Leo’s Life Lessons

“The Horse” by Ronald Duncan

Where in this wide world can man find nobility without pride,
Friendship without envy,
Or beauty without vanity?
Here, where grace is served with muscle
And strength by gentleness confined
He serves without servility; he has fought without enmity.
There is nothing so powerful, nothing less violent.
There is nothing so quick, nothing more patient.

My horse, Leo, has taught me a great many lessons about riding and just as many about life. Here are just a few of my favorites:

  1. It’s okay to be startled on occasion, but when you are, there’s no need to dwell on it. Examine the source of your distress, but move on as quickly as possible.
  2. Routines are good; they establish a basic underlying rhythm in an often chaotic world.
  3. Don’t limit yourself to routines. Patterns engender familiarity and familiarity breeds complacency. Change it up on occasion to revitalize your mind.
  4. Rhythmic suppleness leads to balance. Likewise, flexibility in dealing with both the predictable and unforeseen rhythms of life sets the conditions necessary for a balanced perspective.
  5. Subtlety is routinely underrated. In fact, less is more, more often than not.
  6. Conserve your physical, mental and emotional energy. Thrift is poetic.
  7. Be mindful of the fulcrum of opposing forces. It is wiser to work both ends from the middle than to play both ends against the middle.

This is a short list, though I could probably spend an entire year of daily posts just examining the implication of these seven lessons (and likely will in the recesses of my mind).

I’d love to hear from you about lessons you’ve learned from the animals in your world! Feel free to share in a comment…

7 thoughts on “Leo’s Life Lessons

  1. Zach

    This post really made me think about my dog. She is always excited, no matter whether the situation is “fun” for her or not. Dogs definitely live in the moment, and they don’t worry too much about what is outside of it.

    The other thing I have discovered is that there is that there is as much satisfaction to be gained from taking care of something else as there is in getting taken care of. How we do what we do matters as much as whether or not we do it. You can tell when an animal owner cares about their pets enough to care for them well.


  2. Steve Ventola

    Thanks for a wonderful post. It does open up more the connection we have to the animal world. What I remember most about the dogs I have had relates to acknowledging their complete and vivacious welcome whenever there is a return to see them. Makes me think how it applies to my living with the people I am with. Your post again is inspiring.


  3. Vincent

    There is so much to be learned from intelligent animals who exhibit the qualities of life without the overlay of human judgment. These lessons have been readily available to learn from, and many there are who have been appreciative of animals and what they reveal so unselfconsciously. To me your post raises another issue. What would it take to embrace the elemental qualities, abundantly evident in so many animals, indeed in nature as a whole, so that we as human beings could find our natural place in the design of things? I’ll be meditating on this question.


  4. Chuck Reddick

    Our dog Dothen has taught me much over the years. Here are a few of the life lessons that I have learned from him:

    The value of faithfulness regardless of the circumstances
    The value of affection regardless of the circumstances
    The value of consistency
    The value of caring for somebody; deeply caring
    The value of trust

    These are but a few. Dogs are smart and won’t waste their attention or affection. However, they are loyal. Dothen is an extremely good watch dog yet to those people who he trusts and loves his consistency of expression is something for all of us to observe and learn from.


  5. Strawberryfield

    My dog has taught me about trust. It’s something that is earned but you give it forever once you are tried and found worthy.
    If someone is having a bad day just be yourself that is a great comfort to everyone.
    Your home and family are yours to protect. You can be friendly until you feel threatened but show you are aware of the potential portent. Be vigilant until it has revealed itself. Then stay on it until it’s resolved, never become distracted. Most threats vanish with a few barks while a bite is seldom required.
    I think the biggest lesson is that you can find the lovable is just about anyone.
    Loved your post!


  6. Christine

    My beautiful “puppy” Sunday, lived till she died,….she was 15 or 16 years old(this was always a topic of conversation). Sunday taught me many lessons….the biggest was her fearlessness when she was dying. She helped me with my fear and saddness while preparing herself for death, all the while helping me understand the natural course of the process of dying…she gave me the strenght and calmness to allow her to be who she was right to the end. She was my companion, she was my friend and she gave me peace and helped my children to understand this as well.


  7. Ricardo B.

    Here’s a couple that I’ve often thought about in relation to my hawk, named Scout. He’s a pretty neat little guy.

    When you fail to meet your objective, shake it off quickly and get right back on your feet again. If you’ve given a good effort, there’s no need to fret as you can use that experience on your next try. More often than not, there will always be a next time.

    Position yourself so that the forces of momentum are to your advantage. Don’t ever work from a point of unfavorable odds unless there’s no other choice, and be alert to recalculate your odds to the ever-changing landscape. Once the sweet spot appears, act swiftly and with courage.


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