A friend of mine is visiting with her 2 daughters from the Netherlands. These 2 girls are your typical horse crazy 10 and 12 year olds. They go for one riding lesson a week and spend all their spare time watching horse videos on YouTube.
Now with me being the person I am, I want to teach these girls everything I know about horses, and in the process of doing this I am learning exactly how little they have been taught when it comes to the basic stuff that one really should know when one owns or looks after a horse – and I’m not saying that this is unusual, it is sadly very common for “Horse people” to be woefully ignorant of the creatures they have spent so much time obsessing over.
Looking back to when I was a child, I also was not taught very much in the way of practical information. I didn’t learn much about horse behaviour and body language. I didn’t learn much about the anatomy of the horse. I didn’t learn much about what a balanced hoof looks like. I basically learned how to tack a horse up, get up on the horse and then make it do things.
In my opinion these things that are so commonly ignored in the average riding school are among the most important things that a horse person should know – so why is it not being taught to the next generation of horse obsessed kids? Why is ignorance so common in the horse-people community? On the one hand it really doesn’t make sense, because the more we know about our horses and the better we are able to understand and care for them, the better our working relationships with them will be and the healthier they will be. But then on the other hand, if you have a look at how we as humanity live in every other part of our lives, it’s really not all that surprising.
Now I’m not saying that there isn’t a shift of awareness (or whatever you want to call it) happening – because people do seem to be developing more consideration, open-mindedness and compassion. However, this is not something that will happen overnight, and even for those who do decide to develop their awareness of and consideration for other living beings, mistakes will be made. It’s certainly not a smooth ride.
In my personal experience, I met my teacher having basically zero practical knowledge about horses. I could ride and tack up, but that was it (I couldn’t even ride well – I knew only what I was taught as a child – kick to go and pull to stop!). After having met her, my eyes were opened – but not all the way opened (and still not, maybe I will never reach that point). I started looking at horses differently, seeking out different methods and philosophies. My perspective started to shift, and I make it a point to continue shifting it every day even now. I went through phases where I thought I knew everything, I thought I knew the right way, the best way. It was over a period of years that I developed the humbleness to recognise how little I actually know.
Being humble is not easy for most of us – it wasn’t for me. I liked feeling like I knew everything. I liked feeling in control. I liked feeling powerful. I liked all these feelings – but the feelings didn’t make my horsemanship any better, or improve my ability to keep my horse healthy. I was blind for a moment to the truth of how I was with horses, and when I started being willing to really reflect on who I was, I really didn’t like what I saw.
We may not be able to change every person’s perspective and approach to working with horses, but we can make a difference in our lives, with the people who see and learn from us, whether directly or indirectly. We can be part of the growing change to bring awareness and self-directed learning to all areas of our lives, so that as we grow and learn, we stand as examples to those around us.