First, you have to have a good western name. You'll never make it in the high-stakes horse whispering game unless you're named Cody or Montana or Dallas. Myron, you don't stand a chance. Mike and Bill, you'll have to work harder than the Shooter down the street. Got a woman's name? Give it up. More on that later.
Next, you'd better have had a dad who walloped the ever-lovin' bejeezus out of you. If your father wasn't a low-down, no good cuss who never showed you love so that your life was an endless cycle of shallow and angry relationships until the day you realized you could whisper, you'll be limited in how far you can go.
You've got to look the part. This means having your own signature hat: whether it's an Aussie hat, or a Stetson, or a battered old Resistol with the front brim turned way down from getting face-planted on that "gentle" mare someone put you on, you'd best have a gnarly looking hat to show what a rugged individualist you are. If you don't have an ample ring of ancient sweat expanding upward from the hat band, buy some fake sweat. This is important.
Learn how to look your client in the eye and grow silent for a moment before uttering a strikingly tender statement with a totally straight face: "Yep, ma'am, you know horses are just big huge babies, and we have to look out for 'em." Pepper your speech with down home truisms and meaningful pearls of wisdom -- and never, ever laugh at your own jokes. Try not to smile too much; you want to look perpetually wounded, but in recovery.
Buy yourself a half-dead stallion with the same troubled past you had (or that you've claimed you had). Make sure you can stand on his back. No horse whisperer is worth two bits if he doesn't routinely stand on his horse's back. Heck, never buy a horse unless there's a photo of some cowboy standing on his back, for that matter! Really, as long as you have that, you can count on it being a damned fine horse.
Hang your arm over that horse's neck, right behind his head, as if he's the one and only true friend you ever had -- and don't acknowledge him too much. Make him out to be more of a body part of your own than a sole and separate horse. Give him a down-to-earth, unpretentious name -- Chuck, or Willie, or Merle.
Now, the important part: get some testicles. I don't mean, "Grow some balls." I mean, if you aren't a lonesome cowboy -- not a lonesome cowgirl -- you'll only whisper to the occasional client; you'll never whisper to the masses. It's not that you won't be downright great at what you do with the horses; it's all about the clientele. No matter how great your battered old hat is, and no matter how many times you stand on your horse's back, you just can't compete. Yes, Virginia, it IS a man's world.
You see, the most important thing of all is that connection with your customers -- well, your fan base, actually. Because it's not that you're going to be a great symphonic pianist: no, a good horse whisperer is a rock star. And rock stars depend on women. Groupies. Your groupies as a horse whisperer will be somewhat different than the groupies Justin Bieber has, but you'll need them just as Biebs does.
Your groupies will be the hordes of middle-aged women who've reached a wistful time of life. They're reflecting on where they are now and where they used to want to be when they were twelve and where the heck their teenage figure went. They're returning to the horses of their youth in hopes of regaining that youth right alongside them, and they're often afraid. They've realized they're not immortal and they want wings once again, but they're afraid to fly.
That's where you come in. It's not about the horse. It's about giving horses back to your fans. It's connecting with them through your connection with the horse. It's about laughter and tears and disclosure and epiphany. It's about rediscovery and personal journeys. They may never get on a horse again -- but give them the hope that they will.
It's a wonderful thing, and it's important. Next time you're out there standing tall on your old horse Waylon's back, look into those faces, cherish the opportunities they've given you, and give them back their wings.
(c) 2012 MJ Miller
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