The best horse trainers are philosophers. Carl Riehl was the first I worked with who helped me to understand how many life lessons I could learn from horses. One of his favourite sayings was, “Check it out.” What he meant was for his students to “lunge” the horse before mounting. This meant to put the horse on a lead rope and move him around. By doing this, you could gauge the horse’s attitude and check that the saddle and bridle were properly adjusted. Some of his students would sometimes shortcut this step, and get into trouble as a result. If the trouble was predictable and we had missed the signs, we’d tease one another. “You didn’t check that one out very well, did you?”

I was riding in a horse show once. When the wind flapped the ribbon I was carrying on the way to the barn, my horse was frightened by the sight or sound. Being a flight animal, he wanted to make sure to get rid of whatever was scaring him (the ribbon). I was attached to the ribbon and got bucked off. As I laid in the dirt with the wind knocked out of me, I wiggled my fingers and my toes to make sure I was still alive. I heard Carl’s voice in my head, saying “Didn’t check that one out very well, did you?”

Throughout my life, I’ve been bucked off by more than horses. Sometimes I should have known better, but missed the warning signs. When that happens, I learn to pay more attention to them next time. There are times to throw caution to the wind, but sometimes you can reduce the risk of an unfavourable outcome by “checking it out” first.

Take a chance, but stay aware of the ways you could reduce your risks and “check it out”.