Honouring the Forgiving Nature of the Horse

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.418392_10150569681746160_1082415578_n

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.

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I’ll Never Know Everything

We’ll never know everything there is to know about any one thing in life – it’s simply not going to happen. When I realised this, I decided that I will never stop learning. 12088365_10153048755116160_1991619987588050890_n

We have this tendency to think we know everything about something, especially when we think we’re pretty good at it. We get a kind of tunnel vision, thinking that all there is in the whole of the world, life and existence is what we know, and that there cannot possibly be anything else outside of that.

I found that when I spent a lot of time with people who didn’t know much about horses, I’d feel pretty knowledgeable. I’d feel smart, informed and downright cool. But then, if I ever did spend time around “horsey people” who shared knowledge that contradicted what I believed, I’d tell myself that they were wrong, and I was right. It didn’t matter how much sense they were making.

Thankfully I realised that I couldn’t possibly always be right, and that there had to be more than what I thought I knew. So, I started listening to other people more, I started playing around with different methods, I started actually looking for new and different information. Within all of this I realised an interesting thing: I will never stop learning, and I don’t want to.

I started truly enjoying looking outside my restrictive box of beliefs, knowledge and tools. I found that there were certain tools, methods, philosophies and starting points that worked differently for individual horses. I found also that a lot of the time, it wasn’t so much about the specific method or exercise I was using – the best results always came when my starting point within myself was one of calm and wanting to help the horse. If I was frustrated then it wouldn’t matter what exercise I was doing – my frustration would be what dominated the session.

One of the most important aspects in what I learned, was that learning isn’t always about studying, or reading up about different techniques – I realised more and more how much I learn about myself and about my horse in every moment that we are together, no matter what we are doing. When I closed myself off to being aware of myself or my horse, our time spent together would often be awkward, uncomfortable and sometimes even contentious. I found that whenever I was being stubborn about something within me or the horse (like how the horse should respond, apparently), I’d lock down in our session and that would create an unpleasant experience for both of us. So now I make it a point to be flexible, not have any expectations and to check in with my horse to see what he needs in that particular moment. Just as important is that I stay aware of how I am responding within myself to the horse, so that I can change any response patterns that I don’t actually want (like getting frustrated when the horse does not understand what I am asking).

It can be difficult to learn new things, especially things that challenge our “preset” self definitions. We owe it to ourselves and to our horses to neverstop learning, and to never think that we already know everything, because that’s when we start forcing things – which is seldom an enjoyable experience.