In TSB author Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling’s seminal book DANCING WITH HORSES (recently re-released in paperback), he tells the tragic tale of a railway worker who was fixing a refrigerator car late one Friday afternoon. His fellow workers, unaware that he toiled away within the car, closed the door and locked it, trapping the poor man in what he thought was a bitter cold prison for the duration of the weekend. On Monday morning, they found him, frozen to death in a corner of the car.
Strangely, this particular refrigerator car was not functioning, and the weekend had been a lovely, sunny one—and yet, the man had frozen to death. How? As the story goes, he convinced himself that he was locked in and facing certain death, and the idea—the power of his mind—led to his demise.
“What we learn from this story,” writes Klaus in DANCING WITH HORSES, “is what a tremendous power our ideas, our conceptions of things, have over us. The laws of reality take a back seat to the power of our minds.”
Klaus explains that this power can work in positive ways, as we often learn through the techniques of visualization promoted by sport psychologists (such as TSB author Daniel Stewart), but as demonstrated in the “Tragic Tale of the Railway Worker and the Refrigerator Car,” in negative ways, as well.
“If I say to myself three times, ‘I will not be able to do that,’ then I will not be able to do whatever ‘that’ is,’ even if it is something I could otherwise accomplish quite easily,” he writes. “A small child, who trips two or three times, might be called a clumsy oaf by his father…his father’s words are very formative because they create in the boy’s mind the idea: ‘I’m a klutz, a clumsy oaf.’ If it happens a few more times, this boy, perhaps a skillful, talented young lad, will indeed become a clumsy oaf. The father’s words became a concept, an idea of the boy’s and their effect is as tragic as the idea held by the railway worker.”
Klaus says that what the father should do with his son is look past the boy’s tripping—until he sees the boy tread the same path without tripping. Then the father should say, “Hey! You did that really well!”
And we need to do the same thing with our horses: We need to overlook many of the “errors” they make and be ready to praise them for the good things they do. This empowers the positive mindset, rather than the negative one. In addition, when we discipline ourselves to see the positive and overlook the rest, our interactions with others—whether with our children or our horses—are friendlier, more confident, and full of calm certainty.
“Working with a horse,” says Klaus, “means first of all working on oneself.”
Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling’s bestselling books DANCING WITH HORSES and WHAT HORSES REVEAL, and his DVDs DANCING WITH HORSES and COMING TOGETHER, are available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.
Check out this fabulous video that illustrates Klaus’ philosophy as he works with a stallion at liberty: