We often impose our personal interpretations onto the world around us – this can be seen especially in our relationships with animals. Animals are unable to speak for themselves using our method of communication (words) and so must rely on their behaviour to try to communicate. We, though, have the tendency to completely ignore their behaviour and place our own interpretation of the situation onto them.
Let’s use horses as an example. They can be flighty, silly, dramatic and sometimes a little dull – or so we think. We make the mistake of judging them as humans. Actually, we make the mistake of judging them, period. When you judge someone or something, you are essentially imposing your views, opinions and beliefs onto them, and in so doing you close yourself off from really looking, really listening and really being open to hear what they’re saying (whether they’re saying it in word or deed). We see the behaviour of others through our own perceptions – we do not fully immerse ourselves within who they are.
With horses, we often fail to take into consideration that they do not think the same way we do, they do not have the same drives, they do not interpret the world around them in the same way. And yet, we label them with very human qualities such as being defiant, dominant, stupid and more. How can we be open to seeing through their eyes, feeling their discomfort and tuning into their emotions if we have already judged them as being this or that?
I recently experienced this kind of moment where my mind took the reins and dismissed a horse’s behaviour of showing his physical discomfort as being him just being “naughty” and a “drama queen” as he was acting up in his stable while getting repellent wiped on. He had been perfectly well behaved every time he was dipped for years before that – so I assumed that he was just full of the joys of summer and being difficult because he felt like it. It turned out that, when I checked on an itchy spot a day or two later up in his thighs, he actually had some dried up skin flaking off. Well did I feel like an idiot and an a**. The repellent, for whatever reason, had burnt his skin – enough for the very top layer to dry up and fall off. Of course it could have been much worse – it was very mild and could be equated to getting a rather rough facial exfoliation – but it was more than enough for me to want to kick myself for not listening to him when he was saying, as loudly as he could without hurting anyone, that we were hurting him.
When I put myself in horse’s shoes I find it difficult to understand how they are so patient and kind to us even when we are so utterly oblivious to what they’re trying to tell us. It is rare to come across a horse that resorts to aggression. Their ability to forgive and keep giving us opportunities to change is astounding. That is the kind of patience and kindness that I strive for in all my dealings with man and animal.
Why don’t we listen when these big, gentle creatures speak to us? Yes, we may not understand their language well enough – though I see that the biggest obstacle is our mind set. We automatically believe that we are right. We automatically justify our interpretations of their behaviour and refuse to consider any other possibilities. We are stubborn and self righteous, and do not like admitting that we are wrong. But who pays for our attitude? Those who are kindest, those who give us everything they have for nothing in return.