Before I crossed paths with Tom Dorrance, “doing up the latigo” was just something I automatically did to ensure my horse’s next saddling went smoothly and safely. Securing the long strap up out of the way was a mindless chore I performed each day so I could practice a more important pursuit: improving my horsemanship skills.
But then I took part in one of Tom’s clinics. And my perspective on doing up the latigo and improving my horsemanship got turned upside down.
Tom explained that during his many years of helping people with their horses, he has noticed how, when doing up the latigo, not everyone puts the strap through the rigging plate (or ring) the same way. In fact, he’s found that most people push the latigo down from the top of the saddle.
When Tom shows them how poking the latigo up from underneath allows it to feed out more easily when cinching up, the people would give it a try and acknowledge that it worked. They would even express an interest in adopting the new method. However, the next time Tom would see them, they had gone back to pushing the latigo down from the top…just as before.
Tom’s analysis was that since change required some work, they had fallen back into their old ways. He went on to point out that this tendency to avoid working at change is what blocks people’s progress with their horses. As Tom put it, “They would sure like to have everything working well. But if it’s going to be that much trouble, they decide they don’t need it.”
When I discovered I was not doing my latigo up in the most efficient way, I adopted Tom’s approach. Accomplishing this change, however, required a surprising amount of awareness, consistency, and follow-through.
This small lesson made me realize something very important: If I was going to advance my horsemanship and change and improve my approach to handling horses, I must dedicate myself to making certain that I never slipped back into any of my old ways.
Doing up the latigo, I decided, would be my touchstone, my reminder.
Even after the many years since, each time I undo my latigo to saddle up and each time I do it up again as I unsaddle, I still find myself renewing this commitment to my horsemanship. What started out for me years ago as a mindless task, now has deep meaning.