10 Lessons Voice Actors
Can Learn From Horses
By Rick Lance
Over the past 20 years I've shared my life with horses, yet I've always wondered what took me so long to discover them.
Oh, I grew up with childhood fantasies of horses brought on by TV shows like My Friend Flicka, Fury, The Lone Ranger and Mr Ed, as well as movies like Black Beauty, The Black Stallion, Lonely Are the Brave and National Velvet.
I'm still a sucker today for the contemporary stories of The Horse Whisperer, Secretariat and the new War Horse.
THE WISDOM OF HORSES
Mostly, these are all stories of true heart, guts, soul and love. They illustrate the fact that man has learned much about life through the wisdom of his horses.
Of course, these days it's easy to forget the impact horses have had on our lives.
Before the invention of the automobile, horses throughout much of the world were our only means of transportation.
TRANSPORT, WORKERS AND FRIENDS
They were not only used as ATVs and farm workers (before tractors), but as companions, too.
And we've always learned from the lives of our horses. We've learned from their spirit, their sweetness, lust for freedom and their trust in humanity.
Yes, today horses are simply obsolete, for all practical purposes - completely low-tech, high energy and high maintenance. Still, every horse owner recognizes their sheer magnificence.
LESSONS FROM DUKE
Here are 10 lessons that my horse, Duke, an awesome, 26-year-old, 16-hand, chestnut, flaxen-maned, Tennessee Walking Horse gelding has taught me.
I should say that I'm not claiming to be an expert in horse psychology or horsemanship, Western riding, equine science, training or care.
However, I have dedicated a large part of my life to the welfare of my horses and the discipline of modern day horsemanship.
For the sake of simplicity, I've borrowed a few maxims from a little book I keep in my studio called All I Need to Know I Learned from My Horse, by Pamela C. Biddle and Joel Fishman.
1. LISTEN LIKE A HORSE
Horses can't talk, but they can speak if you listen.
The heart of a horse is wide open. Unlike us, they do not suppress emotion.
You can communicate with a horse by watching his movements:
THEY CAN READ US BETTER
Horses can read our body language much better than we can among ourselves.
Understand this and the horse becomes trainable, bonding with his handler in mutual respect.
Part of our training and our job as actors/voice actors is to "listen" well and observe closely.
Before we can bring a character to life - one who really touches people's hearts - we need to practice and refine this behavior.
Listening closely works pretty well in business, too.
2. APPLY A STEADY HAND
A steady hand is better than a harsh bit.
In the days of the Old West, cowboys often rode with harsh bits in the mouths of their horses, believing that brawn was better than brain.
They muscled their horses about as slaves rather than with the modern philosophy of partnership.
Partnering is a term used today in business. To me, this is achieved through understanding, grace, trust and good communication skills with clients and associates.
3. LEARN FROM BAD RIDES
You learn more from a bad ride than from a good one.
A bad ride can more likely be blamed on the rider and not the horse. While learning to ride, I realized that horses are calm and cooperative when you are.
I've always been somewhat hard headed, or so I'm told, sometimes learning things the hard way.
A key to business success is learning from your mistakes, rather than repeating them, then riding on down the trail with confidence and know-how.
4. KNOW WHEN IT'S TOO LATE
Once the jump is under you, it's too late to look at it.
Horses sometimes have more sense than people. They just keep moving forward.
Learning from our mistakes is vital, but dwelling on them is fruitless. What's done is done.
The attention span of a horse is only three seconds. After that he's ready for the next thing.
Likewise, after the botched audition, instead of beating yourself up about what you could have done better, it's best to put it out of your mind.
It's too late to go back and do it again anyway.
5. HAVE A GOOD HEART
A good heart beats a pretty head every time. It takes more than just being a purebred to make a great horse.
Those of you who feel much freer and more comfortable behind the mic than in front of the camera can relate to this.
As voice actors, our best performances are those that reach out and touch the listener.
Who cares how pretty we may look behind the mic? Microphones can’t see; they can only feel.
6. SWISH THAT TAIL
A swish of the tail at regular intervals, a simple natural action, keeps most pests away.
In other words, watch your back! Trust is commendable, but naivete can be detrimental.
Brush aside the naysayers and focus on moving forward.
Rely on your own judgment, but look back once in a while to keep predators at bay - and to see how far you've come.
7. KNOW THE PATH AHEAD
Know the course before you mount the horse. The horse surely knows the way.
If you are new to voice acting, or any other skilled profession, do your homework before getting in too deep with equipment expenses, client services, marketing expenses and such.
A young foal learns to trot before he can canter.
There's a wealth of resources available on the Internet and at your public library and community book store. Read up on your new profession.
Choose your sources wisely. Ask a working pro which sources are the ones most valuable to him or her, rather than asking too broad a question such as, "How do I get into voice acting?"
8. THE BEST REVENGE ...
Riding well is the best revenge. Show off your riding skills.
As I said earlier, keep the naysayers at bay as well as other negative influences.
Concentrate instead on being the best professional you can be.
Revenge is sweet when you've become accomplished, leaving others in the dust who are lazy, misguided, unskilled or unscrupulous.
9. END ON A GOOD NOTE
Never end an exercise on a bad note. To build confidence leave the session on a happy note.
The best way to do this is to ask the horse to perform something he already knows how to do. He leaves confidently, ready for the next session.
End your own recording session, phone conversation or email message on a good happy note.
Stay positive and forward-thinking when dealing with clients and with the industry as a whole.
10. LOOK FOR THE GREEN GRASS
Graze in the same spot too long and you'll end up with a mouthful of dirt. Horses always find the green grass.
Gaining new ground in any business is vital to its prosperity, longevity and growth, especially a business such as voice acting accompanied by so much high technology.
But then again, what business today isn't? Keeping up with and understanding its evolving phases will help keep your business in the spotlight.
GOODBYE TO A DEAR FRIEND
On Friday, Feb. 3, 2012, my beloved horse, Duke, passed away. He was 26 years old - 78 in human years.
One of the hardest things in life I've ever done was to let him go and allow him a dignified death.
Despite the years of care and love we gave him, time and an injury took its toll on his aging legs and he could no longer support the weight of his own body.
THE SURVIVING FAMILY
Duke is survived by Majik, our 16-year-old, chestnut, flaxen-maned Arabian mare and Jett, our black, 12-year-old Tennessee Walking Horse gelding.
He's also survived by our two beautiful dogs, Jessie, a 10-year-old, Red Tri Australian Shepherd (Aussie) and Cody, a 10-year-old Shaded Sable Shetland Sheepdog (Sheltie), our 11-year-old barn cat, Pistol and newly adopted family member, (abandoned by a neighbor) a handsome, multi-colored rooster, Rowdy, and of course by wife, Mickie, and myself.
I hope you found this article beneficial to your business and personal life.
It has allowed me to collect my thoughts and most certainly was therapeutic in honoring the memory of my first horse, Duke. May he rest in peace in Horse Heaven.
ABOUT RICK ...
Rick Lance has been working as a voice talent since 1993, transitioning from singing demos and personal projects in Nashville’s music business to voicing hundreds of commercials, then promos, narrations, character voices and more. His vocal style is described as Americana, the voice of the Heartland. He is currently the voice of Championship Bull Riding on GAC-TV and NHRA Inside Reining, Wide World of Horses on IC-TV and Life Care Centers of America, among others. He has also become a leading voice for the industries of construction, manufacturing, energy production, trucking, agriculture/equine, outdoor sports, travel, community banking, finance and health care. And he is a colorful voice for film, television, museum and corporate documentaries.
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