What informs our work with kids and those who serve them? Certainly, for school leaders, a lot enters into all of this. In my case, it comes from many places. For this PEP article, it comes from an unlikely person; a legendary horse trainer and equestrian, Buck Brannaman, who reimagined, and then developed a humane approach to training horses rather than “breaking” them.
I first heard of Brannaman’s story from my son, Joe, who was riding with clients in the canyons and arroyos of New Mexico. He told me of a documentary about Brannaman that he thought was worth watching. After viewing “Buck”, it was clear that “school was in session”-- an opportunity to learn and reframe my learning; so much so, that I traveled to New Mexico to learn from the original
The takeaways may have as much to do with leadership and with educating young people, as with learning a more effective way to train a horse.
Brannaman may not consider himself to be a master educator, but his results demonstrate significant effectiveness. This effectiveness occurs in a field often defined by a tradition and culture vastly differently from the way he works with horses and the owners who ride them. Similarly, we are challenged to lead our schools, develop cultures, and achieve results that are different from the way things have been done in the past.
What follows are a few tips and quotes courtesy of Buck Brannaman. Read them and draw your own conclusions about where to go with your own leadership:
Every horse has a story.
Meet the horse where it’s at right now.
A good horse will put up with bad technique because it’s a good horse.
A busy mouth indicates trouble inside the horse. It’s the instrument panel.
When you introduce something new, the mouth will get busy. Work with him until the mouth calms down.
Horses are real keen on whether they can move your feet, or if you can move theirs.
Most of the time the horse is scared.
Make your point and shut up.
Until you can do what I do, you won't get what I get.
Everything I do is about letting a horse know that it can think. When you can do that, you'll be surprised what it can do.”
It would be a mistake to equate training horses and horsemanship with educating children, working with staff and stakeholders, and leading schools. Rather, Brannaman provides us with an opportunity to step back and to ponder the nature of the relationships necessary to be effective with training and leading. This requires one to infer and make connections about what may be considered the wisdom of experience that a master educator in one field shares with those willing to listen, watch, and pay attention. It does take time to achieve mastery in any pursuit, including educational leadership. Part of this is being curious and receptive to ideas and connections from the most unlikely persons, places, and circumstances.
If you have tips on “what works” with your own leadeship please share them with Dr. Mike Dietz, @mikedietz92,