What is it about a horse that drives us to train it, to harness its power? Does the horse give us the power we seek, a set of wings with which to fly, a chance for freedom that we lack? Or does fear drive us, apprehension of its strength, of its speed, or does it go deeper than this?
Do we see in the horse all that we are not? Before us is an animal that is mindful, accepting of whatever emotion a fleeting moment in time brings. Here is an animal that can stand, not asleep but not awake, happy to just be in space and time. Do we see all that we have lost? All that we are not? Is that the driving force to conquer and ultimately break the will of the horse? Mankind seeks and then damages all that the horse is, we destroy the reflection of all that we have lost…the ability to be still, the ability to react without an agenda, the ability to live in harmony with the nature around it, leaving nothing in its legacy except a hoof print in the sand.
All that we have lost is epitomised in the spirit of the horse, all that we have lost we attempt to take back, in the only way humans seem to know how, by repressing it, by torching the very traits we long to find comfort in.
In the place of the untethered spirit we find a shell of an animal, seemingly happy to bend to the will of the human, obedient, strapped down and pushed along. Broken both inside and out, yet still horses adapt to survive. Even under the torment of equestrian sport, or being ridden before their bones are finished growing, yanked by the head, spurred in the sides, made to burn its precious lungs for the glory of the human; even then the horse adapts, as they whicker to their tormentor.
They see us for who we are. Lost, desperate, grabbing at a way we feel might lead us back. Taught from an early age to dominant and manipulate for attention, humans spend a lifetime trying to get back to the peace that we are born to, blueprints force our young minds down a road we resist (through bad behavior and destructive habits) ever seeking love and stillness.
Look into your horses eyes, what do you see when he submits to your demands? Do you see fear, anger, repression? All the things we feel in our hearts as we try to navigate a world that has, literally, lost its way. Take a deep deep breath…your untraining is about to begin.
Put down your training sticks, unslip your halters, take a step back and breathe, look into the eyes of your horse and mirrored back will be the image in which you stand. Is it time for you to let go the control and join us in a journey back to balance and peace? The horses hold the keys, they are always there, waiting, watching you and loving you through your pain. They can not do this for you, only you can have the desire to change. Change can happen in an instant, watch their eyes, they will tell you all you need to know. Let them lead the dance, the dance of the undisciplined, the wild dance of going back to nature, back to peace and balance.
Horses are kind, sentient beings, they care about you deeply and implore our change from all we have become. Peace and harmony with the horse waits for you, but it can never be on your terms, it must be on there’s. We have all but torn our horses away from their true spirit, but as we know, energy never dies. They wait, veiled behind their torturous training, their broken will and their aching bodies. Their spirit is still there, give it time to heal, then let the horse show you, let him open your eyes that to a partnership free from dominance. Control and manipulation blocks the very peaceful energy you seek. Let the horse heal from our harm and then watch the true spirit come out. Playful, of the moment, intelligent, forgiving, and ever sharing.
Welcome to Pass it Forward!
Are you looking for a different way to be with your horse? To deepen your bond? You found the right place and I am so happy you are here! My goal is to inspire you to look deeply at your relationship with your horse; to help you find a way to slow down, smile more and enjoy the pleasures of “being” with a horse. It doesn’t mean giving up the things you like, you can ride, you can play at liberty, but maybe you can learn to come from a different perspective! Are you ready to surrender control? Your horse has something to say, are you ready to listen?
We are going to turn the horse-human relationship, as we know it, on its head. Kick off your spurs, drop your bits to the floor, unclip the cross ties and take a deep, lung filling breath! Everything can change in a heartbeat.
How well do you really know your horse? Are you friends?
I always ask this question, and I have had many varied answers. “My horse loves me to rub his ears….my horse loves when I feed him apples…..my horse loves when I take him on a ride. I have no idea what my horse likes, but he does as he is told!”
Can you see the common denominator in all those answers? Us, the humans! We tend to be the centre of our own universes, the world according to us and revolving around us, our desires, wants and needs.
A human relationship with a horse, often times, is based around control. We control how they live, who they live with, what they eat and when they eat. The human being is the one in the driving seat, or at least trying to be. We counter every uninvited move the horse makes with a move of our own to put us back in control again.
Sometimes it is helpful to humanize. Can you imagine trying to make friends with a human this way? They would run a mile! Most horses don’t usually have that luxury; they are attached to a rope, have a bit in their mouth or are standing on cross ties. Let’s throw open the stable door, unclip the ropes and let a commitment to being a friend to our horse be the foundation stone of how we build our relationship!
Friendship is the life blood of my interactions with my horses, trust builds from this base of friendship and the roots of leadership blossom from the soil we have cultivated. When they KNOW you have their best interests at heart, when they know you always listen to what they want and need, they will offer you the moon! What’s interesting, when you keep that as your guiding force, our horses become so generous and giving. As your timing and feel develops, the answer will become yes to your questions, instead of a NO being forcefully coerced into a yes and resentment being the taste left in your horse’s mouth!
Take a minute to stop now, wherever you are and close your eyes…take a deep deep breath, the deepest you have taken all day….blow it out through your mouth, now do it again. It felt nice I bet, go on then, treat yourself, do it again! It is hard to forget lessons once we have learned them, I know this as well as anyone. Whatever you currently do with your horse, know I am not judging you, I was brought up, as a child, in the mindset of the horse does as he is told or you get your stick out. We can only do what we do, until we know differently, and then we do better!
Our blue prints become so entrenched that we no longer see the ripening fruits on the trees as we slog along, we just follow the ruts to the same closed gate. There are so many ways to take a journey and I would far rather walk with a friend than drag, kicking and silently screaming, a reluctant participant. I read a great saying once “I would much rather push a bike than drag a horse” Smile deeply at our humanness and let’s see if we can open our minds to something else, let the control go for a while. Trust me it feels great, but don’t worry the reins will still be there to pick up if you decide this is not the path for you, no judgement here!
Lets try now to look at things from a new perspective. Lets start with “How well do you know your horse?” It is never too late to reintroduce yourselves, they are always ready and waiting for us to change, and we can change in an instant.
Do you really know what your horse likes? Do they chose the clover over the grass, do they choose to predominantly stand with their left leg forward when eating, or their right. Do they prefer to eat with their head to the left, or the right. Do they prefer the sun or the shade. How many breaths do they take a minute? How often do they shift from one back leg to the next when resting? When they doze, on average for how long are they sleeping? Are they deep breathers or shallow? Most of us have no answer to these questions, WONDERFUL, it means we have something new to learn.
Where do we start?
Sit and watch your horse for 30 minutes! That’s it! You don’t have to be close. Hopefully your horses have the joy of being in a field with friends, so you can sit by the gate, under the tree, or wherever you are comfortable. Just observe. Do nothing to influence, there is nothing to do here, just observe closely with soft and relaxed eyes. Take the time to do this and you will be cementing a very important foundation stone in your new relationship with your horse. That foundation stone is awareness.
Even if you have been a student of the horse for years and have a beautiful liberty connection, humour me anyway, you might find something new. If this is your first time, enjoy it. Let go of control, there is nothing to achieve here, no result to seek. Watch and get to know your horse in his own world without a human controlling his every move.
Mindfulness is the key to a present and insightful life. Our world goes SO fast and for most horses we just short circuit their brains. Some move through their world surviving on learned helplessness and adrenaline. Calmness is a horse’s preferred state, but many, due to the environment they live in, have lost that connection to calmness. Furthermore, most horses don’t associate their humans with this desired state; we come with excitement, fear, resentment, detachment, clinginess, stress stress and more stress. A mind full of to do lists. Can you let it all go, just for 30 minutes?
Whilst you are doing this, I want you to be aware of your breath. The incredible Thich Nhat Hahn gives a great guideline to staying present. “Breathing in…I know I am breathing in, breathing out….i know I am breathing out” When your mind runs through your To Do list, just smile to yourself and come back to your breath. You will be blown away how many times your mind wanders. This is great, it means you have more time to practice coming back to your breath. “Breathing in, I know I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know I am breathing out”. OH, and switch your phone to mute!
I would love to hear how it went and what you learnt. You can leave a comment on my facebook page or write in the comments below. Enjoy and I hope this opens the door a crack for a deeper and more meaningful relationship with your horse.
PS. I feel knowledge is to be shared, not guarded for those who can afford to pay for it. If you find this helps you and you wish to donate, fantastic! If not, that’s perfectly ok, enjoy and I hope it helps you.
If you want to work with me one on one, please check out the “Working together” page.
What an adventure the last 3 weeks have been! Myself and Elsa Sinclair of Taming Wild fame have teamed up and just finished filming the next Taming Wild Movie; Taming Wild Pura Vida!
We set out 3 weeks ago with an incredible team to document our journey with two newly rescued horses as we walked along side them from the Pacific to Atlantic coast of Costa Rica. We explored Freedom based training concepts in the real world of roads, cars, mountains, crazy terrain and lots of motion. Motion or movement lowers stress and we found it to be an incredibly bonding experience, if not overly challenging at times!
Zeus (on the left) was rescued from a life of endless work in bad fitting tack and little food. His body was so sore and he was very underweight and dehydrated . We had three weeks, prior to the trek, to get his body feeling better, wormed, hooves and teeth done, thankfully with love, care, food and water he blossomed back to health quickly.
Apollo (in the photo below) was rescued from the auction kill pens, he was standing in a pen with 18 other horses, all scared and confused. He was very wary of people and had learnt to use aggression to control the world around him. We had our work cut out for us! Could we bond enough with these horses to ride them, eventually, bareback and bridleless? You will have to watch the movie when it comes out to see if our dreams came true! Watch this space for movie release dates!