dancing horses

dancing horses

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

The Stories We Tell

 Humans are hardwired to build narratives. I believe that we do this because it helps us to understand and put meaning to things that are happening around us. Many cultures have oral traditions that pass down learning and beliefs to new generations. 

I myself love stories. I literally cannot fall asleep if I don't read at least 5 minutes. And what is a blog except a series of stories? Stories can be very helpful. They help us to understand and put things in context. 

side note: it's hard to find photos of story time that 
isn't just with white people. What narrative is that building? 


And this is a big one- stories can also do a lot of harm. It is easy to take a small snippet of something and build a story around it. For example, I walk by you and don't' say hi. It is possible that you will determine that I am angry and from there build a whole story around it. When it's more likely I was lost in thought and didn't see you (like seriously- I am often lost in thought and my thinking face is very much like Carmen's mare face).  Funny story- my sister in law was told by a friend that Ed and I were divorcing. She told her friend that that was not true. Her friend said 'no, I know it's true, I heard it from so-and-so'. Turns out that this friend hadn't seen me at church with Ed so assumed we were divorcing.  When we learned this we laughed and said to each other should one of us move out?

The problem with stories is that we like to have a villain, a victim and a hero. Spoiler alert- we rarely/never cast ourselves as the villain. We are usually the hero or the victim. 

This poses a real risk in the horse world. I see it often- a moment in time is captured and then an entire story is created around it. Reputations can be ruined. People can find themselves and their horse becoming the focus of gossip. People talk like the 'know' things when they weren't even there. Two people can see the same thing and reach different conclusions. Heaven knows that training is not always pretty. Which doesn't mean that it should be harsh. 

let me break up this post with a photo of baby Quaid 
I stole off his breeder's FB page. Isn't he the cutest? (PC Tanya Jangula) 

I am very guilty of building stories around Carmen. It has helped me to put some of her behaviour in context but it also resulted in me not tackling something or tackling it the wrong way. It makes us look for things that reinforce our story and ignore the things that don't. 

Now there's no way that I am going to be able to stop building stories. It's in my DNA. What I'm trying to do is recognize when I'm doing it and ask myself what the evidence is and whether it's helpful. I am trying to describe what I see/experience and not embellish it. 

Have you had similar experiences? Or am I just getting too far out? 

here's the sweetest face to make you smile

(disclaimer: the stories where my animals are talking are 100% true). 


  1. There are some strong parallels between stories, and biases (conscious or unconscious) particularly around heuristics like self selection, confirmation, etc. Thinking fast and slow by Kahneman is one of my fav reads, and it absolutely applies to the horse world … especially when we attempt to decipher the cause of a behaviour in another sentient being. We also create narratives which can limit our own choices or behaviour. Its hard, and sometimes exhausting, to constantly check ourselves for limiting beliefs. We might be better to ask ourselves, “why not”?

    1. That’s a good question to ask. I’ll have to look for that book.

  2. I completely, completely agree with you. And I felt this acutely when I started my horse search in 2020.

    When I met a horse, I felt myself start to tell my story with this horse. How we met. How we clicked right away (or we didn't, and we ended up together anyway). How we overcame some odds (or we didn't, and it was nothing but smooth sailing). How his little quirks were growing on me (or they didn't, and I loved him anyway).

    When I went to Germany to look at horses, I didn't have time (or energy) to tell myself these stories. There were only two horses I thought about my story with, and they were both on my short list (and I ended up with one of them!).

    I hear other people doing this all the time. And sometimes I see them getting themselves in trouble with those stories. They are so wrapped up in the story they are telling themselves (and the world) about their horse that they don't see the holes, or the problems, or the very real danger they are putting themselves and their partnership in. And sometimes the stories they tell lead to horses hurting or in more pain. Sometimes the stories they tell are totally different a few years down the line, and I remembered a completely different story playing out in real time. But I think life, and stories, are like that.

    So yes. I've seen this and felt it. And I also try to tell fact as much as stories, and recognize the similarities and differences between them.

    1. This is interesting. And I agree- stories change over time.

  3. I recently went to a local horsey event after being absent for a few months. I had so many questions asked that people believed to be fact. Hadn't seen me recently, so I mustn't be riding. Sophie boarded out for summer, so I am selling her. One of the people where Sophie was boarded had this whole detailed story built around Sophie and I based on just seeing her around the barn. I can talk and correct the speculation, and still the narratives get wild pretty fast - I can only imagine how it goes for horses!

    1. Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good rumour!

  4. Oh boy.... yup Ted and I have been the subject of some pretty funny gossip. Like I was his fifth wife (I'm not, although we married twice, once civil and later in Church)- also rumours of divorce that had both of us laughing! I guess people don't like to see happy people if they themselves are not happy.
    When it comes to horses I don't think I make stories but I do have expectations, and am prepared for finding the holes in what I want them to be. Like Sophie, being reactive when I was told that she was easy to get along with. I am waiting to see what holes I will find in my new mare! I hope they are minimal!


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