Horses are probably not the best animals for humans to have decided to try and ride. A horse's first instinct is to run from danger and for the most part, danger can exist in every environment and certainly in every new thing that is introduced to their lives. Yet, we have learned to ride them in many different disciplines and have enabled them to function in environments which are the opposite to where they would naturally choose to be.
The question for me is how much of the wild do I want to take out of my horse? Do I destroy part of their soul or their spirit, or desensitize them too much, if I domesticate them? While I need to have safe boundaries that let both of us function in a way that is safe for all concerned, I never want them to give up that part of themselves that makes them the wild and wonderful horses I fell in love with.
When she came to me, one of my horses had been so overwhelmed with everything that had come before, she wouldn't even run in the field. She would walk out to pasture and once there, you would be lucky she see here even trot during her time out in the field. She was stressed in her work, almost frozen by her insecurities and lack of confidence. I felt that she had forgotten how to just be a horse and decided to stop her training and turn her away for a bit.
Around the time I had made this choice, I had bought another horse who was originally from Spain. He had only been broke for six months and his spirit was well and truly still intact. He managed to inject life into my mare and to encourage her to run, sometimes away from me! He is still to this day, nine years later, very much connected to that wild and free part of himself. I love this part of his personality; a fact that I can't take for granted as he will allow me to do anything with him but at the same time, he expects me to be in tune with him and his current mood.
Because he is still, in my eyes, the most connected to his wild roots, it means that I always have to be in tune with myself. I can't work with him and have my mind on something else; he makes me push my boundaries each and every day.
My mare that I described earlier, isn't the first time or only time I have experienced horses who have become too far removed from their wild nature. I have over the years had the pleasure of working with and having horses stay with me who have lost their identity with nature. It has sometimes taken a matter of weeks for them to start remembering their natural horse nature but at other times it has taken years. The most damaged horse I have ever worked with was another Spanish horse who couldn't relate to other horses, to people or to himself. He had completely shut down and it took a very long time to bring him out of himself. Even then, he was extremely regressed in his behavior.
For me, I think horses need to know themselves as a horse first and foremost before we can then train them or introduce them into our world. They need to have their own identity and personality before we start bending it or molding them into something else. Otherwise, you get horses who have lost their soul; when you look in their eyes, you can tell that they are not really there. They have shut themselves off and turned out the lights so that they don't experience the confusion or pain that life has offered them.
We were all drawn to horses for different reasons but most, if not all of us, were drawn to their wild heart. Lets not lose that when we own, ride, spend time or work with them. Lets instead connect to their wild side whilst creating respectful boundaries and building positive relationships.
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