What is the magic in the horse, that draws the human spirit? The grace? The power? When you look into the eyes of the horse what do you see? No, I mean what do you really see.
I see a mirror of ones self. If I were honest and really stop, look and listen, I would see my strength, and my beauty, I see my courage and my fear. I heard it said, the horse is the mirror of the soul.
Ray Hunt, a significant influence on natural horsemanship once said, “You are not working the horse you are working yourself.”
From the hundreds of horses that I have worked I feel these words carry a depth that words alone can not be understood until you have felt the impact of the horses knowledge. In the silence of a glance, a blink or a tug on the lead to give you guidence on your journey. You have the ability to listen to the horse or redirect the horse to what you thought you wanted, but don’t know how to ask.
Time and time again I have witnessed the correction of what I thought I wanted and what the horse has offered me. And I stand humbled at the difference. From working mustangs who only understand equine language to working the more domesticated horse who have been peopled to death, stalled, and waiting silently, living within four walls hour after hour, waiting to be let out and able to move freely as the athlete they are, yet who are anxious to get returned into the safety of those walls. Other horses critiqued in a discipline of their persons choice to be worked and reworked to perfection of controlled mobility, on a human perspective.
Some horses enjoy the challenge of people working on their discipline others are looking for another outlet, another area of expertise that they can excel at.
The horse waits and adjusts to its surrounding the best it can, some looking forward to blanket and stall, others want freedon to be out and about. We expect a horse to adjust to any situation on our terms, but most of us know there is a limit to their silent sanity.
They try to express their understanding the only way they know how. Sometimes their efforts is not good enough and we push them beyond their understanding or trust. A lot of times it does not turn out so well.
I was with some buckaroos one morning out at cow camp several years ago, a man had come to ride with us. His horse never being out of an arena before. As he got his horse saddled, the horse spooked and jumped to the side, almost stepping on the man. With that the man proceeded to kick the horse in the belly several times to make him respect his space… the horse became even more nervous of his surroundings then the man began to jerk on the horses head.
An old cowboy watched for a few moments, then stated, “Well that feller is trying to work beyond his knowledge.”
Then turned his horse to begin his day.
I have thought of that instance many times. And realized, when I don’t know what to do in a situation with my horse, I fall back to old habits taught to me. Some not in the best intrest of the horse. From there I have a choice, keep doing what I have done, or I take a moment pause, think of his reaction to my action and move from there.
If you think for a moment and question this sinario, if a man that speaks a different language walks up to you, puts a rope around your neck and started dragging you along to an unknown destination, would you be inclined to resist? Would your instincts kick in? What if he kicked you in the belly because you jumped? What is your reaction? If this paticular man knew a little bit of your language and offered communication between you and himself what reaction would you offer? If he allowed you to be scared, uncertain, hurt… would trust develop? Every horse is different, just like every person is different. We have learned what walls to build in life to get by, just like the horse. The damage or abuse we can’t let go of, holds us in a pattern that controls our fear or anxiety that we have learned how to cover up. But we still continue to look for rules, bounderies and leadership along with having some kind of freedom.
As society changes some perceptions of horses communication, it brings awareness that horses are asking the same things. If they can’t understand or have the courage to try then they take it upon their self to try and find release, what ever the effort. But if we look deeper, the question comes to mind, is that not what we do? Right or wrong, don’t we try to get control, hide behind our fears or flat out take charge?
Why do we want a horse? What draws us to them? Is it that they healing our life? Do they give us the feeling of being understood, heard? Or it might be trying to get control of life in one way or another. Could it be the challenge of competion, using the horse as our legs? What ever we are searching for through the decades of living and the universal appeal of the horse, they stand silent and wait for our requests. Blindly stepping in the trailer with no idea of where they are headed. To chase a cow, long jog through the desert, or run a barrel pattern, to jumping or dressage. They face and react to our planned days with effort and resistance.
This is a broad area to talk about and some people might think I have gone off the deep end, but I believe, people and horses have to be multi lingeral to share their existence with each other. To some it is as obvious as breathing and others it is “I have to control this animal.” People can talk of their knowledge and accomplishments, they can express judgement and compassion. They can feed, not feed, beat, punish or discipline horses in untold techniques behind the scenes to make them shine in the light. The magic is really the reality and truth of our action and reaction that makes a horse truly communicate with us. One thing for sure as you work through the issues and soften the communication between what you want from the horse standing next to you, it will shine in the silence, for the truth lies within equine eyes.