Do we deserve the forgiveness that our horses (and other animals) offer to us so freely? Probably not. We receive it nonetheless – what we do with it is not always nice or pretty.
In a way, I see that it is far better for our horses to be so willing to forgive – at least they aren’t carrying the burdens of what we’ve done around with them. It’s like being willing to stat each day fresh (to a degree, of course), weightless, and free. I envy the horse’s ability to live so simply and let go so easily – I can only imagine how the ability to do that would change the way we all live.
So who are we in relation to our horses’ willingness to forgive us? Do we honour them in their unconditional willingness, or do we take advantage of them? Let’s face it – horses are big animals with a huge amount of strength. If they really don’t want to do something they have a great capacity to prevent us from forcing them to do it – but this is exceptionally rare to see. Most refusals are somewhat half-hearted – our attempts to force an unwilling horse are usually successful. And not just once, often it is day in and day out.
Imagine lacking the ability to choose what your actions will be on any given day. Our horses live within an incredibly disempowered position in relation to us – we determine every aspect of their lives – where they go, what they do, what they eat, what they drink, what is on their bodies. Despite these conditions, they take it all in stride.
Now I’m not saying that we should necessarily change how we look after our horses – often the practical aspects can’t really be changed – but what we can do is be better at honouring their willingness to live by our choices, and their willingness to forgive our sometimes inconsiderate treatment. What does this practically mean? Listen to your horse. When your horse is refusing to do an exercise for example, it doesn’t mean that they are just being naughty. There is usually a good reason for their refusal, whether it is a lack of understanding, a physical issue (like pain), or even an emotional block like fear. A horse that is fearful will not be able to develop understanding in learning new things as easily as they would if they were calm, relaxed, and confident.
When we open ourselves to listen to our horses we can start truly honouring them as unique, conscious and self-autonomous individuals. Our horses do always have a choice to submit, fight, or participate with enjoyment. We are the ones who are responsible for setting the best possible platform for them to be able to participate with confidence, enjoyment and understanding. Furthermore we open up to opportunity to develop our relationships with our horses to a much deeper and more intimate level. Respecting the voice of a horse shows them that we are real leaders, willing to listen to them and treat them in a way that shows that we value them more than just as pets or toys, or worse yet – as financial investments.