the goat, had a long history of liking decrepit Appaloosas and took to Cupid right away.

There was a time when Arthur was small and cute and extremely human-avoidant. My other goats came as bottle babies and followed me everywhere. Arthur arrived here at that awkward age when most young male goats get eaten, but not knowing his previous fate, he felt outraged at being kidnapped. With no previous handling, I was happy if he even looked at me. Just when we were making a bit of progress, a different old Appaloosa stood on his leg for a while. It was a serious break, but I managed to hoist him into the trailer and get to the vet, creating the illusion I could walk him on a lead.

Sure, he only used three legs and was probably in shock, but we walked through the vet clinic only tipping one table over. And his cast was heavy, Arthur was medicated by then, so I managed to get him home, too. He’s grown up now, bigger than our mini horse and obliged to no one. I have a hard-won way of getting him to move next to me. It isn’t pretty but it doesn’t involve a lead rope which is his cue to pull me to the ground.

Just to say, I have tried and mostly failed to train him any sense of fair play, if not polite social behavior, but I swear, if I hadn’t dated a wrestler in high school, I wouldn’t have survived.

That afternoon, I was walking Cupid in for the night, a rope loose around his neck, and we took baby steps so slow we rocked side to side as much as we went forward. If they made elder walkers for horses, I would have gotten him one to ease the way. Instead, we took our time. That’s when it happened. Something exploded between us and we were both knocked apart. Knees buckled. I saw a black and white flash. A cloven hoof managed to plant itself on my lame foot. It wasn’t the first time this goat had upended me but it was so quick that Cupid lost balance, too. I managed to hold just enough tension on the rope that Cupid could keep his footing, only because I was falling in the opposite direction. All of us, not a sound mover in the crowd, fumbling for balance, but Arthur stumbled on in his stiff-legged trot, racing for the bucket of soaked mush he knew I’d hidden under a tub somewhere. We were on the open prairie, for crying out loud, he could have missed us. He didn’t look back. Goats don’t apologize. Cupid and I felt like we were in a Roadrunner cartoon, if Roadrunner was fat, spotted, and moved more like a skid steer.

Even as I was wondering if my knee was sprained, I still believed, as I do now, that every dressage barn should have a goat as a reminder that control is futile.

Cupid was euthanized this fall; the world is less one old Appaloosa who was sweeter and better fed in retirement. Arthur mourned deeply for his friend, which is no surprise at all. They ate and slept and head-butted every day, Cupid the less enthusiastic of the pair. Goats require tolerance from those around them, but Arthur is not without compassion, even if only for himself. He still insists on having things to his liking and at his convenience. Arthur takes what he wants, putting his desires above all questions of safety. No fence can hold him but he won’t leave. He sleeps where he wants and then makes a point of peeing on the hay. It isn’t that Arthur throws a tantrum. He just does what suits him, no need for permission or apologies.

Tell the truth; you envy him just a bit, don’t you?

Some riders ask me about confidence-building but we all wish there was a remedy for being an introvert. How many of us chronically put others before ourselves as a cop-out, down talking our skills, exaggerating all that went wrong first, and then minimizing our success. Humility is one thing but what we do lands closer to self-betrayal. Maybe worst of all, we’re too polite and in the process let our horses down. We’re like Cupid, we hate to rock the boat, we keep our eyes low, and we would never take more than a fraction of our due. The problem is we belittle our value. We don’t want to be seen as arrogant but in that process, we sell ourselves short. We forget it isn’t bragging if it’s a fact.

It isn’t bragging if it’s a fact.

It’s true that Arthur has no advanced degrees. Me, either. You could hire a professional life coach to work things out and it might even be a good idea. And maybe I spend too much time looking for mentors in the barn. What if it’s time to barge your way into your own life, asking for what you want with clarity, taking credit for work well done. Resting in the knowledge that you’re doing a great job at being you.

None of us are in imminent danger of becoming narcissistic ass-hats and even if we were, we’d get over it the next time we saw a horse and fell in love again. I do know this: horses like us to stand tall. They feel most comfortable when we are calm and clear. They don’t care if we’re perfect, they care that we have integrity. That we are true to our intentions.

We should claim what is ours without apology. Smile as we do it our way. Bleat about accepting ourselves just as we are, if we feel the desire. What is confidence but experience, followed by an effort to understand ourselves and do better going forward?

We are all survivors of this chaotic world. We have earned our place here and pride is not the same thing as arrogance. The world would benefit if we were true to what we’ve won through courage and commitment, and then encouraged others to do the same.

Arthur is a full-blown antidote to micromanagement and sedate order. He doesn’t love me and he never will but he does like to have his horn-nubbins scratched sometimes. As he ages, I’m sure that leg will bother him more. If the horses are running, he gets nervous and charges at me. He doesn’t usually manage to stop in time. This feckless goat continues to exist somewhere between audacity, inconvenience, and a bleating how-to manifesto on self-care. I’ll follow his lead.

It isn’t my job to bend him to my will. What if the fight isn’t for dominance but instead, an invitation to autonomy?

Anna Blake at Infinity Farm

Want more? Join us at The Barn, our online training group with video sharing, audio blogs, live chats with Anna, and so much more. Or go to annablake.com to subscribe for email delivery of this blog, see the Clinic Schedule, or ask a question.

 

Anna Blake

36 thoughts on “Life Coach: The Goat Version”

  1. Sweet, funny & poignant. Bless Cupid & Arthur. We haven’t had goats here but our neighbors have several. Fun to watch their antics but I’m also happy they live there & not here! Thanks for sharing this.

    Reply
  2. “It isn’t bragging if it’s a fact”. My parents taught me very well that saying you were good at something was bragging. And I’ve’known’ that wasn’t true for a while. But this is just making my world shift and unstick useless thought processes. Sometimes it takes an outside force to jostle things along.

    Reply
  3. This was fun to read. Such lovable beings, goats and appys.

    Thank you for: “you’re doing a great job at being you.”

    Reply
  4. Funny how animals choose who they bond with. What a gift to Cupid that Arthur was his buddy. Maybe Arthur gave Cupid some courage? And maybe Cupid gave Arthur some humility (even if just a little). What a nice story.

    Reply
  5. This is one of your best Anna. I could see it all play in my mind. I laughed, got weepy and thoughtful. We connect with all species, no matter what.

    Reply
  6. Once again, a wonderful (true) fable that illuminates our own need for an alchemy of kindness and strength. Once again, your encouragement (exhortation!?) to avoid apologizing for being who we are embeds itself in my heart and I know itโ€™s the path for me. Iโ€™m so glad to have found this path at this time in my life!

    Reply
  7. In the paragraph that starts, ” Cupid was euthanized this fall; ” Arthur sounds like a certain President who will remain nameless. As I was reading through that section, I was telling myself this sounds a lot like…. Thanks for the laugh and thank you for the good stories. I am almost done with all of your books, and guess what? Good thing I’m a gardner, I better stick with that.

    Reply
  8. This one really had my ears pricked forward! Though, much of the time I do understate my greatness (!) to keep the evil eye๐Ÿ‘€ at bay.
    Rainbow wishes for Cupid. As for Arthur, I’m pea green with envy๐Ÿ˜‰

    Reply
  9. So after reading this post, I realized that the definition of integrity that I have held had in my head – something more akin to moral certitude – is not the integrity horses want from me. I’m pretty sure they just want my outside to match my inside. As always – my horse appreciates your efforts Anna. ๐Ÿ˜€

    Reply
  10. I read this one to my husband – while eating lunch – and a gal in the next booth with her back to my hubby spun around about 1/2way through and stared. I smiled at her when done reading, and she said:

    “Who wrote that!?!”

    “Let me ask a question first. Are you a horsewoman?”

    When she said “yes” and told me about having wanted one before she was born, and that she’d taken lessons a few times a month in her teens but didn’t get her own horse until after college, I told her about your Facebook page, your blog,, AND your books. This spring she plans to come out and help me groom my herd.

    Reply
    • Oh Shelley. I am so touched by this… this is how the world changes. People like you. And not just for horses, for all of us. Thanks so much for sharing, inviting her to your barn, spreading the love. I am flattered that something I wrote might spark this, and I have to smile about reading it aloud in public. (I would have loved to hear you.) But thanks so much for “talking to strangers” and making us all a bit closer.

      Reply
  11. I am in deep thought after just reading this. I appreciate and admire your writing in “the Goat Version” that merges an understanding of animals with human’s behaviours. It helps to make sense of ourselves, where we stand and then makes an offer to potentially alter how we stand in our human world. So many different levels spoken about in one level. Battling self undervalue is common and as you wrote the benefits that could come from acknowledging our worth could be great. At least there is the world we live in with our animal charges that give us freedom to feel our best; bless them. This is, as usual a great and inciteful read. Thank you.

    Reply
  12. Oh Anna, how is it that your writing, done days before I read it, addresses my experience today? Keep going, girl! Your musings are jewels .

    Reply
  13. Goats, I’ve had the pleasure of knowing many, including a really stroppy cantankerous one, and I loved them all. I’m reminded of my love for cats, especially the tortoiseshell ones, because they always remind me I’m not the one in control. They are impervious to my tendency to micromanage. Yes, I envy the confidence, and yes, I do my best to emulate them.
    As I remind some people, the older I’ve got the less willing I am to tolerate BS. As always, great writing, just sorry it’s taken this long to get to this. Am busy preparing for my own writing, once the tin can is brought up to date.

    Reply

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.